A man, his dog and a rockfish drift down the canal

May 3, 2014
Steven Thompson and fishing partner Duke were surprised when this 24-pound striper grabbed a pink Gulp! and minnow combo as they were drifting with a light spinning outfit on the Lewes and Rehoboth Canal for flounder. COURTESY LEWES HARBOUR MARINA

On April 27, Joe Morris was working at his store, Lewes Harbour Marina, when he noticed a man and his dog in a small johnboat drifting down the canal. The man was holding a light action rod and it was bent double. He had his hands full trying to fight the fish, maneuver the boat and keep his dog onboard all at the same time. At first Joe thought the man had hooked a crab pot or other heavy object, and then he noticed the rod tip pulsating, a sure sign there was a fish on the line.

There were two other anglers in a Carolina Skiff drifting with the johnboat, but staying a safe distance away. Once the fish started splashing on the surface, they realized the angler did not have a net large enough to handle whatever he had hooked. At this point, they came close enough to the johnboat to pass their net to the fisherman who then tried to net the fish with one hand while holding the rod with the other. The size of the fish made this impossible, so one of the men on the Carolina Skiff jumped on the johnboat, netted the fish, dumped it on the deck, then took his net and jumped back on his boat.

Joe said he thought the fish would be the new state record flounder, and he was shocked and surprised when it turned out to be a rockfish. At this point the lucky angler tied up at Joe’s gas dock and had the fish weighed. It tipped the scales at 24 pounds. Quite a catch on a Gulp! and minnow combination.

Fishing report

On the few decent weather days, and they have been few and far between, tog were caught in the bay and the ocean. Bay tog were taken from boats sailing from Lewes and Bowers Beach. Lewes and Indian River boats had tog from ocean wrecks and reefs. Private boats along with charter boats caught tog at the Outer Wall. Green crab remains the best bait.

The ocean surf has produced small rockfish and a few kings. Bloodworms remain the best bait, but cut bunker will take over when the larger fish arrive. A few keeper rock were caught from Broadkill Beach, but we haven’t heard of any more trout. Small rock and tog have been caught out of Indian River Inlet.

The best rockfishing in Delaware right now is in the lower Delaware River and upper Delaware Bay. Fish to 40 pounds were caught from shore and from boats on either bloodworms or fresh bunker. Augustine Beach has seen good results from shore, while the 6L and 4L buoys out of Collins Beach have been the hot spots for bunker chunkers.

We had a report from the Cape Henlopen Fishing Pier that small rockfish have been caught after dark on jigs tipped with Gulp! The fish are around the light lines and aggressively attack the jigs. The presence of these small rockfish in the lower bay and ocean is a good sign for the future.

The weather

I know we are all getting tired of this weather. Last winter was colder than any in recent years, but certainly not colder than winters in the past. I have seen the C&D Canal frozen solid and even since the turn of the century, I have seen much more ice in the Delaware Bay than we had this year.

The thing that has made it seem like warm weather will never come is the continuing cold weather so far this spring. Here it is the end of April, and I still have to turn on the heat in my home. Even this past Saturday morning when I was out helping with the turkey shoot I needed a heavy jacket until well after noon. It did warm up later in the day, but then the cold, rain and wind returned.

All of this continuing cold has not allowed the water temperature in the bay or the ocean to reach the level we need to get the fishing season into high gear. A solid dose of northwest wind hasn’t helped either. When the wind does blow from the east, it is so hard the water pushes up into the marsh, and the bay and ocean are filled with weeds for several days afterward.

OK, I know I am always sniveling and whining about people who snivel and whine about things they can’t or won’t bother to change. The weather falls into the first category, but what the heck, everyone complains about it, and so far no one has been able to make any constructive changes, so I am just going along with the crowd.

  • 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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