Surf fishing is open to Delaware residents

April 1, 2020

Thanks to the hard work of Sen. Gerald Hocker and Delaware Mobile Surf Fishermen President Clark Evans along with Division of Parks and Recreation Director Ray Bivens, they were able to convince Gov. John Carney to open the drive-on beaches to Delaware residents with surf-fishing permits. There are some restrictions. First, only two people may be in the properly tagged vehicle, and they must be from the same household. Both must be actively engaged in surf fishing. Out-of-state people must self-quarantine for 14 days, so they cannot drive here, go surf fishing and then go home.

While the drive-on beaches are open, not every access point is clear. On Tuesday, I drove down to Indian River Inlet and the only open access point was at Faithful Steward on the northside. Butch at Old Inlet did say Three Rs and South Bethany were open along with Beach Plum Island at Broadkill Beach.

New handicap pier

While I was at the Inlet, I saw they were building a new handicap pier. It is a completely new structure with bigger rails and new boards on the deck. Unfortunately, the construction took over the area where I usually fish, but with the temperature hovering in the upper 40s and the wind at a brisk 20 knots northeast, I didn’t need much of an excuse to head back to my nice, warm truck.

I also noticed the washed-out area east of the pier has eroded even more over the winter. I have no idea when the Army Corps of Engineers will get to this job, but considering the current state of affairs, I won’t hold my breath.

Social distance

Those of us who enjoy the outdoors must observe social distancing to prevent the spread of this deadly virus. I take this very seriously because I fall right into the heart of the most vulnerable population, and catching this virus would probably be a death sentence. 

The governor has given us surf fishermen a great opportunity by opening the drive-on beaches. It is now our responsibility to behave in the appropriate manner and keep the correct social distance of six feet with our vehicles 20 yards apart.

So long as the weather stays cool and cloudy, I don’t think that will be a problem. What I am afraid of is that first warm Saturday when a large number of surf fishermen will want to access the drive-on beaches. Keeping the vehicles 20 yards apart will be a challenge and keeping the people six feet apart an even greater one.

I ask all surf fishermen to think before driving on an already-crowded beach. If Herring Point is crowded, try the northside of the inlet or Three Rs Road. Even Beach Plum Island can be good when the black drum run is on.

Trout fishing

The two downstate ponds, Newton near Greenwood and Tidbury in Dover, remain open for trout fishing, and last week, the seven New Castle County streams opened early. Tuesday saw a different opening day with only kids allowed to fish. From the photos I saw, it looked like they caught a lot of trout.

On Wednesday, the streams opened for everyone. No photos so far, so I don’t know if there were any trout left after the kids got done. If not, stocking will continue for the remainder of April.

Here too social distancing is critical. No more shoulder-to-shoulder fishing as we normally see at White Clay Creek on opening day. In years past, this would not have been a problem after opening day, but this is an exceptional time. So many people are out of work and kids are out of school, so my guess is the trout streams will see a lot more action during the week.

Delaware ponds and tidal creeks

I continue to receive reports from folks who have had excellent results fishing Delaware ponds. They are catching bass, crappie, yellow perch and pickerel. The best bait has been a live minnow on a small jig. Various lures such as crankbaits and jigs have also worked.

The tidal creeks and rivers are also producing good results. Here too bass, crappie and pickerel have been caught on live minnows on a jig head. The yellow perch run seems to be over, but the white perch action remains good with minnows or bloodworms the top baits.

Those who enjoy catching catfish will find them waiting in the tidal creeks and rivers as well. Cut bunker or your favorite homemade catfish concoction will draw them in.

There are small rockfish in most of the tidal rivers and creeks, so please use circle hooks when fishing with bait.

Fishing is approved for recreation, so do your part and get out there.


  • 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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