Dreaming of fishing under normal conditions

April 19, 2020

Sooner or later we will be fishing again, and I think we can expect to find the fish have not been affected by the virus. The strange weather we have had this April may have caused some species to arrive a bit late, but by the time we get back out on the water, I think things will return to normal, whatever that is.

Most of us who fish the inshore waters will be looking for flounder, and that may be a difficult task. The overall population of summer flounder is low and there has not been a good spawn in several years. Add to this the fact that the larger flounder have moved north of the Delmarva area, and catching four 16.5-inch fish will be a challenge.  

The best chance of connecting with a keeper will be early in the season when the larger fish move into the warm, shallow waters of the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal, Delaware Bay and Indian River Bay. Fish these areas on the top of the tide and the first of the ebb, then move to the outflow of feeder creeks or channels as the warm water moves out of the shallows carrying bait.

Bluefish should be along soon. Last Sunday, I had a report of one caught at Fenwick Island, but information on bait or rig was not available.

I was not pleased with the decision to limit recreational anglers to three blues if we fish from shore or from private boats, but allow customers of charter or head boats to keep five blues. It’s not that I want to keep more bluefish; it’s that this sets a very bad precedent for future regulations and causes a problem where none need exist. Recreational anglers should be allowed the same number of fish no matter where they choose to fish.

Last year, there was a decent run of three- to five-pound blues through Indian River Inlet during the spring. On Sunday, I saw a report of schools of menhaden just offshore in the ocean, and once they begin to move through the inlet, the blues will follow. We should also see more blues from the surf on cut menhaden and metal lures.

My dogwood tree is in full blossom, so the shad should be running. Indian River Inlet is the place to find them as well. A shad dart six to eight inches behind a metal lure such as a Stingsilver or Hopkins will attract these fish. I have tried to eat hickory shad and they don’t appeal to my taste. I release all that I catch, unless they are deep hooked, and then I will save them for strip baits.

Fishing for blues or shad is best done by watching the birds. First of all, those little terns that are always diving and dipping in the rips do not mean there are fish under them. I have no idea what they are eating, but whatever it is, it doesn’t strike a Stingsilver or shad dart.

Once the black-backed and laughing gulls join the party, you can be pretty sure the blues or shad are here. As a general rule, both will not be there at the same time.  

I start out with a Stingsilver and cast it right into the bird activity. I allow the lure to sink to the bottom and then begin my retrieve.  

If, after a few casts without a hit, I figure the fish under the birds are shad, I will tie on a shad dart below the Stingsilver and once again cast to the birds. Sometimes the hit will come right under the birds while at other times it might come after the lures have swung all the way around and are running parallel to the rocks. Keep working until you have to lift the rig out of the water to make the next cast.

If the birds move out of casting range, I will make one or two more casts, but if they go unrewarded, I will take a rest and wait for the birds to move closer. For some reason, shad tend to remain in one location more than blues.

My favorite spot is the northside just under the bridge on the west end of the inlet. Farther to the west, the area where the inlet meets the Coast Guard station is another good location. On the southside, the far western end of the campground has always been a hot spot. Either side of the bridge or the area where the beach meets the jetty rocks may also be good.

I am an incoming current kind of guy, but I am sure others do well on the outgoing. Stay safe and maintain social distancing.


  • 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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