Old Inlet celebrates 50 years of fishing in the area
Over the last half-century, fishing along the Delaware and Maryland coastline has been a growing business, and very few, if any, can say they know it better than Amos “Butch” Evans, owner of Old Inlet Bait and Tackle, just north of the Indian River Inlet. This year marks the business’ 50th year, and Evans has been around for each one.
Over the years, the shop has boasted a knowledgeable staff and every rod, reel and reserve that any fisherman could imagine. Bait, line, sinkers, crab pots, nets, hooks, and much more – Old Inlet prides itself as a one-stop shop for anyone, whether they’re hitting the beach in the morning, spending the afternoon on the rocks, or gearing up for the day on a head boat or charter.
“We’ve got everything here that you could possibly want,” said Evans. “If we don’t have it, you don’t need it.”
In 1962, Old Inlet Bat and Tackle was established at a gas station located on Haven Road, near the Indian River Inlet marina – an access that has since been closed due to bridge construction – but the Ash Wednesday Storm of 1962 did away with the facility. By April that same year, it had reopened, just north of the original location, and by 1963, Evans found himself a steady job at the tackle shop. By 1973, Evans had purchased the business, and in 1984, he expanded the shop to the existing store.
As they say, the rest is history, and what a history it’s been.
“I’ve had some clientele who have been coming here for a long time,” said Evans, “some who have even been here for the whole 50 years we have been running. A lot of the older guys have passed away, but we still have plenty who have been stopping in over the last 20 to 30 years.”
Throughout the decades, Evans has seen the trends, the surge, and the highs and lows of the fishing industry along the Atlantic shores.
“People don’t realize how much fishing goes on in this area,” he said. “Trout has been on the downslope for a while. Back in the 1970s, it was nothing to catch a boatload of trout, but we did it to ourselves. Anglers caught and caught and caught. It used to be the citation limit was three pounds, but after that, it went up to 10 pounds, and now, you’re only allowed to keep one [trout], but there are very few to speak of.”
This past year saw one of the single-most plentiful rockfish bites that anyone in the region can recall.
“We had that run of rockfish last year that was bigger than I have seen in over 40 years,” Evans said, “and it lasted 12 days. Usually, a run like that would go on for one, two or three days, then they’re gone. Some guys say that the lights from the bridge construction were keeping them around. Others talk about the spawning season. But, it came down to three things – the water temperature was right, the moon was right and the bait was right. Stripers have been much more plentiful than they used to be years ago. They’ll eat anything.” All species of fish seem to go through their cycles as the years progress. Although the flounder fishing has not recently been what it has been in the past, it’s finally on the upswing.
“We’ve had several good flounder seasons in recent years,” said Evans, who also serves on the Summer Flounder Advisory Panel for the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, “and it’s finally getting back on target. With flounder, we’ve been in a rebuilding process. We’re taking a look at what we were catching seven years ago, and looking at the spawning cycles and what we were catching in the past five years.”
While species have their ups and downs, even trends in the type of fishing going on has varied over the years.
“Surf-fishing is getting more and more popular,” noted Evans, “and that’s directly related to the fuel prices. Basically, with surf-fishing, once you buy the initial rod, reel and tackle, there’s not a whole lot more you need. Some people drive onto the beach, but you can have a great day of fishing just walking out onto the beach, as well. Surf-fishing is definitely up higher than it’s been in a long time. Even the rockpiles are seeing a lot of anglers than they used to, decades ago.”
Old Inlet Bat and Tackle sponsors a number of tournaments, including the quickly approaching Spring Surf Fishing tournament, scheduled for Saturday, May 12. Butch’s son and manager of Old Inlet, Clark Evans, also runs Coastal Delaware Surf Fishing Expeditions with James Ruback, with personalized sessions to educate anglers on the excitement of surf-fishing. Old Inlet also runs the Fall Fishing Classic, which enters its 15th year this year, scheduled for Sept. 22 and 23.
The offshore bite has slowed considerably, compared to 20 years back, Evans added.
“Fuel prices have deterred a lot of the offshore fishing,” he noted. “It’s not quite as attractive as it used to be to go rent a boat and come back with a few fish.”
But nonetheless, there are still a number of enthusiasts who still love the thrill of the hunt, out on the high seas.
To celebrate Old Inlet’s 50-year mark, the shop will hold a celebration this weekend, open to the public, on Saturday, April 28. Starting in the morning, attendees can stop by for door prizes, giveaways and sales on 50th anniversary apparel and other items. Complimentary refreshments and beverages will be available from noon until 3 p.m.
Later, during Memorial Day weekend, Old Inlet Bait and Tackle will hold a tent sale for customer appreciation, as well.
For more information about Old Inlet Bait and Tackle, including merchandise, supplies, rod and reel repair and more, visit www.oldinlet.com or call them at (302) 227-7974. Old Inlet Bait and Tackle is located along the southbound lane of Route 1, two miles north of the Indian River Inlet.