By Eric Burnley Sr.*
Updated: October 16, 2014
DELAWARE BAY Tog have been caught over bay reef sites and from the rocks at the Outer Wall and the Ice Breakers, but the number and size of these fish has been small. The cooler weather promised for next week could improve this action. Green crabs have been the most popular bait. The occasional sheepshead has been taken from the Outer Wall, but the same cold weather that could improve the tog bite will end this fishery.
There seem to be plenty of rockfish in the tidal rivers and creeks, but most are way under the 28-inch minimum size. A few keepers were caught at the Yellow Can and off of Green’s Beach on cut bunker. The Lewes & Rehoboth Canal produced a couple of keepers for anglers drifting eels by the Rail Road Bridge in Lewes. Look for more keepers in the upper bay as the water cools and migratory fish begin to move into our waters.
The tidal rivers and creeks hold good numbers of white perch that may be caught on bloodworms. Big catfish are also available in the same areas and will take cut bunker or chicken livers. The shoreline from Augustine Beach to Woodland Beach will also yield cats and perch.
Blues remain in the lower bay where they will take cut mullet or bunker. Bottom fishermen may expect to find blues just about anywhere while light tackle and fly fishermen can have lots of fun casting to breaking fish at the south end of the Outer Wall.
INSHORE OCEAN Nasty weather has curtailed fishing out here, but with sea bass season opening on Saturday I am sure more boats will make the effort. The reports I did have indicated a few flounder remain at the Old Grounds while the reef sites hold a few tog. The best of the flounder fishing will be 20 miles or more offshore.
OFFSHORE OCEAN Very little to report from here as the weather made fishing all but impossible. A couple of dolphin were caught, but tuna have been scarce.
INDIAN RIVER INLET Tog fishing has been slow but steady. Green crabs or sand fleas are the prime bait.
Small rockfish have been caught after dark on drifted sand fleas or plugs and bucktails. The occasional keeper is pulled out, but the best of this fishery is a couple of weeks away.
Blues come through the inlet on incoming water and will hit metal lures or bucktails. Most of these fish are small, but the occasional 12-incher is found among the runts.
I am sure someone caught a flounder, but no one reported it to any of the tackle shops. Look for a few big flounder to be caught once anglers begin to use live spot for rockfish.
SURF FISHING The DMS Tournament put 369 anglers on the beach last weekend and they found small blues, kingfish and small black drum. The largest blue taken by a contestant was 16.5 inches and was worth $2,950. It was caught by angler Melissa Utz.
I would expect to see a few more keeper rockfish this week as temperatures drop and more fish down from New England. The best rockfish action often occurs during times of east winds and rough seas. This is where the saying eight and bait originated. Eight ounces of lead and a big chunk of bunker.
FRESHWATER The ponds I see in Sussex County are still pretty much covered in green slime. Bass fishing should improve and the green slime should dissipate as the water cools.
The tidal rivers and creeks will give up a few good bass to anglers working a falling tide. Jigging with plastics or using crankbaits around structure is the best technique for pulling out a lunker.
Crappie have been caught in the spillways and at the Bethel Hole in Sussex County. Small minnows on a jig head fished under a bobber allows the bait to cover more areas
AS THE SEASONS CHANGE Saturday marks the reopening of sea bass season and recreational anglers will be allowed to keep 15 fish over 12.5 inches. While this is a slight drop in the bag limit, 15 sea bass over 12.5 inches equates to a lot of nice filets.
The last reports I had indicate good numbers of sea bass on the inshore reefs and wrecks. After a slight pause in the season let’s hope even more fish have moved into range.
It has been my experience that the largest sea bass in the school are the first ones to bite. If you pull up on a wreck or reef and start out catching shorts it means that someone has beat you to the spot. Also if you have been catching keepers and now you are only bringing up shorts it is time to move.
Sea bass will eat just about anything so a nice piece of squid will work as well as any bait. Gulp! crab is another good bait and it will withstand repeated attacks before coming off the hook.
I enjoy using a metal jig when possible. The drift has to be pretty slow and the current has to be running on the slow side as well for a jig to find the bottom. I do not recommend using anything but a top bottom rig when fishing from a head boat. You want to have the same amount of weight as everyone else to minimize tangles.
*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.