Croaker fishing is red hot right now

August 11, 2012
Last week it was my son with a brace of flounder, and this week it is my friend Joe Walker's son, Joe Jr., with a true doormat. This 11.36-pound trophy hit a bucktail and squid strip bait. It's so nice when the kids do well. SOURCE SUBMITTED

Croaker fishing is red hot in the lower bay and as far up as Reef Site 5. Most of the fish being caught are over the 8-inch minimum size, and many exceed 12 inches. Just about any bait on a small hook with enough weight to find bottom will be well received. Kings, blues and blowfish are taken on the same baits in the same areas.

Flounder fishing has been fair in the ocean and over bay reef sites. Those who can work the rubble in the bay find some fish, while the Old Grounds provide flounder and sea bass. We fished there last Friday and four of us had 10 sea bass and two flounder by 11 a.m.

Not much going on at Indian River Inlet, where the occasional dedicated or lucky angler finds keeper flounder on live spot. The rockfish bite is at night, and the vast majority of those caught are shorts.

Indian River and Rehoboth Bay have been good locations for croaker and spot action with lots of fish available, even if most are small. A few flounder have also been caught in the same areas.

We still hear reports of slot rockfish caught out of the Lewes and Rehoboth Canal and the Broadkill River. Surface lures cast to the banks very early in the morning have proved successful. Live eels and fresh clams also produced rockfish.

Folks who know how to fish the Outer Wall and the Ice Breakers are finding sheepshead and triggerfish. Sand fleas have been a popular bait along with green crabs. Small blues are chasing bait in the rips at the south end of the Outer Wall, and they are fun to catch on light tackle.

I fished the surf at Herring Point on Tuesday morning from 6:30 to 9:30 and caught one king on a Gulp! bloodworm. My companion Doug Elliott had one dog shark on a real bloodworm. In between we kept the local crab population well fed and enjoyed the quiet solitude.

Offshore, the marlin action has been very good, just in time for the White Marlin Open. The tournament boats are also bringing in some impressive bigeye tuna and wahoo. The chunk bite at the Hot Dog has slowed, and inshore trolling has been a disappointment.

Croaker equal fun

Right now, the bay off of Lewes is full of croaker, and if you like to catch fish, this is the time for you. It is possible to access these fish from shore, but the larger fish are normally in deep water, so fishing from a boat will be your best bet.

Reef Site 8 is just 3 miles from Roosevelt Inlet and holds good numbers of croaker in all sizes. Unlike flounder, the bait does not have to be directly on rubble to catch croaker, making it much easier and cheaper to fish for them. You should still keep an eye on the SONAR and alert the crew when structure is approaching so they can lift the rig and avoid a snag.

The area between the Inner and Outer walls is another good croaker location. My best luck has come in the 40-foot water closer to the mouth of the bay.

The larger croaker are in the 60- to 90-foot depths east of Hen and Chickens Shoal and north of The Eights. It will take more weight and heavier tackle to fish these deep waters, but the reward is often croaker consistently over the 1-pound mark.

Croaker have a large swim bladder and show up well on the SONAR. You should be able to find them without looking too hard, but if you don’t have SONAR on your boat, look for the bent rod fishfinder. When everyone on all the boats around you has a bent rod, chances a good the croaker are there.

Croaker rigs are about as simple as they come. A two-hook, top-bottom rig is ideal, and I like to use circle hooks on mine. When a croaker first bites, let him chew for a few seconds before setting the hook. When using circle hooks, simply raise the rod tip and the fish should be there.

Croaker are not picky eaters. Cut fresh bait often attracts a larger class of fish with clam, squid, crab, Fishbites and Gulp! also effective.

Don’t have a boat? No problem. Head and charter boats leave Lewes daily, and some run two trips a day so you don’t have to miss any sleep. Shore anglers will find decent croaker fishing from the Cape Henlopen Fishing Pier and along Lewes Beach.

The croaker are here, and now is the time to get out and have some fun.

  • 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