Kids shine at surf-fishing tournament

May 11, 2024

Old Inlet Bait and Tackle held its annual Spring Surf-Fishing Tournament May 4. In spite of less-than-ideal weather conditions, 170 hardy anglers entered the contest, including 19 women and 16 kids. They caught 61 bluefish, three flounder, one black drum and one striped bass.

Scores are calculated by measuring the length of eligible fish, and at the end of the day Jim Haug had accumulated 181 points to take first place in the Open Division. He won a prize of $750. In second place was Jeff Kirby with 141 points, good for $500. Coming in third was Dennis McCain with 101 points, and he walked away with $250. In fourth was Scott Aiken Jr. with 77 points, good for $150.

In the Women’s Division, Kelsey Cycyk came in first with 56 points. The prize was $250. In second was Amy Dixion with 35 points, good for $100. Third was a tie between Anita Chandler and Katie Hall, who both had 33 points and split the $50 prize, taking home $25 each.

The Kid’s Division saw some remarkable scores. In first place was Aiden Sparano with 102 points. He won a surf rod and reel. Taking second was Finn Hudecheck with 90 points, good for a spinning rod and reel. In third was Wyatt Hull with 89 points. His prize was a tackle box. If you check out the scores, you can see the kids beat all the women and would have come in third and fourth in the Open Division. I suspect the kids followed different scoring rules.

Now we get to the big money. First up is the prize for the largest fish. That goes to Ryan Stetser for his 49-inch striped bass. Not only did Ryan catch a fish of a lifetime from the surf, he took home $1,000 to help him celebrate!

Finally, we get to the Bluefish Calcutta. In the past, this prize has gone to some pretty small blues, but not this year. This year, Dennis McClain caught a 35-inch blue to win the $1,510 calcutta. Add that to the $250 he won in the Open Division and he had $1,750 for the day. Not too bad when you consider he spent the day surf-fishing.

Fishing report

As you can see from above, surf-fishing is pretty good. The only problem is the fish don’t always play along with the anglers. They tend to show up here and there while the surf fishermen tend to fish there and here.

Believe it or not, but one of the more consistent locations has been the fishing pier at Cape Henlopen State Park. Fishing with mullet or casting lures have both produced good results. If you do fish from the pier, you will need some sort of net to get your bluefish from the water up to the pier. The ideal is a circle net that is placed in the water and the angler leads his fish to the net and the net person brings the fish up to the pier.

I have fished from piers in North Carolina where they have these nets available because catching fish like red drum, tarpon, king mackerel and big blues are relatively common. I have not seen these nets at our pier, but I have not been there this year.

The beach on either side of the pier has also been productive for big blues. Some anglers will fish with mullet while other use various lures such as SP Minnows in bone, metal lures such as a Hopkins and poppers.

Loretta Smith is a dedicated fly-fisher and she works at her craft as hard as anyone I have ever seen. On Monday evening, she was fishing from the beach near the fishing pier at Cape Henlopen State Park when, on her second cast of the evening, a big bluefish grabbed her fly. After an epic battle, she beached the gator blue, and once the line went slack, the broken hook fell out. According to Loretta, this was the biggest blue she has ever caught in her 10 years of fly fishing.

There have been other locations where big blues have been caught. South of Indian River Inlet at 3Rs Road has seen some good action with mullet or bunker the top baits. The South Pocket where the ocean meets the south jetty at the inlet has also seen big blues bottle up bait.

One place you may not think about is Oyster Rocks Road, but I caught a big blue there last year while flounder fishing from my boat. On Monday, I had reports of folks catching big blues there on mullet from shore.

I have no idea how long these big blues will be around. Back in the 1970s, they were here all summer, but that was a long time ago.


  • 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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