Wet and windy May hopefully gives way to better June

June 3, 2017

It has been a wet and windy May, but June is here, and perhaps we will finally get some fishable weather. This is not to say fish haven’t been caught - they have, but it is so much more fun when you don’t have to battle the elements in order to catch a fish.

The next week or two will provide those of us who have small boats, or no boat at all, the opportunity to catch a keeper and perhaps a doormat flounder. Last week, a 7-pound flounder was caught from the fishing pier at Massey’s Landing, and that is a doormat by any definition. No special tricks, just a minnow fished on the bottom. Several 4-pound flounder have been caught out of Indian River Bay and the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal. Once we get a steady dose of warm sunshine, the water temperature in these locations will exceed 68 degrees, and the flounder will head for deeper, cooler water in the ocean.

The black drum action has been pretty good this spring. Boaters have had great success at the Coral Beds, and surf casters have caught drum from Broadkill Beach and along the oceanfront. This too is a spring thing and will go away once we get to the full moon in June. Clams or live blue crabs make the best drum bait.

The bluefish run has been spectacular. They were caught everywhere on pretty much anything you can cast with a fishing rod. While most fell for bunker or mullet, there were times when poppers or metal lures worked well.

As the man said, “All good things must come to an end.” So it is with the 2017 bluefish run. I would expect some more to be caught, but the days when they were all over the map, from Oyster Rocks to Fenwick Island, may be over.  

Last Tuesday, when the wind was east and the weather was damp and cold, only a few blues were caught, and most of them came during a brief blitz at Indian River Inlet. The blues may stick around the Back Bays for a few more days, but soon they too will head for cooler water.

On the plus side, sharking has been very good. I have reports from Indian River and Ocean City, Md., of makos and threshers coming in from the ocean.  

Both of these fish may be caught reasonably close to shore. The threshers hang around the shipping channel between B and A buoys, while the makos can be found along the 20-Fathom Line.

Back in 1987 when I had my 20-foot Bertram, my son Ric, Mark Leggett and I caught a 150-pound mako at the small hump just outside the Delaware Lightship Buoy. It was a cold and rainy day, much like we have had for the past two weeks, and truth be told, all three of us were hunkered down below the gunnels to get out of the wind (and perhaps we might even have been asleep).

I looked up just in time to see a mako swim to the closest bait and then calmly eat it and swim away. I alerted my crew, and Mark picked up the rod, engaged the reel and drove the hook home. At this point, the shark did one of those famous mako jumps and came down about 2 feet from the portside of the boat. The thought of three people and a 150-pound, very angry shark in a 20-foot boat haunts me to this day.

The next two jumps were a bit farther from us, and after a few runs, Mark had the shark alongside. Now, I had a bit of experience handling makos and knew better than to bring the fish into the boat while it was still alive. After I gaffed the mako, Mark tied a line around its tail and we secured the fish to a stern cleat.

At the time, I questioned Mark’s knot-tying ability, but he assured me he knew what he was doing. I foolishly believed him.

We set the lines back out and Ric decided to get a better look at the shark. He was peering over the port side when the shark decided to jump out of the water in that direction, coming very close to Ric, who made it to the starboard side of the boat in one backward jump.

At some point after that, I noticed the tail wrap line was slack. That’s right, Mr. Knot Tier’s knot had failed, and our shark was gone.

I am reminded of this misadventure by a plaque that hangs on the wall in my office. It is from the Fisherman Magazine and notes my participation in the first annual Tag and Release Shark Tournament. We did release our shark, but without a tag.

  • 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