Weather plays havoc with fishing plans

May 28, 2012
The 2012 Canal Flounder Tournament hosted by Lewes Harbour Marina and sponsored by the Dewey Beach Lions Club was a great success. Three hundred and sixty anglers fished the event held May 18. Zach Becker took first with a 6.11-pound doormat. Jim Joseph was second with his 5.48-pounder. Third went to Dan Baldwin for his 4.82-pound fluke. Shea Lindale landed the 4.63-pound fourth-place flatfish. Buck McLamb boated a 4.38-pound beauty to secure fifth. Jeff Becker bested a 4.21-pounder for sixth, and Dan Schurman wrapped up seventh with a 4.15-pound specimen. SOURCE SUBMITTED

The weather has played havoc with our fishing plans, first with wind, then rain and now fog. Larger boats can handle the wind and rain, while boats with radar can get out in the fog, but we small boat owners are pretty much stuck at the dock.

One boat from Lewes did get out on the sea bass early this week and returned with a boat limit of 225 fish. I had planed to fish on Tuesday, when the season was scheduled to open, but the weather was not suitable as big seas from the tropical storm had small craft advisories flying. On Wednesday, visibility was less than a quarter of a mile, so I am still waiting to make that first sea bass trip.

Drum fishing at the Coral Beds has been spotty. Some boats do well, while others come up zero. Fresh clams are key to catching drum, and fishing the late afternoon into dark is the right time to be on the grounds. Expect to be in a crowd this weekend.

Flounder fishing has not been up to par. Most of the folks I spoke with were not having much luck, but the Lewes Harbour Marina Flounder Tournament drew 360 entries, so at least there are a lot of folks out trying.

A few more rockfish were caught from the surf and the inlet, and I believe more are on the way. My sons Ric and Roger have been catching rock to 44 inches at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, and sooner or later those fish have to pass by Delaware on their way north.

I have been pleasantly surprised by photos received from anglers who are catching speckled trout. Some were caught from the beach between the two piers at Cape Henlopen State Park on flies wielded by feather merchants. Gray trout (weakfish) have been caught at Broadkill Beach on peeler crab. I suspect both species could be caught on bucktails, small shads and D.O.A. or Gulp shrimp.

Speaking of shad, there are good numbers of them moving through Indian River Inlet during incoming water. These fish will hit darts and small spoons, putting up a great fight on light tackle.

Becoming an expert
I have been fishing for almost 70 years and working in the fishing industry for more than 40, and during all this time I have known fishermen who ranged from complete novices to complete morons. Along the way, I have also been fortunate enough to know a few expert anglers. These people either had an inner talent or worked very hard to become experts, and every one of them would not hesitate to share anything he or she knew if only someone would ask.

Some were experts in catching one species. I know anglers who can catch one type of fish better than most anyone else. These folks have concentrated on that species for many years and have a deep knowledge of exactly where they will be and what they will be feeding on at any time of year or stage of tide.

Others are experts no matter what the species. Mark Nichols, who invented D.O.A. lures, lives and does most of his fishing in Florida. I had the privilege of guiding him on his first-ever trip to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. I explained the structure we were fishing and a little bit about rockfish. On his first cast he caught a rock, and the next day he outfished a local who was considered a CBBT fishing expert. All on a lure, the D.O.A. TerrorEyz, which I can promise you no Chesapeake Bay rockfish had ever laid eyes on before Mark’s visit.

Fishing experts are not married to one technique. They may have a favorite, but if that’s not working, they are quick to move on to something else. No expert will spend hours doing something unproductive.

Experts can be skunked, but most of the time they will be successful. I must admit a guilty pleasure on those extremely rare occasions when I have outfished an expert. On a trip to Florida I was fishing with Mark and actually had caught more fish than he had.

He said, “You know why you are catching more fish than me?”

I answered, "Because I am a better fisherman.”

“No”, he said, “that’s not it. It’s because your lure only has one eye and the fish think it’s wounded.”

My pride also suffered a deep wound.

  • 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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