A successful Black Friday fishing trip

December 7, 2013
Your reporter with a Virginia Beach tog. Honest, that's me inside all those clothes. BY RIC BURNLEY

Rockfish action remains strong in the lower bay and along the oceanfront. Trolling with Stretch 25 plugs has been the most popular technique, with eelers catching their fair share.

Overfalls Shoal, Brown Shoal and the lumps off the Bethany Beach Condos were the hot spots.

One 42-pounder was caught a short distance off Three Rs Road by Robert Cox. He saw the fleet down at Bethany Beach and decided to put his lines out closer to the inlet, a wise decision indeed. He brought the big fish into Hook 'Em and Cook 'Em.

Last Saturday, the surf turned on, with big fish caught from Cape Henlopen to Fenwick Island. Cut fresh bunker was the bait of choice. The light east wind played a major role in this action.

Right now, the water temperature is in the upper 40s, so we should have rockfish around for at least another week. There is plenty of bait in the water, with sand eels showing up in unprecedented numbers.

It is hard to find a successful tog fishing report. The combination of excellent rock fishing and the new moon current have directed toggers toward trolling, not bottom-fishing. Tog are a winter fishing staple, so they will be waiting patiently for us once the rockfish move south.

Black Friday tog

I spent Thanksgiving with my son Ric and his family in Virginia Beach. We have a long tradition of fishing or hunting on Thanksgiving morning, then coming home to a turkey dinner, football and naps. This year, gale-force northwest winds killed any hopes of fishing Thursday, so we postponed the trip until Friday.

We left Crab Creek launch ramp around 0800 and headed to the Second Island of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. In previous years, we would have been out there at daybreak to cast plugs for rockfish, but this year the rock are still up north, so we anchored over the tunnel tube in 10 to 12 feet of water and set up for tog fishing.

Ric had purchased three dozen green crabs on Wednesday and kept them in the living room to protect the little guys from freezing. I had left my fishing tackle in the truck as Ric had more than enough stuff for both of us. He quickly cut a crab in half, impaled it on a hook and handed me one of his tog fishing outfits.

No sooner had the bait hit bottom then I felt the tell-tale tap of a tog. I must admit I wasn’t ready for such quick action and the fish got a free meal. Things went better for me on the next drop, and Ric netted what looked to me like a keeper. Sure enough, it measured 15.5 inches, but I was informed that in Virginia, tog have a minimum size of 16 inches. A tear froze to my cheek as that fat little tog went back to the bay.

Apparently, he had the whole family over for the holiday because no sooner did my bait hit bottom the second time than I hooked a tog. The action continued like that for the next hour and a half. We were catching fish so fast that the boat anchored next to us asked what we were using for bait. They also had green crabs, so once again it was location, location, location.

Actually, they soon got in on the action and were catching pretty well until their anchor line parted and they drifted away. Another piece of structure joined the pile over the tunnel tubes.

By 1030 we had a limit of six tog measuring between 16 and 18.5 inches. Nothing really big, but more than enough on a very cold November morning.

Did I mention how cold it was? No, how cold was it? The hatches on Ric’s boat were frozen shut and the rags left to dry on the rocket launcher were solid as a rock. The temperature remained at or below freezing for most of the day. Not great weather for old people to be out on a center console boat.

My son did not get in as much fishing time as I did because he was baiting my hook, netting my fish and unhooking my catch. While I am not too old to do these tasks myself, it was sure nice to have someone do it for me.

Back at the dock by 1100, and Ric had the boat and fish cleaned by 1300. We headed to his house for turkey sandwiches and an early celebration of my granddaughter Dasha’s 13th birthday. I hope all of you had as much fun on your Thanksgiving holiday.

  • 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