Flounder close to structure often difficult to fish

July 2, 2016

The reef sites in the Lower Bay are beginning to produce a few keeper flounder, kings and small croaker. The flounder are tight to structure and it will be necessary to hold the boat directly over this structure so the baits can find the fish. The stronger the current and wind, the more difficult this process becomes.

Many captains find it easier to hold the stern into the current and wind with their anglers fishing from the back of the boat. Small boats may find this a bit harrowing because water can come over the stern on days when the waves are building more than a foot or two.

It is also possible to set up a drift that will carry the boat over as much structure as possible. The problem with this system is the many sinker- and hook-eating monsters that live on the bottom of the reef sites.

Both techniques require the captain to keep his eye on the SONAR so he knows when the boat is on structure. The anglers should fish their lines as close to 90 degrees from the water as possible.  If this sounds like a lot of work, it is, but nobody said fishing was easy.

Since I spend much of my boat fishing time in the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal, I am happy to report that flounder fishing has improved there. Several limits have been caught and a couple of five-pounders have been landed. A live minnow and a strip of squid has been the go-to bait with a Gulp! shrimp on a jighead another popular offering.

The canal and the Broadkill River have given up some croaker. Right now, these fish are small, but with any luck at all we should see bigger fish this month.

Starting today, the rockfish regulations in the Delaware Bay and its tributaries will change. The two-fish limit remains, but the size limit becomes a slot between 20 and 25 inches. The boundary in the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal is the Freeman Bridge.  Anywhere below that bridge remains under the two fish over 28 inches regulation.

I have seen rockfish caught out of the canal, but I have yet to land one. The water at the Savannah Road bridge down to the Railroad Bridge seems to produce most of the action. Successful angers fish this area at first light or at dusk with live eels.

I would think the Inner and Outer walls would also hold some rockfish. Here too the best time to fish will be dawn, dusk or after dark. Live eels, poppers, live spot and swimming plugs should all do the job.

The flounder action at Indian River Inlet and in the Back Bays has improved a bit. With summer boat traffic, the best times to try will be dawn and dusk. I have been catching flounder here since the 1950s and a live minnow with a strip of squid has always proven to be effective.

Drifting sand fleas along the rocks at Indian River Inlet has produced the occasional rockfish after dark. I also have reports of some sheepshead caught on sand fleas during the day. Targeting sheepshead takes a good deal of patience and some amount of skill. These fish can swipe a bait faster than a tog, and detecting their tap-tap bite is not always easy. I would use a circle hook and sand fleas on a one-hook rig with just enough weight to hold the bait on place. I have also used a 10- to 11-foot surf rod so I can drop the bait straight off the end of the rod.  This keeps it stationary without having the rig wash into the rocks. When you think you feel a bite, do not hesitate. Raise the rod up and crank as fast as you can. A good-sized sheepshead is a powerful fish and will take you into the rocks and cause you to lose both fish and rig.

Flounder fishing is very good in the ocean around the Old Grounds, B and A buoys. This is deep water, between 80 and 100 feet, so you need fairly heavy tackle to handle up to eight ounces of lead. Braided line is a big help out here since it is thinner than mono and much more sensitive.

The tuna fishing has been very good from the Norfolk to the Baltimore canyons. Last week the hot bite was outside the Poorman’s where yellowfin, bigeye and dolphin were caught. A few billfish have also shown up.

The Joe Shute lure, made in North Carolina, has found favor with the offshore crowd. Most combine the lure and a ballyhoo. Spreader bars and Flippy-Floppy teasers have also attracted tuna.

No matter where you like to fish or what you like to fish for, now is a good time to go.

  • 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