Historically, the term “fishkiller” referred to the watermen who traditionally returned with a profitable catch time and time again. Well, Captain Chet Townsend, owner of the aptly named Fishkiller’s Lobster Shack near Dagsboro, is taking advantage of a new location with a warm season on the water, as Townsend and his crew continue to dish out seafood favorites from a kitchen inside his eye-catching red trailer throughout the summer.
Now located about a mile closer to the beach than their original location on Route 26, Fishkiller’s has become a staple for passersby, with their signature lobster rolls and fish tacos still among the best sellers. And with the uncharacteristically warm water temperatures this year, the ’Killers have their work cut out for them.
“It’s been a really hot season,” explained Townsend, a licensed waterman in Maryland and Delaware. “It’s really been phenomenal for us. It all started last fall. Usually, the lobsters leave offshore around November, but the water stayed warm, and it was like they never left. We were pulling them in right up until after Christmas.”
With boats working in Maryland and Delaware, Townsend and his crew cover the waters from Rehoboth Beach to Chincoteague, Va., aiming to maximize their catch. Lobsters, he noted, can be found anywhere from 12 to 30 miles offshore.
“The success we have had this year with lobsters has been way out of character,” Townsend said. “I have never seen a run this good in the 30 years I’ve been doing this.” And it’s not just the lobsters.
“The sea bass catch has gone the same way for us,” he added. “We have an annual quota we need to catch, and we’ve been doing great. We had a nice stretch of warm weather and not much wind back in March, and we were pulling pots with lobster and sea bass in early April. It’s a very significant season. Usually, you get these runs and expect it to taper off a little, but it’s still very steady.”
The catch for Townsend and his crew has been so good, in fact, that they have already pulled in the number of lobsters and sea bass this season that they had caught by the end of October last year. He has even introduced a few new twists to the menu, including a lobster reuben, which has been growing in popularity.
“I saw something like it in Key West,” he said. “I experimented with it at home, and it really works. You wouldn’t believe it, but the flavors really go together. The juicy lobster meat, the sauerkraut, the Russian dressing and Swiss cheese on toasted rye — the flavors run right through it.”
For ultimate freshness, Townsend also offers live lobsters direct to customers at $8 per pound, available all week long, though the stand operates only Thursday through Saturday.
But it’s not just lobsters and sea bass making their way onto the menu. Rockfish, tautog and flounder tacos work their way into the lineup, depending on availability, and shrimp, clams, softshell crabs and crabcakes provide a fresh, local element to seafood mix, too.
Originally, Fishkiller’s sold burgers, too, but after getting rid of the grill and bringing in a smoker, Townsend has introduced a pulled jerk chicken sandwich for some Caribbean island influence. A gourmet footlong all-beef hot dog in natural casing and deep-fried in beef reduction gives customers other non-seafood alternatives.
“I definitely wanted to be able to bring some new stuff that wasn’t necessarily all seafood,” said Townsend, who continues to operate with help from wife, Shirley, daughter Veronica and son Ches, among some other hires. “There’s a little bit of something for anyone.”
Fishkiller’s Lobster Shack is located at 32805 Vines Creek Road near Dagsboro, roughly three miles east of downtown Dagsboro and six miles west of Bethany Beach, between the Clarksville intersection and Vines Creek. While customers typically grab their food and go, shaded picnic tables allow for a nice afternoon bite, as well.
Fishkiller’s is open Thursdays through Saturdays, from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m., though live lobster pick-ups can be arranged all week long. For more information, call (302) 448-5078 during operating hours. Between Sunday and Wednesday, call (302) 462-0010 for information about live lobster orders. Find Fishkiller’s Lobster Shack on Facebook to see a full menu.