You don’t have to put fish in a cooler in order to have a ball

September 16, 2017

On Tuesday, I decided to take a shot at fishing Indian River Inlet to see if the reports of snapper bluefish were correct. I planned to arrive around 10 a.m. to catch the incoming water, with high tide around 2 p.m.

Parking my truck at the south end of the northside parking lot, I could see two or three guys fishing just west of the bridge. It looked like there was plenty of room for me, so I rigged one of my freshwater rods with a small Stingsilver and headed down the sidewalk. My freshwater outfits are spinning rods and reels filled with 10-pound test mono. I could use lighter line, but then I would have to hire a lovely 18-year-old lady to tie the knots, and I fear that would be very expensive what with divorce lawyers and all.

Before making my first cast, I watched the other anglers to see what they were doing. All were casting small metal lures into the current and then retrieving them back to the rocks. They were also standing on the rocks. I, however, chose to remain on the sidewalk to avoid an embarrassing and painful fall.

The two anglers to my right were not getting much distance with their casts due to their casting style. Instead of holding the line from the reel with their index finger, they held the line in their left hand while keeping the rod and reel upside down as they made a cast. I was happy to see them turn the rod and reel right-side up as they made their retrieve.

The fellow to my left used the more common casting style and achieved good distance. I watched him for a few moments and then made my first cast once his line was out of the way.

No matter how careful you are, when fishing the inlet from shore, the current and those contrary fish gods will conspire to tangle your line with your neighbor’s. I do believe we kept our tangles to a minimum during the course of the day.

So how was the fishing? I guess that depends on your point of view. If you base your judgement on how many fish you put in the cooler, then the day was a bust. If you base your success on the fun factor of catching a scrappy little bluefish on almost every cast, then you had a ball. I had a ball.

Once I realized just how good the fishing was, I crushed the barb on my single hook and was able to release many bluefish by giving them slack line once I had them to the base of the rocks. Those who remained hooked could be shaken off without touching the fish. Only a very few were hooked in such a way that I had to hold the fish while removing the hook.

Unfortunately, my three companions were using lures with treble hooks and had a bit more trouble releasing their fish. The man to my left was using a Jerk-Jigger with two sets of trebles. I will give him credit, he never touched a fish. He held the hook with a pair of long-nosed pliers and shook it until the fish fell off.

All of us were using the same basic technique. Cast out into the current, let the lure fall, then retrieve with a steady or jerk and crank routine. I really didn’t see much difference with the retrieve, as both styles caught fish.

The four of us fished in relative peace and harmony until about 2 p.m., when a fellow showed up and started fishing right next to me. By right next to me, I mean he was so close I couldn’t make a cast without hitting him. Since I was pretty much ready to leave, I quit fishing and decided to watch the show.

Then we had another new player. This person had a very heavy 11-foot surf rod and matching reel that looked like it was loaded with mono strong enough to tie up the Queen Mary. He had a single-hook rig baited with a whole mullet. On the first cast, the little piranha ate all the mullet save for the head. On the second cast, the rig got stuck in the rocks.

So now we had one line stuck on the bottom, one guy casting across that line and fouled with the third line to his left. By the time the bottom fisherman finally broke off his hawser cable, the other two were hopelessly tangled.

I offered to help with the tangle, but this made the guy who had been fishing to my left angry. He attacked the mess with a pair of scissors he had around his neck and as I left he was retying everything.

Just another day in paradise.

  • 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