Let’s relax and ride this out

April 22, 2020

This virus is very dangerous, and those who don’t believe so take a great risk with their lives and the lives of others. We all want to get back to our normal lives, go to work, go fishing, but to do so before the virus is under control is a very foolish idea.

Gov. John Carney has put into place social distancing rules to keep the virus from spreading, yet the number of cases in Sussex County continues to increase. As this is written, Sussex County has topped 1,300 cases, so relaxing the current rules is a very bad idea.

Much of our economy depends on tourists, and so long as out-of-state visitors must quarantine for 14 days, that industry, including the recreational and commercial fishing industry, will suffer. As for me, ‘tis better to suffer economically and recover than to suffer from the virus and die.

Charter and head boats

Charter and head boats will not be running in Delaware, New Jersey or Virginia until the governors of those states lift restrictions. In Maryland, those boats can run, but they cannot take more than 10 people, and those people must maintain social distancing. That means they must remain at least six feet apart.

Maryland’s rules will work for charter boats that normally carry six customers. Including the captain and mate, that is only eight people onboard.

For head boats, it’s not going to work very well. Most head boats carry at least 50 customers, and some can carry up to 100. I have reservations on the Angler out of Ocean City for May 15, the first day of black sea bass season. I am pretty sure the captain is not going to sail with only eight paying customers. The trip was a sellout, so we would have been a lot closer than six feet from each other.

What next?

For fishermen, the weather has been terrible. One day it blows, the next day it rains, and the next day it rains and blows. We have had two freeze warnings and one storm warning in the past week and a half. There have been whitecaps on Red Mill Pond, so even the freshwater anglers are having a tough time. I keep waiting for the nice, warm weather to arrive, but it has yet to show its face.

There have been a handful of blues caught at Indian River Inlet along with the occasional tog, but no shad to date. My dogwood tree is in full bloom, so the shad should be here.

It’s hard to say what’s in the surf because it has been continually rough and dirty, not to mention cold. There were some short rockfish caught on those rare days when the water was fishable, but that was sometime last week.

I keep waiting to hear of black drum caught at Broadkill Beach, but once again, no such news has come my way. Last year, we had a good run of drum there, with sand fleas the best bait.

To our north, my son Roger and some of his friends fished Raritan Bay in New Jersey on Monday night. They worked from their kayaks down the light line along a pier and caught stripers to 36 inches on trolled plugs. They picked up smaller fish by casting plastic shads into the same areas. These are Hudson River fish staging for their spawning run.

A very few red drum have been caught along the Barrier Islands of Virginia. A whole hard blue crab has been the top bait. There have been some very good nights of big red drum fishing from the Point at Hatteras Island. That location makes up on a hard southwest blow, and those with nerves of steel and even stronger constitutions will wade into the tempest and heave those Hatteras Heavers to do battle with each other and drum over 50 inches. There was a time when I found that a sporting event. Now, I just sit in my truck and watch.

As far as flounder goes, the only report I have is from Ocean City, Md., where Scott Lenox managed to get out one day last week and fish the Thoroughfare. He was fishing with white Gulp!, had one bite and caught one 17-inch flounder. I have no reports of any flounder from any Delaware waters.

When the weather finally turns around, I believe we will see some flounder in the shallow areas of Delaware Bay, the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal and Indian River Bay. I hope there will be some black drum, kings and blues in the surf, and a few bigger trout scattered about. The black sea bass should be thick and willing to bite just about anything once we can get out to them.

Good luck.


  • 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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