COVID-19 pandemic forces cancellations, changes

March 20, 2020

As I am sure you may have guessed, LureFest, along with just about everything else, has either been canceled or postponed. I am sure we all hope this virus will reach its peak soon and we can get back to our normal lives.

The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control has changed the process for acquiring various permits and licenses. The fishing and hunting licenses, park and wildlife area access, and surf-fishing permits as well as boat registrations are now available online. The DNREC Office in Dover is closed to the public, as are all park offices. DNREC personnel are working from remote locations when possible.

All park and wildlife area entrance fees have been discontinued until April 30.

Fishing is still an option

We are currently living in a situation that has not occurred in this country during the past 102 years. This virus has made its way into everyone’s life, and that includes those of us who enjoy hunting and fishing. While staying at home is the best option for avoiding the virus, that just does not suit people who need the outdoors to maintain some level of sanity. Everyone must decide what is best for themselves, but as for me, I know I will have to get outdoors at some point.

Depending on where you fish, it is still an option while maintaining a safe distance from your fellow anglers. The surf is a bit slow, but with the warm weather, it is not a bad idea to drown a dozen bloodworms along the beach. Who knows, you just might catch a nice king or even a stray rockfish. Bait up with cut bunker and attract any spiny dogfish in the area.

Indian River Inlet is another location where you can fish and maintain a safe distance from other anglers. Bait up with green crabs or bloodworms and perhaps you might catch a keeper tog, or not. Here too rockfish are possible.

The first flounder of the year has been caught behind Ocean City, Md. It was taken on a white Gulp! swimming mullet trolled slowly near the Thorofare. Could there be a flounder in the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal? There is only one way to find out. Fishing from your boat will guarantee separation from any possible virus carrier. You can also fish from the city dock in Lewes, the old boat ramp or the gazebo at the town park. Live minnows will be the best bait, followed by Gulp! on a jig head.

The head boat from Fisherman’s Wharf was still running for tog when last I heard. I strongly suggest calling for reservations before planning a trip. The same is true for the Morning Star out of Ocean City.

Freshwater fishing has been pretty good. Bass, crappie and pickerel have been caught out of Delaware ponds, and white perch are starting to come alive in the tidal rivers and creeks. Last week, I saw photos of excellent white perch catches made from the Broadkill and Nanticoke rivers.

Delaware’s downstate trout season opened last week with cold, windy weather and poor fishing at Newton Pond near Georgetown. I had several reports from anglers who either caught nothing or had one fish early in the morning. 

As my luck would have it, my sister called Thursday and said she was coming to visit Friday and Saturday. I have never loved her more, as she got me out of freezing to death while catching nothing. Restocking was set to take place Thursday, March 19, so there will be even more fish for us not to catch.

The tackle shops I called were open and planned to stay open unless ordered to close. They had blood- and earthworms, bunker and a variety of frozen baits. All were sold out of toilet paper and paper towels.

State parks and wildlife areas

With entrance fees discontinued at state parks and wildlife areas, you have the perfect opportunity to visit them and just go for a walk. The early spring has many trees and flowers blooming, and there are always little animals like squirrels and rabbits running around. Pick up a bird book and you will be surprised at how many different species we have in Delaware. Just spend an hour quietly sitting in a fold-up chair away from the main trails and you will be entertained by the wildlife around you. Do take precautions against ticks.

I have no doubt we will get through this pandemic, but I also think it will get worse before it gets better. Please take care of yourself and the ones you love, and help those in need as best you can.


  • 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 several publications and 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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