First keeper flounder caught; sea bass opens May 15

May 7, 2020

I hope everyone enjoyed those three days of spring we had last weekend. Now we are back to late winter, with lows in the 30s and highs in the 50s. I keep expecting the weather to change for the better, but it remains cold and rainy.

I want to thank the sister-brother team of Olivia and Anthony DiFebo from Wilmington for making me look good by catching the first keeper flounder, which was checked into Lewes Harbour Marina last weekend. Their keeper was caught out of the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal on a nuclear chicken Gulp! I had predicted in last week’s column that the first flounder was due to be caught, and since my predictions seldom come true, I am eternally grateful to the DiFebos.

The nice weather we enjoyed last weekend did produce some decent fishing. Indian River Inlet saw blues and shad caught on metal lures and shad darts. Small rockfish were taken on bucktails. Sunday night into early Monday morning was a good time to be on the jetty working plastic shads like Storms, Sassy Shads or Tsunamis. These lures attracted fair numbers of rockfish in the slot between 28 and 35 inches.

In Indian River Bay, I had reports of a very few flounder caught out of the VFW Slough. I would suspect there are flounder on the shallow area west of the slough at the top of the flood tide.

While surf fishing is restricted to those with vehicles carrying surf-fishing permits, the beach did see some kings and bluefish over the weekend. This action was very scattered. The kings hit bloodworms and the blues took bunker. I did have one report of a bluefish on a Kastmaster.

With the wind staying somewhere below gale force, boats were able to fish for tog. The reports I received were all positive, with keepers in the four- to five-pound range. Several large female tog were released.

The one constant during this cold and wet spring has been the freshwater ponds in Delaware. Bass, crappie and pickerel have all been caught on a steady basis by anglers using both natural and artificial baits. The better reports I see come from folks who have small boats and fish the ponds in Sussex County. They fish with family members, so no problem with social distancing.

Over in the Chesapeake Bay, the opening of Trophy Striped Bass Season has been very successful. Beginning Friday, May 1, the charter boats have been coming back with one fish per customer limits of rockfish over 35 inches. Most are trolling with double bucktails or shads and some are pulling umbrella rigs. Planner boards are a given. A few boats have been chumming. The stripers have been plentiful from the Chester River to below Chesapeake Beach.

As far as Delaware residents fishing in Maryland, I checked the Maryland DNR website and it seems Maryland is under the same stay-at-home restrictions as we are. No out-of-state travel is allowed. If you have a favorite charter captain in Maryland, you might contact him or her and see what they have to say.

Sea bass opening day

Friday, May 15, is opening day for black sea bass in Delaware and Maryland. The minimum size remains at 12.5 inches and the bag limit stays at 15 fish per person.

I checked the latest list of businesses that are allowed to be open under Gov. John Carney’s order as of Tuesday, May 5, and neither charter nor head boats were mentioned. Nevertheless, some of these captains are planning to operate, beginning May 15, under similar rules as they have in Maryland. I suggest you contact your favorite captain to make a reservation and find out exactly what you must do to come onboard the boat.

I have a reservation on the Angler out of Ocean City May 15 and was notified that he is only going to take eight customers plus the captain and mate. The cost rose to $150 for the trip that begins at 6 a.m. and ends at 4 p.m. I am still waiting to hear if I am one of the first eight people to make a reservation and will be offered one of the prized openings.

I would expect the sea bass will still be out in deeper water since the cold and damp weather has kept water temperatures down. Of course, my record of predicting where a certain fish will be at a certain time is not one to be proud of.

If the weather is good, I expect a crowded boat ramp at Indian River Marina and Lewes. Please maintain social distancing and wear a face mask to avoid spreading the virus and attracting the attention of those who can close such facilities.


  • 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

Subscribe to the Daily Newsletter