An epic fishing trip in Cape Charles, Va.

May 24, 2014

Last Saturday, Mike Pizzolato and I drove down to Cape Charles, Va., to fish for drum with my son, Ric. We met at the Wise Point boat ramp around 1 p.m. and headed to Nautilus Shoal off Fisherman’s Island.

Ric rigged up four rods, one with clam and three with whole, live blue crabs. No sooner had the clam bait hit bottom than something picked it up, but we missed it. After rebaiting with another clam, the same thing happened, but with a better result. Mike took the rod and brought a 44-inch black drum to the boat.

The next hit came on a crab, and this time Mike had the pleasure of catching a 48-inch red drum. Back in the water with the baits, and this time Mike caught a 44-inch red. My turn was next, and I also brought a 48-inch red to the boat.

The last fish of the day was a true monster red drum. Mike fought it for a long time and finally had the fish to the boat. Ric was trying to land it when I heard a very loud crack as the tip on the rod broke. That was the end of that fish, but since we had the leader in hand we considered it a release.

By this time, the current was slowing and the sun was going down, so we decided to call it a day. I have been fishing for many years, and this was the best red drum trip I have ever experienced. Four big reds and one black in a few hours is amazing.

Boats all around us were catching plenty of black drum using clam baits. All of our reds came on live blue crabs, and while you would think the type of bait would not matter to a fish like a drum, it certainly did last Saturday.

Fishing report

Speaking of drum, there are plenty of blacks in the Delaware Bay where boats from Bowers to Lewes are finding good action. The Broadkill Slough and the Coral Beds have been the top locations, with clam the preferred bait.

Sea bass season opened Monday, and limit catches have been the norm. The best bite has been on structure east of the shipping channel where ling, cod and cunners have been mixed in the catch.

Flounder were caught out of the Broadkill River, Lewes and Rehoboth Canal, and from the fishing pier at Cape Henlopen State Park. Live minnows, Gulp!, shiners and smelt have all produced flatfish. The action is far from hot, but those who persevere may be rewarded with a fine fish dinner.

Indian River Inlet finally came alive. Last weekend, there was a rockfish blitz with many keepers landed from the rocks and from boats. The hot action lasted for about two hours and has not occurred again.

On a brighter note, blues to five pounds have been invading the inlet on a more regular basis. This has brought out the crazies, and conflicts between boaters and jetty fishermen have been all too numerous. I know it has been a long and cold winter, but let’s use a little common sense and try to remember it’s only a fish.

Flounder fishing at Indian River Bay is slow, with the VFW Slough one of the better locations. As with the Lewes-area waters, a lot of time or luck is needed to connect with a flatfish.

The surf is also showing signs of life. A mixed bag of blues, rockfish, kings and even croaker have been caught. Bunker and bloodworms have been the prime baits.

Boating safety

This is National Boating Safety Week, and while we should be thinking about safe boating every time we leave the dock, this is the week when the subject gets some national attention. Delaware is fortunate to have one of the best boating safety records in the country thanks to the work of the Coast Guard Auxiliary, the enforcement officers from DNREC and the Coast Guard, and a little bit of good luck. Everyone who drives a boat should take a safe boating course from the Coast Guard Auxiliary and then remember to practice what they preach.

One area where trouble usually occurs is the boat ramp. Launch at dawn and come in by early afternoon to avoid the crowds and hopefully the problems they bring.

This weekend I expect the waterways to be very crowded as the weather forecast is good and the fishing is finally getting better. Please keep your wits about you no matter what the idiot in the next boat over does. Practice defensive boating and keep a good lookout to stay away from trouble. And please wear your PFD at all times.

  • 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