Hurricane stirs up surf, doesn’t hinder fishing

September 13, 2019

I arrived at Indian River Inlet around 0545 Tuesday, Sept. 10, with plans to fish the magic hour between first light and sunrise. I was on the northside under the bridge just west of the fenced-off area. No one else was there. I began by working a black Bomber plug with a black eel imitation teaser around the rocks in hopes of finding a rockfish. If a rockfish was there, it didn’t like my presentation.

Just before sunrise, a lady arrived and began fishing so close to my right side I couldn’t cast for fear of hitting her in the head. Then she threw across my line and tangled us up. After this, she did move farther to my right so we both had more room to fish. I have fished the inlet when it was crowded and understand when people fish close to you. That day, there were exactly three people there, me, the lady and the man with her.

Then, to add insult to injury, she caught a bluefish!

I instantly switched from the plug and teaser to a Stingsilver, but an hour later I had not had a single hit. Neither had the lady or the man. In fact, her bluefish was the only thing I saw caught all morning.

The weather was so nice, I really didn’t want to leave, so even after the current began to run out and the water turned dirty, I kept on fishing. I did move my operation to the handicap pier where I set up with a top-bottom rig baited with FishBite bloodworm and sand flea. I stayed there until 0930 (I may have dozed off for a few minutes), then finally packed up and headed home. My FishBite baits were still in pristine condition when I cut them from the hooks.

There was plenty of life at the inlet, just not the kind that gets a fisherman’s heart all aflutter. Not sure what they were, but small fish lined the rocks as far as I could see. Tiny blues harassed them from below while terns dove on them from above. During incoming water, a pod of porpoise worked the southside from the bridge almost to the bathhouse. They were feeding on something, but I have no idea what.

Then there was the cormorant. The first time I saw him (or her), the bird had a fish that looked like a menhaden. Gulped that right down. The next time I saw him, he had an oyster toad. Apparently, he didn’t have any trouble catching it, but swallowing the big-headed fish was proving difficult. Since I was not being harassed by any fish, I had plenty of time to watch this drama unfold. The bird would keep trying to swallow the fish and fail, then dive underwater with it before coming back up to try again. This play kept up for quite a while until he finally managed somehow to get the fish down his gullet.

I hope to be back to the inlet a few more times this year. We are due for a run of bigger blues and perhaps a few rockfish. Or not.

Fishing report
The hurricane that passed by last Friday didn’t do anything to damage the bottomfish in the ocean. On Saturday, the Morning Star out of Ocean City had a sea bass charter that the captain tried to cancel due to the big seas. The party said they were already in town and wanted to go. They finally left the dock at 11 a.m. and the first two spots they tried were barren. When they hit structure in 115 feet, every drop was double-headed keepers. They limited out the boat, including the crew. My son Ric in Virginia Beach ran out on Sunday with one other angler and caught a limit of big sea bass at Rick’s Wreck.

On Sunday, the Katydid and the Grizzly out of Lewes had boat limits of sea bass from the ocean. On Monday, the Katydid had flounder and sea bass.

The Outer Wall and the Ice Breakers have seen some sheepshead and triggerfish. On Monday, Sandy Toomey had a 5.19-pound sheepshead and a 2.45-pound triggerfish on sand fleas.

The hurricane did stir up the surf. The latest report I had said the water remained dirty, but it certainly should clear by the weekend. As reported above, the water at the inlet was dirty on the outgoing current.

The Lewes and Rehoboth Canal has a lot of tiny sea bass and not much else. The fishing pier at Cape Henlopen State Park continues to produce spot on high tide. Some big croaker were caught after dark before the storm. Flounder action fell off, but should resume once the mullet run begins.

  • 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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