Two poor fishing trips lead to fear of slow season

July 1, 2017

On June 22, I fished with Larry Weldin and Mike Pizzolato on Larry’s 22-foot boat. We headed out around 7:15 a.m., and after a bit of fog in Indian River Bay, we were able to make for the Old Grounds, arriving around 8:20.

We worked the bottom from 90 to 100 feet and picked up quite a few short sea bass, a few long and two short flounder. At the end of the day, we had one keeper sea bass in the cooler. The weather was perfect, but the new-moon current required us to use 8 ounces of weight in order to hold bottom. We all used top-bottom rigs baited with squid.

On June 28, I decided to change locations, so Larry and I took my 16-foot Starcraft to the Lewes boat ramp with hopes of fishing Site 10 for kings and trout. Our hopes were dashed by a steady wind that had built waves above the limit of my boat.

Plan B was fishing the Ferry Wall and the Inner Wall. It was a bit of a slow go getting there, and once we arrived, we discovered it was not worth the trip. We used live minnows and bloodworms to no avail and then ran back in to try the Broadkill River.

The incoming current pushed us up the river to Broadkill Beach. I was able to keep the boat in 8 to 10 feet of water along the sharp drop-off from shore, and we used bloodworms and live minnows here as well. While I did manage to catch a small oyster toad, that was the sum total of our trip. The water temperature was between 69 and 72 degrees, which is a bit chilly for late June.

Those of us who have small boats may be in for a slow fishing season. When you fish with bloodworms from the Inner Wall to the Broadkill River without so much as single bite, there are no fish around. My reports from the Fishing Pier at Cape Henlopen State Park indicate the same situation. I did have reports of kings and trout at Site 10, which is why I wanted to fish out there.

I also fear it will be a slow season for flounder. While I am sure the charter boats will be able to round up a few keepers from the ocean, the rest of us will have a tough time in the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal, Broadkill River and the Back Bays. Keepers have been scarce in all these locations with the occasional large flounder caught. I know of a 7-pounder out of Massey’s Ditch and another of the same size from the canal. The largest flounder so far this year has been a 9-pounder caught from Indian River Inlet.

According to the National Marine Fisheries Service, we have had six years of poor flounder reproduction, and that leaves a pretty big hole in the population. This is why we had to raise the size limit to 17 inches, although I am not sure exactly how much help that will be.

My next question is, where are all the spot and croaker? The past few years, the croaker have appeared in early May, and here it is late June and they are a no-show. These fish keep the local head boats in business and make me very happy as well. Only time will tell if they will return.

On the plus side, offshore fishing has been very good for tuna. Right now, the canyons, from the Baltimore to the Washington, are providing nice yellowfins in the 30- to 60-pound class. It takes a bit of money to play out there, even if you run your own boat. This leaves most of us wishing we could go, but knowing we can’t afford the fare.

Nowhere is it more certain that change will happen than in saltwater fishing. The season is young and perhaps as the water continues to warm we will have more fish on the inshore grounds. I certainly hope so.

Tog public hearing

On June 28, two days before this paper arrives, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission held a public hearing on tautog at the DNREC Lewes Facility. The notice of the meeting arrived too late for last week’s issue, but even if you missed the public hearing, you can still read the draft amendment and send your comment via email to Title the email “Tautog Draft Amendment.”

The amendment is available for review at the ASMFC website. You have until Friday, July 14, to comment, and it will take that long to read the amendment. I got as far as page 84 and gave up.

  • 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