By Eric Burnley Sr.*
Updated: November 28, 2013
DELAWARE BAY They’re here! The rockfish have arrived in the bay and many boats scored limit catches beginning last Friday and resuming on Monday and Tuesday of this week. I expect this to continue on Black Friday when more anglers will be able to fish.
The Eights and Overfalls Shoal have been the hot spots, but keeper rock were caught all the way up the bay to the 6L Buoy out of Collins Beach. Chunking with fresh bunker has been the top technique in the upper bay while trolling with plugs or drifting live spot or eels is the way to go at the mouth of the bay.
These rock are feeding on a variety of baits including ling, hog chokers, bunker and sand eels. Plugs resemble ling and bunker and metal jigs such as those made by AVA imitate sand eels. I hope to try jigging if and when I am able to get out. Having a big rockfish slam a metal jig is one of the greatest thrills of fishing.
Rockfish approaching the 50-pound mark have been caught and it is possible we could establish another state record this fall. Last year the current record was taken from the surf and so far this year that action has yet to begin.
Not much word on the tog fishing as just about every boat on the bay is seeking rockfish. I am sure we will begin to see some tog catches as boaters fill their rockfish limit then go after tog.
White perch and catfish remain available in the tidal creeks and from the shoreline from Reedy Point to Port Mahon. Last week a few keeper rock were caught from shore and I would expect to see an increase in this number with more rock now in the bay. Cut bunker and bloodworms are the best baits for cats and rock. Perch will take bloods.
INDIAN RIVER INLET As of Wednesday morning no sizable number of keeper rockfish had been caught from Indian River Inlet. Short fish were taken at night on bucktails, plugs, shads and long-lined flies.
We were here on Saturday and saw several people fishing the rocks for tog. As far as I as could see, none of these folks were having any success.
INSHORE OCEAN We had our first reports of rockfish along the oceanfront and this action will only improve. Trolling with diving plugs has been the top method. If the fishing follows previous years, the fish will start chasing bait to the surface and the run and gun technique will become popular.
Tog fishing has been fair when boats were able to reach inshore wrecks and reef sites. Big sea bass are on wrecks in 20 fathoms, but the weather has cancelled most trips to these locations.
Still nothing of consequence from the surf. I did hear of a few rockfish scattered from Fenwick Island to Broadkill Beach with most caught on fresh bunker or live eels. Now that we have rock cruising the ocean waters it is only a matter of time before they move into the beach.
FRESHWATER Not a lot of activity on local ponds as the cold weather has deterred anglers from pursuing bass, pickerel and crappie. Once the weather settles down I expect live shiners and minnows will out produce artificial baits. Jigs or plastic worms worked very slowly will still account for a few bass.
Spillways become more popular with fish and fishermen during cold weather. The deeper water does not suffer large temperature changes and the current created by the flow below a dam makes the fish more active.
Last winter I spoke with trout fishermen that worked White Clay Creek when the weather was so cold they had ice in the guides of their fly rods. Not my idea of fun, but they caught a few fish and claimed to have a good time.
NOW IS THE TIME Everyone has been waiting for the rockfish to arrive in Delaware and now they are here. The lower bay and the Cape May Rips are producing limits of 20-pound fish and while I do think they will be here for a couple of weeks, they won’t be here forever.
If you have a boat capable of working in the rough water that usually goes along with late season rockfishing get out and go after these big fish. If not, go on a head or charter boat. Right now there are boats running from Bowers Beach, Lewes and Indian River targeting rockfish. As the season goes on fewer boats will be sailing, but I think most will run for the next month.
You can count on bad weather to cancel many trips so when the forecast looks good, go. Even good weather will be cold so make sure you have the proper clothing and wear deck, not hunting boots. As always, your PFD must be worn for it to work.
*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.