Croaker still the catch of the day in Delaware Bay

September 15, 2012

Croaker are still the fish du jour in Delaware Bay. They have been caught from boats, from shore and from the Cape Henlopen fishing pier. Just about anything will work for bait with clams, cut bait and Gulp! leading the pack. I expect the size of the fish to improve as the fall spawners move down the bay and into the ocean.

Flounder are still available on bay reef sites for those who have mastered the art of fishing on this structure. Squid, shiners, minnows and Gulp! have all accounted for keeper flatfish.

Bottom fishermen have also encountered blowfish, kings, spot and bluefish. Reef Site 8 and the Outer Wall have been productive locations for this mixed bag.

Blues have been joined by the occasional Spanish mackerel and false albacore at the south end of the Outer Wall. Birds will indicate the location, and small metal lures will attract the fish.

The offshore hurricanes have prevented many people from fishing in the ocean. We cancelled a trip last Friday because of 4- to 6-foot seas and I am aware of several charter boats that lost their trips over the weekend. With calm winds and cooler temperatures, I expect better ocean reports this weekend.

The same high seas that kept boats at the dock made surf fishing difficult. Those who did try the beach found a few blues and kings.


No, not the kind you tie; the kind that bite the blood out of you when you are fishing or just trying to enjoy some time at the beach.

On Sept. 1, I was in the Poorman’s Canyon on the Brenda Lou out of Sunset Marina in Ocean City with Capt. Frank Goodhart, Dave Conner, Andy Maddox and Paul Turner. We left dock before dawn and had lines in around 8 a.m. From the time the boat slowed down we had flies biting our legs and ankles. It is not unusual to have flies on the boat 50 miles or more from shore, but before the day was over we had more of these creatures than I have ever encountered before. From the chatter on the VHF radio I was not alone in my assessment.

Not only were the flies in the Poorman’s, my son Ric was covered up in the Norfolk Canyon, and I heard boats in the Baltimore complaining about them as well. When I did my fishing report calls on Sunday I heard the flies were even worse on the beach.

In an effort to find out what type of flies these were and why they were so numerous, I contacted John Clark, supervisor of Fish and Wildlife, and asked him to connect me with Department Of Natural Resources and Environmental Resources’ top bug guy. Turns out he is Dr. William Meredith, the head of Mosquito Control.

Dr. Meredith was kind enough to get back to me right away and give me the information I requested. He identified the culprit as the stable or shore fly (Stomoxys calcitrans). These flies live in decaying vegetation such as found in stables and along the shoreline. As you might imagine, the marsh along the bays provides plenty of decaying vegetation for them to call home.

Shore flies stay in the marsh until a west wind carries them to the beach and beyond. Apparently, even though it was light, the west wind we had Sept. 1 was sufficient to carry them to the canyons. The hot, dry summer must have been good for them, because they were present in exceptionally high numbers.

On the Brenda Lou we killed so many that the deck had to be washed down several times to remove the bodies. In spite of our best efforts, we all were bit so many times on our legs and feet we still felt the effects for a couple of days.

Insect repellent will deter the flies, but none was to be found on our boat. I use products with as much DEET as the law allows and carry them in my truck and fishing tackle bag.

Unfortunately, I had neither of them with me on that Saturday. Even the strongest repellent will not last longer than an hour. It must be continually applied and even then if you miss one little spot the flies will find it and bite you.

Stable or shore flies are not the only biting insects we have in Delaware. The always popular greenhead will take about a pound of flesh where it bites and, in spite of Dr. Meredith’s best efforts, it is not unusual to encounter the occasional mosquito in Delaware.

Chiggers don’t really bite, but the result of having a dead bug under your skin is very irritating. And then there are ticks. All good reasons for keeping the repellent handy.

  • 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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