Tog and sheepshead cruising the rocks at Indian River Inlet

August 14, 2021

Right now, there are tog and sheepshead cruising the rocks at Indian River Inlet. You don’t need to have a boat or to pay for a charter or head boat ride to catch them. All you need is a sturdy rod and reel, some 40-pound braid on the reel and a top shot of 40-pound fluorocarbon for your leader. Get a bag of sand fleas for bait and you are all set. Oh, I did forget one other thing. You will need patience ... lots and lots of patience.

The fish are there. I hear of one or two keepers caught most days when I call Old Inlet Bait and Tackle for my radio reports on WGMD. The most common catch is short tog. One day last week, an angler reported eight shorts to keep one tog.

When I fish the Inlet, I use a 10-foot surf rod so I can drop my rig straight off the tip down into the rocks. No casting necessary. Both tog and sheepshead are grazers, so they will be moving along the jetty looking for something to eat. Your sand fleas will attract them, so always be ready for a bite.

My rig is homemade, with a single hook and a perfection loop on the top, and a double surgeon’s loop on the bottom for the sinker. A second surgeon’s loop, tied between the first two, holds the hook. I use a J hook because a tog or a sheepshead does not get the bait deep enough into their mouth for a circle to work properly.

If you are young and flexible enough, you can go under the railing and fish from the rocks or go out on the jetty. Just be sure you are wearing the correct footwear. Korkers are very good for jetty fishing. That ship sailed without me several years ago. My son Roger has my Korkers and I stay on the sidewalk.

I bring a folding chair, set that up as close to the rail as possible, then bait up and drop my rig straight down into the rocks. I still get hung up, but not nearly as much as those who cast out into the middle of the inlet then let the current carry their rig wherever it wants to take it.

Both tog and sheepshead are nibblers. You have to set the hook before they bite; well, almost. Setting the rod down and hoping the fish hook themselves is not productive. Hold the outfit and be ready to set the hook the instant you feel a tap.

Not sure the state of the current has any bearing on this fishery. I am a big incoming-current guy, but know others who fish the outgoing. I think this time of year, early morning may be more important than tidal stage. I like to arrive around daybreak and fish until 10 or 11 a.m. I usually fish the Southside, as close to the parking lot as possible.

Fishing report

The hot summer weather seems to have cooled off the flounder fishing. A few boats are still catching their limit, but they are really working for them. The Old Grounds, and B and A buoys remain the best locations with some nice flounder also caught at the reef sites in Delaware Bay.

Boat limits of sea bass are more common than limits of flounder, and that is unusual for August. The Del-Jersey-Land Reef is one location where sea bass are being caught, but the best locations remain in the captains’ secret log books. There are dolphin on the Del-Jersey-Land Reef as well. 

Cutlassfish or ribbonfish are showing up in numbers as far up the Delaware Bay as Site 5. They are even more numerous over ocean reef sites and at the Old Grounds. My son who lives in Virginia Beach says they are good to eat if you can catch a big one, because the filets are very thin.

Yellowfin tuna are found from the Hot Dog to the canyons. Chunking seems to be the best bet over inshore structure while trolling works best in the deep.

The smaller dolphin have finally shown up in the offshore waters. It is possible to bail up a limit and then get back to trolling for tuna, marlin or bigger dolphin.

I would like to say surf fishing has improved, but I don’t like to lie. It is still a very slow pick of spot, croaker, small blues, kings and the always-present skates and dogs. Go up on the beach, keep a baited line in the water, but make sure you have taken something out for dinner when you get home.

Indian River Inlet has seen some activity with tog and sheepshead. A few blues have been caught when they chase peanut bunker.


  • 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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