Getting kids started early, but not too early

April 10, 2020

On April 5, my son Roger took my 5-year-old granddaughter Charlotte on her first fishing trip. They went to Echo Lake in Howell, N.J., where Charlotte caught not one, but two fish – a trout and a sunfish. She used a regular spinning outfit, not a toy, and my son said she is a natural. I said of course she is. How could she be anything else?

Her 3-year-old brother CJ is still a bit rambunctious for fishing. He would spend about two seconds with the rod in hand before throwing it down to take off chasing bugs or squirrels or whatever caught his attention. This is one thing parents who want to take kids fishing must understand. Some kids will just not be interested in fishing, especially at an early age. Don’t give up on them. Go with the flow. Try fishing again when they are older, and you may be surprised at how much they have changed.

Get outdoors but be careful

We have to be very careful when we are outdoors because this virus is bad stuff. Take all the warnings about social distancing seriously. If, like me, you fall in the vulnerable age group with underlying conditions, I strongly urge you to wear a face mask. Yes, they look funny and they are difficult to breathe through, but it is even more difficult to breathe when both lungs are gone.

All the state parks are open, although the restrooms are closed. You can use these areas to walk and enjoy nature or, if you are a Delaware resident with a valid surf-fishing permit, you can drive on the beach and fish. Vehicles must be 20 yards apart and may only have two occupants, both of whom must be from the same household.

As the weather warms, I suspect we will see more folks gathering in groups and attracting the attention of law enforcement. As if their stupidity isn’t enough to bring the virus upon themselves, it can also put others at risk.

In addition, they will choose parks and beaches to gather, and that will result in the closing of those areas to everyone. Reminds me of when I was in boot camp: When one guy screwed up, the whole company was punished.

Fishing report

Fish are being caught, but with few boats running, most of the fishing is from shore.

Indian River Inlet has seen a few short rockfish taken on plastic tailed jigs. Early morning seems to be the best time. A few keeper tog have been caught on green crabs with the slack between incoming and outgoing current the best time to try for these fish.

On the beach, it has been short rockfish to 25 inches on bloodworms or cut bunker. The water temperature in the ocean is flirting with 50 degrees, and once it decides to move past that mark, we may see some blues. 

My friends in New Jersey have been catching large stripers in Raritan Bay. My nephew Justin Twilley along with his friend Brian Cook fished with cut bunker out of Augustine Beach Sunday and caught two rockfish measuring 36 and 40 inches. Both fish were released.

Over in Maryland, rockfish are forbidden. You may not play catch-and-release, and it is against the law to troll in the Chesapeake Bay. The only fish that anyone is talking about are white perch and catfish, because the only fishing that is allowed is for subsidence. You must keep everything you catch. You may fish from a boat, but recreational boating is not allowed.

Down in Ocean City a few speckled trout have been caught near the Route 50 and 90 bridges. I am not sure if Delaware residents can go to Ocean City to fish. I know Maryland residents must self-quarantine for 14 days if they come to Delaware.

Amanda at Lewes Harbour Marina told us that Derek Sherman, Carter Hayes and Matt Purnell fished the oceanside of the Outer Wall with green crabs to catch three keeper tog and several shorts. That is the best tog report I have had in a while.

Freshwater fishing remains pretty good. The ponds hold good numbers of bass, pickerel, perch and crappie, and they will take live minnows or a variety of artificials.

White perch and catfish are available in the tidal rivers and creeks. I have seen some pretty good catches of white perch made from the Broadkill River in recent days. Bloodworms have been the best bait.

It is time for the big blue catfish to start stirring in the Nanticoke River. Cut bunker or herring make the best baits for these big fish. Shad should also start their spring run.


  • 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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