By Eric Burnley Sr.*
Updated: July 2, 2015
ADVISORY: Cape Henlopen beach from Gordons Pond to Herring Point reopened for surf-fishing as piping plover nesting season ends
DELAWARE BAY While I hate to say any fishing trip is a sure thing, croaker fishing in the bay is about as close as you can get. Boaters are finding all the croaker they want at various reef sites and beach anglers are having pretty good action as well.
From the catches I have seen there are some pretty small fish being kept. Delaware does have an 8-inch minimum size on croaker and anything less than that can earn you a citation of the wrong kind.
While croaker are not picky eaters, I do believe bloodworms make the most attractive bait. Squid strips, cut fish, FishBites and Gulp! will also draw strikes.
Flounder have been caught from the same reef sites where the croaker are so thick. The trick here is to bounce a jig head or bucktail directly on top of the structure. Some captains will anchor up just off the rubble then come back on the anchor rode until they are in the correct position. Others will use their engine to hold the boat in place as their anglers work from the stern.
The hot flounder bait for the moment is the Nuclear Chicken by Gulp!. Exactly what animal this is supposed to represent is unclear, but if I ever see something alive with a bright green and hot pink body I will let you know.
The Broadkill River and the Lewes and Rehoboth Canal have given up croaker and flounder. I have had good success with the croaker, but not so much with the flounder. Perhaps I need to invest in some Nuclear Chicken Gulp!.
No reports so far of any slot rockfish in the bay or its tributaries. The season opened July 1 and will run until August 31 with two 20- to 25-inch rockfish legal to keep per day. In the upper bay chunking from a boat or fishing with bunker chunks or bloodworms from the beach have been the top techniques. In the tributaries, casting poppers or swimming plugs to the banks and around structure account for most of the slot rock. Very early or very late in the day are the most productive times to fish for these stripers. In the Lewes and Rehoboth Canal the cutoff line is the Freeman Bridge.
White perch have been caught in the same tributaries as the rockfish as well as along the shoreline in the C&D Canal and from Augustine to Woodland beaches. Bloodworms have been the top bait. Catfish are in the same locations and like to chew on cut bunker.
INSHORE OCEAN Flounder action has been good at the reef sites and over the Old Grounds. Strips of fresh fish, squid, smelt, shiners and live minnows have all attracted flatfish. Using a ball jig or bucktail for weight and then running a Delaware Bay Green Machine or similar attractor two to three feet off the jig has worked for me and many other anglers. Tie the jig to a three-way swivel with 20 or 30-pound mono then attach the attractor to the three-way with 30-pound mono or Fluorocarbon. Put bait on both hooks, but expect most fish on the attractor.
One boat out of Lewes had a fantastic catch of bottom fish on Monday. The Katydid came in with a load of sea bass, ling and two cod. I don’t ever remember anyone catching cod in Delaware in late June.
The Hot Dog, Hambone and Massey’s Canyon are beginning to see decent action on tuna and dolphin. I understand the area was pretty crowded over the weekend and fishing felt the pressure. Boats that made the run during the week found less crowded conditions and better action. So far all of my reports indicate trolling as the best technique.
OFFSHORE OCEAN More billfish have been caught from the canyons, but tuna remain the top target for most who make the long trip. Bigeyes have been taken by trollers who work the late afternoon into dark. These fish run to 250 pounds or more and will defiantly put a strain on angler and tackle. Yellowfins to 60 pounds are also in the mix along with dolphin.
Deep droppers are catching blueline and golden tilefish along with smaller denizens of the canyon bottom. The limit is seven blueline and seven golden tiles per person. The commercial season for dolphin (maui-maui) is closed.
INDIAN RIVER INLET Catching flounder from the back bays has not been an easy task. This is not unusual for summer when the boat traffic and fishing pressure are very high. Try going out before first light and working the shallows on high tide. If the tide is falling fish the VFW Slough or Massey’s Ditch. A live minnow is hard to beat here with squid or fish strips a close second. I have had success using a white bucktail with a thin strip of squid.
Rockfish action is restricted to night with a bucktail or drifted sand fleas doing most of the damage. The vast majority of these fish are under the 28-inch minimum size, but a few keepers are taken each night. NOTE: The slot limit is 28 to 37 inches and 44 inches or longer, and applies to coastal waters, the inlet and the Inland Bays.
During the day croaker are beginning to take sand fleas, squid strips or bloodworms from the rocks. A few flounder have been caught as well by anglers using live minnows or bucktails sweetened with a strip of squid or fresh fish.
SURF FISHING Typical summer fishing here. A few croaker and kings plus more than a few sharks and skates. Only now there's more available surf-fishing acreage - see advisory above about Cape Henlopen beach reopening between Gordons Pond and Herring Point reopening for surf-fishing.
FRESHWATER Here, too, fishing is in a summer pattern. Bass are caught from the ponds with the best bite early or late in the day. Scum Frogs and Senkos seem to be the most popular baits.
Panfish may be caught from just about any body of freshwater by putting a piece of worm on a hook and letting it drift about under a bobber. Small minnows will also work in this application and are more likely to attract crappie.
WEAR A PFD The loss of two lives in water-related accidents last weekend in Maryland made me very sad. One was a 7-year-old girl killed by an out-of-control race boat and the second was a man who fell into the bay when his boat capsized. While tragic, the young girl was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The man, on the other hand, would be alive today if he had been wearing his PFD. He and all the passengers on his boat were tossed in the water and none had on a PFD. The description I heard was the boat was overloaded and that was at least partly responsible for the capsizing.
One other thing in the newscast caught my attention: The report said that no one on the boat could swim. While the ability to swim is a nice thing when you go out on the water, chances are it won’t save your life. Maybe if you are very close to shore, or near another boat, you could swim to safety, but should you enter the water unconscious, or a mile or more offshore, the ability to swim won’t be much help.
When things go wrong on the water, they go wrong in a hurry. The only way to be reasonably safe is to wear your PFD at all times.
*Eric Burnley Sr. is a native Delawarean who has fished the waters of his home state for more than 60 years. He has been a full-time outdoor writer since 1978, with articles appearing in most national magazines as well as many regional publications. He has authored two books, Surf Fishing The Atlantic Coast and The Ultimate Guide To Catching Striped Bass.