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6 Family Fishing Vacations In The Mid-Atlantic

6 Family Fishing Vacations In The Mid-Atlantic

From Point Lookout State Park to the sand dunes of Sandy Hook Gateway National Recreation Area, here's where you'll find fabulous family fun this summer season. (June 2009)

The Gap has been set aside and protected from development for the enjoyment of future generations. From its beginnings in New York, the Delaware River down to its tidal regions just south of Trenton are now part of the Scenic and Wild Rivers Program, which now protects them from farther development.

Spending some quality time with the family and getting in some fishing is not an easy thing to do in today's modern word. More often than not, while you want to go fishing, the rest of the family wants to do something else. This calls for a little creative planning and knowing where there are some places that not only offer you good fishing, but also a variety of other activities that the family will find enjoyable.

One of many good things about the Mid-Atlantic states is that there are plenty of good fishing holes located in areas with a variety of activities that are sure to please everyone. Here are six top picks for some good fishing and family fun.


Indian River
Our first choice for a good family fishing vacation in the month of June is Indian River Inlet in the Diamond State. Indian River Inlet is located at the entrance to the backwater bays of Indian River and Rehoboth Bay. Delaware Seashore State Park is located on both sides of the inlet. Along the oceanfront is a barrier island consisting of 2,848 acres of some of the most pristine beaches and sand dunes along the entire East Coast.

All kinds of options are available to the saltwater angler. The park houses a sizable marina, boat launch, surf-fishing and camping right on the inlet. Anglers can opt to fish the surf from the ocean beaches, as well as the bay from bay side beaches.

June is prime time for catching weakfish, summer flounder and bluefish. Weakfish are the main target of fishermen during the early summer. But in the backwaters of the bays, flounder, weakfish and croakers are all sought after.


Inshore and offshore fishing is available on party and charter boats at the nearby marinas. Party boat anglers are after flounder and weakfish during the day. Bluefish action is also available both day and evening.

Needless to say, sunbathing and swimming are the main interests of most visitors to the park. However, there is a designated surfing area, picnic grove, windsurfing, Burton's Island Interpretive Trail, hiking and a life-saving station museum also on the list of things to do. The park is also close to historic sites, such as the Cape Henry lighthouses. In addition, the park is a short ride from the boardwalk at Rehoboth Beach, as well as the outlet stores north of Rehoboth.

For information on Delaware Seashore State Park, call (302) 227-2800 or write Delaware Seashore State Park, Inlet 850, Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971.

Delaware Water Gap
Once the playground of the rich and famous from Philadelphia and New York, the Delaware Water Gap is considered one of the most scenic natural wonders found along the East Coast. The Gap and the surrounding lands and river are now part of the Water Gap National Recreation Area, which comes under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service.

Summer flounder are a favorite species for inshore anglers who are fishing either bay or open ocean areas.
Photo by Ken Freel.

Severe flooding during 2005 and 2006 has caused many changes in the Gap. The Visitors' Center, which was located just off Route 80, was under water three times and has been closed. Newer facilities are planned for the future. Many of the river's islands, within the boundaries of the Water Gap, also took a big-time hit from the floods and many and have been altered.

The Delaware River is considered to be one of the top smallmouth rivers in the East and many consider it one of the best in the country; summertime is prime time for catching small­mouths here.

The Water Gap offers a mix of structure, though some of the best fishing occurs on the flats and shallow-water areas for those anglers throwing surface baits. The river's waters are some of the clearest, and nothing beats the smashing hit of a smallmouth in shallow water or this game fish's acrobatic leaps.

Besides the excellent summertime wading that is available throughout the Water Gap Recreation Area, there are also no fewer than five public boat launches for trailered boats. The area also offers numerous primitive accesses for canoes and kayaks that will put you in touch with different areas of the park.

In addition, there are several cartop and canoe launch sites throughout the park. Outfitters, canoe and raft rentals, horseback riding, hiking, close-by outlet stores, antique stores and flea markets, and plenty of fine dining, make the Gap a place that the entire family can enjoy.

In addition to Worthington State Park, there are 10 privately owned campgrounds within a short distance of the Gap, as well as a plethora of bed and breakfast inns, hotels, motels and resorts. You can get the details on the different activities and accom­modations in the Water Gap by calling the Delaware Water Gap Chamber of Commerce at (570) 476-0331; or write them at P.O. Box 144, Delaware Water Gap, PA 18327.


Point Lookout State Park
If you ever considered fishing the waters of Chesapeake Bay, you need to consider staying at Point Lookout State Park. The park is at the top of the list when it comes to popularity in Maryland, especially among fishermen, and for good reason. The park is located on the peninsula formed by the Chesapeake Bay and the Potomac River. In addition to the great fishing of the bay and lower river, the park offers a variety of outdoor recreation for the entire family as well.

Point Lookout is steeped in history, in particular, Civil War history. During the American Civil War, what is now the park was a prison camp that imprisoned as many as 52,264 Confederate soldiers. Ghost sightings at Lookout Point are believed to be the spirits of Confederate soldiers who were imprisoned there, and mystery and intrigue abound. The Visitors' Center and museum are operated seasonally, offering programs in nature and Civil War history, as well as the history of the area from the time it was first settled to present day.

The campgrounds at Lookout Point offer 143 wooded campsites, of which 26 have full hookups, and another 27 have electric hookups. There also are six four-person camper/cab­ins available for overnight stays. There are a limited number of handicapped accessible campsites at the park as well. Swimming at the park is available from Memorial Day to Labor Day. The beach area has grills, picnic tables and a playground. Hiking trails, flat water canoeing, swimming and nature trails are also available at the park.

Fishermen will find some excellent fishing in the lower Chesapeake Bay and Potomac River throughout the summer. Weakfish, stripers, summer flounder and bluefish are the mainstays of the fishing in the bay, while a variety of other species are available to anglers as well.

A boat launch and fish-cleaning station are on hand for boaters, and boat rentals, bait and fishing supplies are also available at the camp store. Three fishing areas and a 710-foot fishing pier are located at Point Lookout. Numerous charter and party boats are available for hire at nearby marinas.

You can get information on Point Lookout State Park by contacting them at P.O. Box 48 Scotland, MD 20687; or call (301) 872-5688.

Atlantic Highlands
July is the heart of the summer and for many anglers along the East Coast that means prime time bay and ocean fishing. One area of the Garden State that holds some super fishing and plenty to do for the entire family is the Raritan Bay region. Right at the entrance of the bay is Sandy Hook State Park. While you won't find campgrounds at this park, you'll have no problems finding accommodations, as the area abounds in hotels and motels and fine places to eat.

Sandy Hook State Park is part of the Gateway National Sea Shore, which is located at the entrance of New York harbor. Sandy Hook itself has a rich history. Sandy Hook at one time was the proving grounds for artillery used by the U.S. Army and Navy.

The Hook served as a military installation and was part of the defenses that guarded the entrance to New York Harbor. At one time, the only way you could go to the tip of the Hook to fish was to get a pass from Fort Hancock. The military moved out in the 1970s and the land from the installation was ceded to the state of New Jersey, which turned it into a state park.

Raritan Bay and its surrounding waters are some of the state's premier places to catch bluefish, striped bass, weakfish and fluke; July is when the fishing is at its zenith. If you own your own boat, the Atlantic Highlands Municipal Harbor has a public launch just up from where the party boats dock. There are privately run boat launches at many of the marinas on the bay.

Several marinas and tackle shops also rent boats for fishing. Raritan Bay also has first-class charter and party boat services. The Atlantic Highlands Municipal Harbor has a large number of party and charter boats that offer a variety of trips (full-day, 3/4-day, half-day, morning, afternoon and evening).

Many of the satellite marinas around the bay also offer party and charter boats. In addition to the good fishing in Raritan Bay, anglers will find good action in the nearby Shrewsbury and Navesink rivers, as well as the inshore waters of the New York Bight. Sandy Hook itself offers year-round surf-fishing along the ocean and bay fronts, along with the tip of the Hook.

When it comes to things to do for the family, the area is teaming with activities. The one-time military facility at Sandy Hook Park is now open to the public for tours of the old gun placements, and other facilities. Most of the historic areas of the park are open to the public and the park also has an excellent nature area and trails.

The historic lighthouse at Sandy Hook and the nearby Twin Lights of the Navesink Light House are also museums that are open to the public. The Hook is also only a short distance from New York City and all its attractions. If you plan on going to New York City, one of your best options is to go to Jersey City and take the ferry to the city. You can also visit the Statue of Liberty via another section of the Gateway National Park in Jersey City.


Janes Island State Park
How about a real out-of-the-way family adventure? Located in Somerset County near Crisfield, Janes Island State Park is another park that's history goes back to the time before the white man first set foot on this continent. The Paleo Indians first settled this region approximately 13,000 years ago.

As the Tangier Sound was transformed from a freshwater river to an estuary rich in shellfish, prehistoric cultures occupied the landmass that would become Janes Island. Historic artifacts that can be found along the shoreline of Janes Island provide evidence of activities by primitive man, from hunting mammals to shucking oysters.

The native people living on Janes Island were the first watermen to fish and clam Chesapeake Bay. Janes Island is part of the Beach to Bay Indian Trail. This trail recognizes travel patterns established by the American Indians and later followed by the first European settlers. Today the park is a mixture of the primitive and the modern.

When it comes to saltwater fishing you won't find any better fishing than that found in Chesapeake Bay. Stripers, weakfish, bluefish and summer flounder make up the big four in the bay; however, there are plenty of ground fish such as kingfish, croakers, drum and sea bass, not to mention the crabbing for which the bay is famous. Anglers wishing to fish the bay out of their own boat will find an excellent boat launch, as well as 25 boat slips that are available to campers for a minimal fee, along with a canoe-kayak rental.

Speaking of canoes and kayaks, if you are looking for a few hours of tranquil canoeing or kayaking in a pristine natural saltwater setting, the "Janes Island Water Trail" will provide some excellent paddling. The park is home to approximately 2,900 acres of marsh, beach and high land that offers paddlers an outdoor adventure through the small waterways within the island. Most of the waterways are protected from wind and current, providing ideal conditions for the novice as well as the experienced paddler.

The park offers 104 campsites that can accommodate tent or vehicle campers (49 sites w/electric hookups) and all have a picnic table and a fire ring. Several sites also allow pets.

Five cabins are also available. Four modern log cabins, which must be reserved in advance, each with a maximum capacity of six persons, are available year 'round.

For additional information about Janes Island State Park, call (410) 968-1565 or e-mail at


Killens Pond State Park
Situated in Kent County, Killens Pond State Park is a real sleeper. The park is centered around a millpond, which was built in the late 1700s. Before the pond's construction, the Murderkill River, its main source of water and surroundi

ng hardwood forest were sites of several American Indian hunting camps. Legend has it that the river's unusual name refers to a local tribe's massacre of a Dutch trading party at the mouth of the river in 1648. Killens Pond became a state park in 1965 and has become one of the most popular parks in the state.

The 66-acre millpond offers fishermen excellent largemouth and crappie fishing, as well as catfish, carp, perch, bluegills, and pickerel. The park has an excellent boat launch, as well as plenty of shoreline access. Canoes, rowboats, surf bikes, kayaks and pedal boats are available for rent at the park. The Murderkill River Canoe Trail, which travels through a mix of marsh and small streams, provides an excellent challenge for paddlers.

Killens Pond offers campers 59 sites that feature electric and water hookups, accommodating both tents and recreational vehicles. In addition, there is a primitive camping loop for tents only, which features 17 secluded sites. Camping cabins are also available, which sleep four and feature an efficiency kitchen with an eating area, bedroom, and bath with shower, A/C, and heat.

One of the main attractions at the park is "Killens Pond Water Park." In addition to the swimming area, the park has three lap lanes along with exciting interactive water features such as the "Floating Lily Pad Fun Walk," along with two 27-foot-high, 205-foot-long twisting and turning water slides ending in a specially designed splash pool. Also featured at the park is a tot pool complete with tot bubblers, ground water jets, small slides and a poolside water play system for the younger set.

Hiking trails and a cross-country running course wind through several types of habitat featuring native plants and animals. A number of game courts and ball fields satisfy the athlete, and an 18-hole disc golf course challenges players to test their skill with a flying disc. The Life Course Trail offers a healthy challenge; and the Ice Storm Trail gives hikers a chance to observe the forest's recovery from the devastating ice storms that struck the area in 1994. The 3.2-mile Pondside Trail is carpeted with pine needles and sand and winds along the banks of the park's 66-acre millpond.

Killens Pond State Park is located off state Route 13 south of Dover. You can obtain more information by calling (302) 284-4526 or 284-3412.

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