Flounder parts are not the end-all of flounder baits

July 5, 2014
No flounder parts were employed in the capture of this 8.5-pound citation. Gary Ebling used a live minnow and Gulp! combination at DB Buoy to put this doormat into the cooler. SOURCE LEWES HARBOUR MARINA

The last police blotter I received from DNREC Enforcement listed another violation of the law concerning flounder parts. It is really pretty simple - if you have flounder parts on the boat, you must have the carcass the parts came from. This begs the question, why would you want to carry around the rack from a flounder just so you can use flounder parts for bait? There is really no good answer.

Back in the day, before there were any regulations on flounder, it was a common practice to cut up small flounder and use the strips for bait. Unfortunately, the myth that flounder parts are some magic bait that will bring flatfish running from far and near has persisted, when in fact the only reason we ever used that bait in the first place was because it was free. Today, we have minimum size regulations on flounder, so unless the flounder parts on the boat are at least 16 inches long, you have to carry the rack the parts came from.

Another critter that used to be free for the taking was a horseshoe crab. They would stack up along Delaware Bay beaches in enormous piles, and some communities would pay people to come and cart them away.

Commercial fishermen used horseshoe crabs as bait in conch and eel pots, so the enterprising dragger captains from Maryland and Virginia began scooping the crabs up by the millions until they came very close to wiping out the entire population. Now the things are almost an endangered species, and the few watermen who gathered horseshoe crabs along the shoreline are treated like criminals.

Back to flounder parts. There is no doubt strips of flounder will catch flounder, but so will strips of croaker, spot, sea robin, bunker, hickory shad, dog shark and bluefish. Of these fish, the only one with a minimum size (8 inches) is the croaker, so if you are using croaker strips, you will have to keep those racks on the boat too.

I have no illusions that I will convince those folks who believe with a religious fervor that flounder parts are the end-all of flounder baits, but I hope some of the more enlightened among you will realize that there are many other baits that will catch flounder equally well if not better than flounder parts without the hassle of toting along several racks. Keep in mind that every one of those racks will count toward your daily limit of four flounder per person. That means if you have three keepers in the box and two racks in the cooler, you are one fish over the limit.

Beach access

Sen. David McBride has started a firestorm of controversy by introducing SB 265, which would allow people with surf fishing permits to drive on the beach during the summer without having to pretend they are actually surf fishing. I have been predicting this action for many years, so I am not surprised that someone finally brought it to the attention of the public.

Anyone who drives on the beach during the summer is well aware that the vast majority of folks there have no intention of surf fishing. They drive on, select a location, put out a token line and then engage in all sorts of other activities such as volleyball, sunbathing, book reading, swimming and eating.

Back in the 1970s and '80s, we drove on with our kids and met friends with theirs. While we were always actively fishing, the day was more about having a good time than catching fish. Today, I never go on the beach during a weekend in the summer. The number of people crowded along the water is overwhelming, and I would much rather wait until a cool weekday evening to enjoy the beach.

I am sure there will be a great deal of chest thumping by some who have the idea that the public beach is reserved only for surf fishermen. That has been true, but I am equally certain that if this idea ever goes to court, surf fishermen will have a tough time explaining why they should be the only ones allowed to drive on state park beaches.

Fishing report

Flounder are moving to the open ocean and bay while still hanging out in the Inland Bays, and tidal creeks and rivers. We could certainly use a few more fish, but with eight- and 10-pounders caught last week, we have an incentive to get out there.

Croaker are still the No. 1 fish in the Delaware Bay. They can be caught from shore at Broadkill Beach all the way around to Cape Henlopen.

Offshore fishing slowed during the week, but the storm moving up the coast could turn it back on big time.

  • 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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