Work continues on Cape Henlopen pier

LEWES — With summer just around the corner, people from near and far will flock to Cape Henlopen State Park to take advantage of all it has to offer.

The park attracted close to 2 million visitors between July 2014 and July 2015 and one of the biggest attractions — drawing 1.2 million people — is the slice of Lewes beach that’s great for sunbathing, swimming and fishing.

Although still under construction, fishermen should be able to cast their lines off Cape Henlopen’ s all-wood fishing pier by the time summer rolls around.21dsn cape pier 6852

Construction on the pier first started in 2015 with repairs to 125 pilings that had deteriorated and needed refitting and reinforcement.

The pier was built during World War II by the U.S. Army as a mining wharf. Since 2007, several repairs and renovations have been undertaken to preserve the pilings, and after extensive deterioration, the T-head was demolished in 2012.

Phase two includes the most extensive repairs to date with work on the decking and superstructure coming in with a price tag of $535,370.

The pier’s repairs are being funded through a grant from U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Sport Fishing, park user fees and annual park pass funds.

For those who’d rather fish from the sand, surf-fishing vehicle permits are still available. They’re becoming more popular every year with 11,380 issued by DNREC in 2011 and a projected 15,000 to be issued this year.

No matter where you choose to fish, surf-fishing columnist Rich King said the best times to be out are in the early morning or late afternoon.

“During the day there are just so many people on the beach,” he said. “So if you want to be away from the crowds and out of the hot sun, early or late are the times to go. Personally, I like to be off the beach no later than 9 or 10 a.m.”

Aside from staying out of the sun and getting some peace and quiet, night or early fishing can be a good opportunity to fish with the tides to increase your chances of having a good catch.

Mr. King said the most popular catches during the late spring and summer are striped bass, bluefish and summer flounder, but large populations won’t be filling Cape’s waters for a few more weeks.

Other local catches include dogfish, flounder and skate.

Although each fisherman has their personal preferences, the park is open for fishermen 24/7 as long as they come prepared with their own bait and equipment.

For sunbathers and trailblazers, admission is only from dawn to dusk all summer long.

Beach-goers will be able to see bottlenose dolphins as they move into the area in the coming weeks but will need to keep an eye out for hognose snakes. Although the hognose snake may like sandy soil, it’s not uncommon for them to be found in Cape’s sand dunes where they live off frogs and small lizards.

Many migratory birds who spend their summers near the water will be around most of the summer like red knot, oyster catchers and piping plovers.

But beach-goers probably won’t get a good up-close view of the plovers because they are an endangered species and only two or three pairs nest on Cape’s beach..

The plovers have yellow-orange legs, a black band across the forehead and a black ring around the neck. They usually nest near Gordons Pond starting in mid-May.

DNREC puts up fencing around their nests from the time the plovers come in until the last chick leaves the nest which is usually around mid-August.

The farther you venture from the beach, the more wildlife there is to see. A walk or bike ride down the miles of paved trails will bring to light plenty of year round inhabitants of the park like white tail deer and red fox shouldn’t be too hard to find.

But Richard Julian, manager of Cape Henlopen’s Nature Center, said the best times to see them  are usually in the early morning or late afternoon.

“Taking a bike ride or a walk down one of the trails is probably your best bet to see a lot of the wildlife here,” Mr. Julian said. “But during the summer, box turtles are everywhere so anyone driving or biking needs to keep an eye out for them crossing the roads.”

The park also has overnight camping options for RVs; cabins are available, too. In addition to running water in the campgrounds electrical service is being added.

An additional six cabins are planned to be built and Cape Henlopen is running a Kickstarter campaign to fund the construction.

“We thought Kickstarter would be an interesting and fun way to get people involved,” said Cindy Todd, construction coordinator for Delaware State Parks.

A link to donate to the fund can be found on destateparks.com.

The construction of the cabins will provide more options than just hotels and houses for families who visit Cape from out of town.

If you stay in a cabin or RV overnight, don’t expect it to be quiet — the spring peepers (small frogs) are out, creating plenty of noise from their homes close to the beach.

Their calls are usually an indication spring is on the way but they continue their vocalizations through the summer.

For more information about Cape Henlopen, call or visit the nature center which is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.

Delaware State Parks looks for ways to improve park experiences and encourages visitors to leave suggestions and comments at the end of their visit.

“We want to make sure the people who come to use our parks are happy and we want new people to come and enjoy our parks too,” Ms. Todd said.

Reach staff writer Ashton Brown at abrown@newszap.com. Follow @AshtonReports on Twitter.

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