Laurel spillway always a great place for fishing

March 10, 2018

As I have mentioned before, my grandparents raised me, and they were both from Laurel. Pop worked shift work at American Viscose in Marcus Hook, and when he had a three-day break, we headed to Laurel. Of course, my grandparents wanted to visit their friends and relatives, and back in those days with those people, kids were never allowed to speak unless spoken to.

Whenever possible, I was dropped off at the spillway in Laurel to fish while my grandparents were visiting. I caught so many fish there that even after I got my first car, a 1951 Plymouth, I kept going back to the spillway.

There have been some changes there since the 1950s and ’60s. The dam has been restructured, and they have built a pier right on top of the old wood that provided some of the best fishing.  You can no longer walk out on the submerged wood that covered the water at the top end of the spillway. We used to fish there, especially when the shad and herring were running.  

On one such trip, my friend Richard Marcozzi was washed over into the spillway when a city employee opened the floodgates. We reported the incident to the town cop, who said we shouldn’t be out there anyway. We ended up at the laundromat drying out Richard’s clothes.

With spring almost here, it has occurred to me that the spillway should be a good place to fish, what with the bad weather and cold water in the bay and ocean. To this end, I called Jerry Taylor at Taylored Tackle on Old Route 13 between Seaford and Laurel for some up-to-date reports. He said the spillway is producing short rockfish and crappie on earthworms and minnows. He also said the herring were there, but they are illegal to possess.

He also told me the perch fishing in the Nanticoke River and Broad Creek has been pretty good. There have been white and yellow perch with a few yellows topping two pounds. Mixed in with the perch have been some blue cats to 15 pounds. All of these fish have been caught on bloodworms, earthworms or live minnows.

Later in the spring, the big blue cats will arrive, and these fish can top 20 pounds. Those who target the larger fish use cut bunker or herring. I gave it a try last spring, but only caught pickerel. I plan to be back this year to try again.

Fishing the spillway in Laurel is pretty easy. There is a fair amount of parking and the always-popular Johnny Hop in the lot. The pier has a good amount of room for anglers, and there is usually a mix of bait and lure fishermen.

I like to start with a live bait under a bobber. The bobber will drift in the current covering a good bit of water. If you get a bite in one location, keep trying the spot until the fish move on or quit feeding.

Bottom fishing is pretty easy. Just toss out a one- or two-hook rig with enough weight to hold bottom and wait for some action. This is the approved technique for catfish.

On the other side of the spillway is Records Pond. Bass, pickerel and crappie may be caught here, and there is a boat ramp and fishing pier available.

Back in the ’50s, we caught herring two at a time on every cast using a double shad dart rig. The occasional white or American shad was a bonus. Today, both are in such low supply that it is against the law to possess one.

On the positive side, the spillway was covered with tomato skins when the cannery was in operation during the late summer. I am pretty sure tomato skins were far from the worst things dumped into the Broad Creek back then. Today, all that waste has been disposed of in a more environmentally friendly way.

Menhaden Part 4

The new governor of Virginia placed a bill in the Virginia legislature that would have brought the commonwealth in compliance with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s menhaden quota. To no one’s surprise, the legislature has withdrawn the bill and will now try to convince the ASMFC to give them more menhaden. Should that fail, and I think it will, the ASMFC will find Virginia out of compliance and the matter with go to the Secretary of Commerce, who will decide their fate. I also think the secretary will side with Virginia and the menhaden industry, and allow Virginia to write their own menhaden regulations. Should this happen, it will spell the end of any power the ASMFC has to enforce rules, and we will be back where we were in the 1970s.

  • 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