Successful fishing trip with family

August 25, 2012
This is the 4.5-pound triggerfish that gave your reporter such a hard fight. SOURCE SUBMITTED

Fishing remains good in the Delaware Bay and Atlantic Ocean. The reef sites hold a decent number of keeper flounder, while the open bottom is covered with croaker. Indian River and Rehoboth Bay have a few flounder and plenty of croaker. Billfish, tuna and dolphin were caught offshore where several boats have been finding big tilefish while deep dropping in the canyons. Summer is winding down and now is the time to get in on the good fishing and the good weather.

Virginia Beach

Last week I traveled down to Virginia Beach to do some fishing with my sons Ric and Roger. This has been an annual event since I moved back to Delaware in 2000, and it gives me a chance to spend time with my sons and enjoy the excellent fishing opportunities found in the waters surrounding the resort city.

Last year we had excellent flounder fishing in the bay near the First Island of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, so this year we started there on Thursday morning. For whatever reason, the flounder and everything else in the bay, with the exception of oyster crackers, would not bite. We tried a variety of baits and locations without success and ended up looking for cobia on the surface. A few were seen and live eels were presented, but the cobia had the same case of lockjaw as everything else.

Friday called for an entirely different game plan. We would launch at Owl’s Creek and fish the ocean out of Rudee Inlet. Ric calls the technique wreck hopping, and we moved from one wreck to another as we worked our way east.

Not much on the first stop, but on the second wreck Roger began catching blues on a Jerk-Jigger. The bottom was covered with small sea bass, so the first time Roger put the spinning outfit down I picked it up and never gave it back. I was having a ball catching blues and with the barbs on the Jerk-Jigger mashed down, many of the fish were able to toss the hook before coming on board.

At the next wreck, my first cast was intercepted as soon as it hit the water, and a gaffer dolphin was seen grayhounding away. At first we thought I had hooked the dolphin, but my fish took off in the opposite direction and dove for the bottom. After a good battle of give and take I brought a bar jack to the net. The next two wrecks were covered up with these feisty jacks, and I even relinquished the rod to Roger so he could catch a few.

The final wreck was the Hanks, and on my first drop to the bottom I had a good bite, set the hook and was instantly snagged on the structure. I read somewhere that when a fish snags your rig, give the line plenty of slack, and perhaps the fish will swim the rig back out. That’s what I did and for once it worked.

The fish came out of the wreck, but was a long way from coming to the boat. It was fighting like an amberjack, and in spite of the fact that I was using my heavy bottom-fishing outfit, I could not keep the fish from taking line at will. I was convinced it was either an amberjack or jack crevalle in the 15- to 20-pound class. We were all surprised to see a very large triggerfish move up from the depths, and while at 4.5 pounds it was my largest trigger to date, it was far short of the 15- to 20-pound fish I thought I had. I am now convinced that triggerfish are the hardest-fighting fish for their size in the ocean.

By this time, triggerfish and spadefish were swimming under the boat, so the boys set the wreck anchor, and the fun really began. I was still fishing the bottom, but Ric and Roger had changed to a single circle hook on a fluorocarbon leader weighted down by one or two spit shot, and they were catching fish a few feet under the boat. While I did manage one or two triggerfish on the bottom, catching them on light tackle without a heavy weight looked to be more fun, so I soon switched over.

Most of the fish we were catching were in the 2- to 3-pound class, and on light spinning or casting outfits, they were a handful. The preferred bait was a small piece of clam that the fish could take off the hook with surprising efficiency. I added Gulp! shrimp to my hooks, and while the fish chopped these to bits, they did present more of a challenge than clam.

I figure we caught one for every 10 bites and still ended the day with plenty of triggers and spades plus one flounder, one big sea bass, and a few blues and bar jacks. This fine catch plus the joy of fishing with my sons made for a very enjoyable vacation.

  • 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