Joe Walker remembered as avid flounder fisherman

September 21, 2013
The late Joe Walker with his favorite quarry. SOURCE SUBMITTED

The weekend provided good weather and fantastic fishing from the bay to the canyons. The hard northeast blow early in the week should make fishing even better.

Beginning in the tidal creeks and rivers, Mike Pizzolato and I were able to put together a good catch of big spot from the Broadkill River using bloodworms during a flood tide on Thursday morning. The spot were so big the six I kept made two meals for me and my wife. Croaker have been taken from the same area, but to date the ones I have caught were smaller than the spot.

The Cape Henlopen Fishing Pier is a great location for spot with lots of big ones caught on bloodworms. Croaker, blues and trout have been taken along with the spot.

Moving out into the bay, large croaker to 17 inches were caught at reef sites 6, 7 and 8, along the Inner and Outer walls and on the Shears. Trout and flounder were also taken from the same area. Blues to 15 inches are found at the Outer Wall feeding under diving birds.

Croaker, blues and kings are in the surf and have been caught on bloodworms and mullet. Cut mullet is best for the blues, while bloodworms or Gulp! will attract croaker and spot. Try small pieces of mullet to bring in the larger croaker.

Indian River Inlet continues to see a variety of fish with blues on incoming water, croaker, black and red drum on sand fleas in the rocks, and flounder and rockfish on live spot or mullet. As the mullet run continues, we could see larger rockfish moving in to feed.

Flounder fishing in the ocean is very good. Charter, head and private boats are all cashing in, and limits have become common. The Old Grounds, the rough bottom between A and B buoys and sites 10 and 11 have all given up big flatfish. A variety of baits have proven successful including a Delaware Bay Green Machine combined with strips of squid, fresh fish or a Gulp! swimming mullet. A jig heavy enough to reach and remain on the bottom and baited with the same offerings is also effective. As a bonus, big sea bass have finally arrived in these locations.

Croaker have been caught a mile or so off the beach at the Croaker Canyon off the Old Coast Guard Station and the rough bottom in front of the Bethany Beach Condos. Squid strips or cut bait will work on the hardheads.

The canyons are red hot for tuna chunkers. Numerous limit catches have been made, with the best action in the Washington Canyon. The Wilmington produced bigeyes and yellowfins on the troll. White and blue marlin have been taken as well. The billfish bite to our south is off the hook. Trollers are seeing baits attacked by pods of white marlin, and live liners are catching 30 to 50 fish a day by tossing live baits to them.

Joe Walker

My friend Joe Walker passed away this week. Some of you may remember Joe from his appearances in this space holding several trophy flounder. He loved fishing for flounder and was the best I have seen in the Delaware Bay.

Joe used his GPS and SONAR to locate productive structure; then he would skillfully manipulate his baited hook in the rubble to pull out the largest fish. There were so many waypoints on his GPS you could not see the chart. He knew which ones to fish depending on prevailing conditions of wind and tide.

When he was taking someone fishing, he would be the most pessimistic person on the dock. He wasn’t sure about the tide; the wind was acting funny; the fishing hasn’t been that good. Once on the water, he made sure his guest was properly outfitted and had his rig in the water before Joe wet a line. In spite of his dismal outlook, most trips ended in limits for all aboard. At the end of the trip, the guest went home with all the fish.

Joe and I grew up in the same neighborhood, but he was three years older than me, and when you are kids that is a big difference. We fished the same creek, swam in the same holes and probably saw each other more than once. I really enjoyed his company, whether on a boat or sitting around the fish-cleaning table at Lewes Harbour Marina at the end of a day on the water.

Joe leaves behind a big hole not only in the Lewes fishing community, but in his family and business. His fishing legacy will be carried on by his sons Joe and Dave, and I wish everyone who knew him my deepest sympathy.

  • 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