Tog fishing good out of Indian River Inlet

January 21, 2012

Tog fishing remains good when the weather allows boats to reach the grounds. On Monday, good numbers of these fish were caught over inshore wrecks and reefs from boats running out of Indian River Inlet.

Rockfish action has been slow. The occasional fish is caught from the rocks at Indian River Inlet, but in checking the site camera I seldom see any boats fishing the inlet. A few rock were caught along the oceanfront by trolling with Stretch 25s and similar plugs.

More rock would be taken if more boats were trying for them.

In Virginia, big rockfish and bluefin tuna have been caught from Cape Henry to Sandbridge. Trolling is the most productive technique, with plugs and umbrella rigs for the rock and horse ballyhoo for the tuna.

One problem is the tuna seem to like the rockfish lures quite well, resulting in several cases of lost gear.

Considering the rockfish are within three miles of the beach, that puts the big bluefins pretty close to shore. Do remember if you want to catch a bluefin, your boat must have a migratory fish permit, available from NMFS.

I expect the tog fishing in Delaware and the rockfishing in Virginia to remain good for the remainder of the winter. We have not had any cold weather, and the long-range forecast does not promise any in the future. So long as the water temperature remains in the 40s, as it is now, the fish will remain active.

Your best bet in the winter is to go out on a charter or head boat. These larger boats will provide shelter from the elements, and the captain has a good idea where the fish are.

You can pick a boat out of Lewes or Indian River with most head boats running on the weekends.

Keeping a fishing log
I have read several articles by anglers who highly recommend keeping a fishing log that can be referred to when planning future trips. I suppose it can’t hurt, but for saltwater fishing situations, I am not convinced it is that much help.

Saltwater fish are guided by so many factors that must come together that expecting the same set of circumstances to occur at the same time from year to year is not realistic. In freshwater, things are more static, and if you caught a big bass at the base of a certain tree last spring there is a better-than-even chance another bass or even the same one will be there this year.

In my opinion it is better for the saltwater angler to study tides, currents, moon phases, wind direction, feeding habits and water temperature to learn what combination of these factors is likely to put the target species in range. As an example, this past spring all of these conditions came together to provide the greatest rockfish run in modern history at Indian River Inlet. We all anticipated a similar situation this fall, but it never happened.

The east wind that pushed bait and fish into the inlet last spring failed to materialize, and the west wind we did have kept the bait well offshore. Because of this, boaters had decent fishing while jetty jockeys and surf casters enjoyed a water haul.

I am constantly amazed when people decide a species is in trouble just because the fish did not show up when and where they were supposed to. Once again, let’s look at rockfish.

Anglers in Delaware may decide there are no rockfish because they could not find them this fall. Of course, they forget the fantastic spring run we had and concentrate solely on their poor fall action.

Ask anglers in New Jersey or Virginia and they will tell you rockfish action has never been better. While the consistent west wind did not help surf fishermen, boaters had a bonanza just a few miles off the beach.

What is good to keep is a log of places where you had success. With modern GPS technology, this is as simple as hitting save on the unit. Bottom fishermen who find consistent success have hundreds of locations logged in and will move from one to the other until they find fish willing to bite. They will guard these locations like the Golden Fleece.

Trollers will have small humps and drops saved in their GPS. They know open bottom seldom holds fish, so they want to work over depth changes where the action should be better.

If you do want to keep a fishing log, be sure to include all the variables encountered during the day. While the odds of the same conditions presenting themselves on the same day next year are slim, you may encounter similar conditions at another time, and you will know where to go and what to use to repeat the previous success.

  • 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

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