Farewell to John Nedelka, longtime friend and charter captain

May 22, 2020

On Saturday morning, I received the news that my good friend Captain John Nedelka had passed away. John and I had known each other for more than 45 years, when both of us had camper trailers at Bayshore Campgrounds in Ocean View.

We began our fishing careers with aluminum boats and big bluefish at B Buoy or black sea bass at the Old Grounds. John decided to go into the charter business and purchased a JC boat in New England, then brought it down through New York City, a feat that all of us considered quite an accomplishment. That boat, the Karen Sue, served him well until he sold it last year and sort of retired.

In those early days, everyone fished out of Southshore Marina. The business was run by Barbara Porter, and the charter captains included Ben Betts, Pete Floyd, Frank Badur, Bill Massey and others who are long gone from the water but not my memory. It was a time before GPS, when LORAN was new and some of the captains still relied on dead reckoning to find their fish.

John was constantly on the lookout for new fish-holding bottom. If he found something interesting, he would write the LORAN numbers in pencil on the dashboard. He was breaking in a new mate and instructed the man to clean the boat so well he could eat off the deck. The mate did as he was told, including removing all those numbers off the dash.

On another occasion, my editor at Outdoor Life asked me to set up a charter for one of his associate editors and her girlfriend, as they were planning a vacation in Rehoboth. I set it up with John and we got to thinking and decided if the two of us left the dock with two young ladies, the stories that would spread like wildfire would require explanations at home that may or may not have been believed.
To prevent this, we decided to take my son Ric along. He was 10 or 12 at the time and was more then happy to go fishing.

As it turned out, no stories would have come out because the two young ladies actually were girlfriends. Not only that, they were great fisherwomen, and we kept them and Ric busy hauling up big bluefish, sea bass and tog.

I don’t believe anyone has given me more fishing reports than John. He was the very first advertiser when I started the DelMarVa Edition of The Fisherman Magazine, and he stayed with me until we stopped publication. He did not sugarcoat anything. If fishing was bad, he said it was bad. When it was good, he said it was good, and he always gave a general idea of where he was fishing – inside the Buoy Line, outside the Buoy Line, past the Lightship, the Fingers, Fenwick Shoal or wherever.

Captain John Nedelka was a successful charter captain, but more important, he was my good friend, and he has left a huge hole in my heart.

Fishing report

This information was collected before Arthur came to call. Black drum fishing in Delaware Bay has been very good. Boats have had success fishing off Broadkill Beach and at the Coral Beds. Clams, sand fleas and hard crabs have all produced the desired results. If you can acquire female hard crabs, cut them in half before putting one on your circle hook. They not only bring in the black drum, they also seem to attract fewer skates and dog sharks.

Black drum were also caught from the beach. Broadkill Beach was the most productive location, but the ocean beaches have also produced a scattered number of drum. The same baits work from shore as well as from boats. At least one keeper rockfish was caught by a drum fisherman at Broadkill Beach.

The opening day of black sea bass season was too rough to fish, but the weekend brought better conditions and the fish did not disappoint. All reports I read had limits of sea bass, and most boats came home early. The best action was over structure in 120 feet of water, and at least one pollock and one flounder were caught along with the sea bass.

Indian River Inlet has seen good fishing for hickory shad, except when I am there. Incoming water has been the best time to fish, with shad darts or small spoons the top lures. A few small bluefish have been caught along with the shad.

Nighttime anglers have found slot-sized rockfish willing to take large plastic shads or plugs. A few of these fish have exceeded the 35-inch maximum size. A few keeper tog and one or two keeper trout have also been caught from the inlet.

  • 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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