Harry and Dot Aiken honored at Indian River Inlet

July 31, 2021

On Tuesday, I attended a ceremony at the southside of Indian River Inlet where a large plaque and a bench were dedicated to my longtime friend Harry Aiken and his wife Dot. Harry is well into his 80s and while his fishing days are over, he is a living history of surf-fishing along the beaches in Delaware. 

I first met Harry through the Delaware Mobile Surf-Fishermen when I joined in 1973. He, of course, had been a member for many years and had represented the club in long-distance casting contests for most of that time. One of his many accomplishments was casting a baseball out of Yankee Stadium.

Back when big trout roamed the surf, Harry carried live spot in a cooler on his truck and would sell them to those of us who didn’t live in Sussex County at the time. It was a much-appreciated service.

On a personal note, when my son Roger was 10 years old and wanted to go on a deer hunt, Harry built us a double deer stand on a property he managed. While we didn’t kill a deer, it was wonderful to be able to be in the stand with my son and enjoy a day in the woods together.

Harry Aiken is a special person and deserves this honor more than anyone else I know. I am glad they didn’t wait until it was a posthumous award and he was able to enjoy his special day.

Take a kid fishing

Summer is a great time to take a kid fishing. School is out and kids are wasting their time looking at phones, playing video games or otherwise occupied indoors. Grab a couple and take them fishing. It’s nice if they’re your own kids, but believe me, most parents won’t complain if you grab a couple of theirs for a few hours on the water.

When you take kids fishing, it is important that they catch something. It really doesn’t matter what, just so long as it pulls on their line.

You must always remember that most kids have an attention span of nanoseconds, so if the fish don’t bite, they will quickly lose interest and be off on other adventures. This is fine. The worst thing you can do is get mad because the kids don’t have patience. Let them chase frogs or birds or play in the mud. When a fish finally bites, be sure to let them reel it in. Then take lots of photos of them with their prize.

The park in Milton is a great place to take kids fishing. There are fish in the river and lots of other things to do if the fish don’t cooperate.

Taking kids out in a boat presents other problems. The most serious is sea sickness. If the child gets sick, that’s the end of the trip, period.

My boys started out in my 14-foot tin boat. Ric would play with the minnows when fishing was slow. I had a friend whose granddaughter also played with minnows until his wife happened to see the minnow’s tail sticking out of her granddaughter’s mouth.

We fished Indian River Bay and the ocean out of Indian River Inlet. There were enough flounder back then to keep the boy’s interest. We also had croaker and trout, if you used smaller tackle, and plenty of snapper blues.

Don’t try to start a kid off by running offshore or even trolling the Hot Dog or 20-Fathom Fingers. The run out and hours of watching the lures in the wake will not endear fishing to young folks. Granted, catching tuna and dolphin is exciting, but a kid can’t reel those large fish to the boat.

Now I want to give fair warning to all you hot shot fishermen out there. When you take your wife and kids fishing, do not put a line in the water. Spend the day baiting hooks, netting fish and cutting bait. I promise you if you try to fish, the ladies and the kids will out-fish you and brag about it for years to come.

Fishing report

Fishing is pretty good if you have a boat. If, like me, your boat is small or you don’t have a boat, pickin’s are pretty slim.

Sea bass and flounder lead the pack and are available from the Old Grounds on out to the Del-Jersey-Land Reef. Live minnows, strips of squid, Gulp! and jigs have all produced good results. The Old Grounds hold more flounder than sea bass and the Del-Jersey-Land Reef has more sea bass than flounder.

The Hot Dog turned on with good numbers of yellowfin tuna caught on the troll, on the chunk and by jigging. Dawn and dusk were prime times and some boats overnighted.


  • 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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