Tips for fishing at Indian River Inlet

July 5, 2019

The Indian River Inlet provides a good fishing location for both shore-based and boat fishermen, but it does take a bit of preparation before heading out. The first few trips will be learning experiences no matter how much you think you know, but knowing a little can make the experience a bit less painful.

The most exciting time to fish the inlet is when blues, shad or rockfish are busting the surface chasing bait under diving birds. The adrenalin gets flowing and lures get flying, and before you know it, your line is tangled up with a couple of others and new friendships are quickly lost.

As exciting as the action may be, you have to stop before you start and look at what is going on. Find a place along the rail, then match your casts so they don’t cross your neighbors. Make sure you are using lures similar in weight to what the rest of the folks are throwing, and beware of those who are casting odd weights or using too-heavy or too-light tackle. Casting to breaking fish at Indian River Inlet is a fine dance, and must be carried out with care and balance.

If blues are the target, use metal lures such as Stingsilvers, Castmasters or Hopkins. Shad like shad darts or very small spoons. Place these light lures 6 to 8 inches behind a torpedo sinker or Stingsilver to give them casting weight.

The standard lure for rockfish is a white bucktail with a white plastic worm. This also seems to be the standard for everything in some anglers’ minds, but while it will certainly catch blues and even the occasional sheepshead, metal lures are better for the former, while crab bait is better for the latter.

Rockfish are most likely to be taken after dark. Saying this, I recall walking down the sidewalk under the Route 1 bridge around noon on a very hot August day. There was a poor misguided guy fishing a plug just under the surface on slack water and I thought to myself, “Boy, he sure doesn’t know anything about fishing.”

About that time, a 15-pound rockfish slowly swam up from the depths and inhaled his plug. I just kept on walking. I have filed that along with the guy who caught the sheepshead on the white bucktail with the white worm.

If you are going to chase rockfish at night on the jetty, you must be careful. I have seen some terrible falls on those rocks, and we have even lost fishermen from there.

You must have the proper footwear. Korkers are the standard and will do the job better than anything else. It is not a bad idea to wear a PFD. Do not wear waders!

Most jetty jockeys carry a small plug bag with lots of white bucktails and white worms, white Storm or Tsunami shads and a favorite plug or two. A small penlight around the neck and a good pair of clippers and fishing pliers are helpful. If you plan to keep your catch, you will need a stringer.

It has been a long time since I fished the rocks at night, but we used to head out as the tide was falling and back in as it was flooding. Unfortunately, some of the best rockfish action came on nights when the ocean was angry. While no one ever accused me of being fleet of foot, I never fell while dodging the waves between breaks in the rocks.

Bottom fishing at the inlet is another challenge. The primary catch will be tog, but rockfish and now perhaps a trout may be caught. Most of the fish will be taken right in the rocks. This is why you will need to bring lots of tackle. I use as small a bank sinker as possible and try to fish my line directly down from the rod tip. I use a one-hook rig that I tie myself to save money. Sand fleas and green crabs are my baits.

Good luck!

Flounder regulations

The feds have made it official. Summer flounder regulations in federal waters will be the same as the state where the fish are landed.

Fishing report

Very little has changed. Still plenty of kings in the surf along with small trout, spot and croaker. Bloodworms, FishBite bloodworms and cut bait will do the job. Keep your rig moving across the bottom for best results.

The Delaware Bay reef sites hold kings, triggerfish, flounder, croaker and spot. Clams, squid, live minnows and bloodworms all produce here.

Flounder fishing over ocean structure is decent. Some charter boats are getting limits or close to limits. Jigging with bucktails seems to be working better than just dragging baits across the bottom.

  • 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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