Fair flounder fishing in Delaware Bay waters

Roger Burnley with his new Virginia state record and pending world record 70-pound, 7.48-ounce snowy grouper. SOURCE SUBMITTED
June 11, 2011

Fishing has been fair for flounder, rockfish and blues inshore, while the offshore boats are racking up bluefin, yellowfin and dolphin.

The Delaware Bay is finally seeing some decent flounder action with keepers coming in from mid and upper bay sites. Minnows, squid and Gulp! have all produced.

Rockfish are still available in the upper bay with mostly shorts and a few keepers taken on bunker chunks. I have reports of rockfish at the Outer Wall during evening tides with plugs the best attractor.

The Lewes-Rehoboth Canal and the Broadkill River continue to provide plenty of shorts and a few keepers to 8 pounds. Live minnows, shiners and Gulp! all have taken their share of flatfish. The previously mentioned 8-pounder was caught on Gulp!

Flounder have also been caught from the Cape Henlopen Fishing Pier at night with Gulp!-tipped speck rigs a hot set-up. Boats fishing the shallow water along Lewes and Broadkill beaches have reported decent flounder action.

The Indian River Inlet is still giving up some keeper rockfish. Live spot have become the go-to bait for not only the rock, but big flounder as well. At night the jetty jockeys use black plugs and bucktails to scratch out a few rockfish. Blues and shad are available for light tackle and fly fishermen.

Sea bass fishing has been strong for shorts with keepers becoming less common every day. A good charter boat captain with a long list of secret wrecks is your best bet for a catch of keeper sea bass. A few cod continue to show up in the catches of bottom fishermen.

Thresher sharks were caught along the buoy line, but nothing close to the big longtail taken on Memorial Day. Makos were caught a bit farther offshore over the 20-Fathom Lumps.

From the 20 on out to the canyons, yellowfin and bluefin tunas have been caught on the troll. Ballyhoo and various lures have been accepted by the tuna. There seems to be an unusual number of small fish this year. A few dolphin and wahoo have been taken with the tuna. The first white marlin of the season was caught out of Ocean City, Md.

Parental pride
My son Roger has done it again. On Memorial Day he and some friends ran from Virginia Beach to the Norfolk Canyon to try some deep dropping. For those unfamiliar with deep dropping, it is a technique where the angler drops his bait, usually with a pound or more of weight, to depths approaching 1,000 feet. The denizens of this deep water include golden tilefish, blueline tilefish, grouper, wreckfish, sea bass and a few critters that are too big and mean to be cranked up.

The man who pioneered this style of fishing out of Virginia is Ken Niell. Ken is the local International Game Fish Association representative and the owner of the Healthy Grin, a 31-foot Albemarle. Five years ago, on one of their first deep-drop trips, Roger set a new world record for snowy grouper that only stood for six weeks. It has been broken several times since then, and on Memorial Day the snowy grouper record was once again set by Roger. This fish weighed 70.5 pounds and may hold up for more than six weeks, but no one is discounting the possibility of seeing the record broken again.

Roger’s snowy grouper has been approved by Virginia as the new state record, and all the paperwork is currently in Florida at IGFA headquarters and we are awaiting their approval. While it is not uncommon for one person to break the same record more than one time, these are usually professional record chasers. For a schoolteacher from Virginia Beach to break the same record twice is a bit unusual.

Free fishing days

Remember this Saturday and Sunday are free fishing days in Delaware. Anyone can fish without a license, but they still need the fisherman identification number that is free online or by phone.

As we mentioned before, this is the perfect time to introduce someone to fishing with a minimal investment. Get them out this weekend and catch a few fish. If the trip is enjoyable, you may have new fishing friends.

  • Eric Burnley is a Delaware native who has fished and hunted the state from an early age.  Since 1978 he has written countless articles about hunting and fishing in Delaware and elsewhere along the Atlantic Coast.  He has been the regional editor for Salt Water Sportsman, Field and Stream, Outdoor Life and the Fisherman Magazine.  He was the founding editor of the Mid-Atlantic Fisherman magazine.  Eric is the author of three books; Surf Fishing the Atlantic Coast, The Ultimate Guide to Striped Bass Fishing and Fishing Saltwater Baits.  He and his wife Barbara live near Milton, Delaware. Eric can be reached at