By Eric Burnley Sr.*
Updated: Aug. 17, 2017
DELAWARE BAY We continue to see slight improvement in the flounder fishing in the bay. Most, if not all, of the flounder have been caught over hard structure with the reef sites seeing the best action. Jigging with a bucktail tipped with squid, cut bait, Gulp! or a soft plastic paddletail have been the best baits. Working directly over the structure is the key to success.
I am hearing about more keeper trout caught over the same hard structure. The Mohawk wreck is one location mentioned in several reports. Bucktails or leadhead jigs tipped with a purple plastic worm has been an old-time trout favorite.
The Outer Wall and the Ice Breakers have seen a few nice sheepshead to over 10 pounds. Sand fleas and green crabs have been the top baits. Toggling off the rocks, as you would do when tog fishing, is the best technique.
Spot and croaker action is beginning to come on about four months late. Once again the reef sites hold most of these fish and bloodworms will be the best bait. The Cape Henlopen Fishing Pier has also seen more spot and croaker plus one or two keeper flounder.
In the Upper Bay it is still a white perch and catfish bite with a few short rockfish caught in the mix. Slot rock are not showing up as they have in years past.
- ADVISORY: Summer Flounder Regulations: As of April 1, the minimum size for summer flounder in Delaware is 17 inches. The bag limit remains at four fish per day and the season runs for 365 days.
INSHORE OCEAN There has been significant improvement in the flounder action at the Old Grounds and reef sites 10 and 11. Jigging with a bucktail and teaser rig remains the top producer. Baits include squid, live minnows and Gulp!. If you catch a small sea robin cut filets from both sides and use those as a tempter on your bucktail or teaser. The occasional sea bass has been in the mix.
The Del-Jersey-Land Artificial Reef has seen a few decent catches of sea bass with a few anglers able to box their 15-fish limit. You will have to move around changing locations as soon as you stop catching keepers and start catching shorts.
Bluefish and Spanish mackerel are over the wrecks at Fenwick Shoal and may be caught on 0 Drone spoons trolled over and around the structure. Fishing on the wrecks will produce triggerfish on bits of clam.
The Inshore Lumps that held good concentrations of tuna have not seen much action in recent weeks. A few tuna and dolphin have been caught by trollers and chunkers, but not in the numbers we saw earlier.
OFFSHORE OCEAN There were 390 boats in the White Marlin Open. They each fished for three days last week and only caught 353 white marlin. That averages out to less than one marlin per boat over three days. Only one dolphin over the 20-pound minimum was caught and tuna catches were also down. In other words, it is pretty slow offshore. Charter and head boats are deep-dropping for tilefish when they can’t find any tuna.
INDIAN RIVER INLET Very few flounder over the 17-inch minimum size have been caught from the inlet or back bays. Most of the keepers have been taken on a live minnow with or without a Gulp! teaser.
Croaker are being caught out of Indian River Bay on bloodworms. The size of these fish is small.
Drifting sand fleas in the inlet has produced a few sheepshead and triggerfish. The occasional rockfish is taken after dark on the same bait.
SURF FISHING Finally a bit of good news for surf fishermen. Small blues have been caught on fresh bunker. The fish are just beyond the breakers and would probably hit a small spoon as well as bait. A few more kings showed up and were caught on bloodworms.
FRESHWATER Red Mill Pond is the color of coffee with cream and the water level is high. Don’t think these conditions are found only here and suspect the fishing has been pretty slow.
The upper reaches of the tidal river and creeks are also high and dirty with white perch and catfish available on bloodworms or bunker baits.
GO OUT EARLY I am constantly amazed when I read a fishing report that begins with, “We left the dock around 10 a.m...." Then goes on to complain that the fishing grounds were crowded or they had to come in early because the wind picked up around 1 o'clock. If you are going to fish in the ocean or bay in the summer and expect to have any luck at all you have to be on the water before or just after sunrise. This is especially true for crowded locations like Indian River and Rehoboth bays. In fact, I don’t know how anyone can fish in Rehoboth Bay with the heavy traffic there on a summer weekend. Of course there are always a few that end up drifting in the channel while hundreds of boats try to avoid running them over.
Besides avoiding the crowds an early start will put you on the water when the fish are most likely to feed. Not that flounder, croaker and other deep water fish don’t feed at noon, it’s just more likely that they will be hungry early in the morning before a thousand boats start running over their heads. When fishing in shallow water boat noise is even more distracting.
On a typical fishing day I will get up at 5 a.m. and have my boat in the water between 5:30 and 6 a.m. I always plan to be back at the ramp by 1 p.m. to avoid those afternoon thunderstorms.
When heading offshore we will leave the dock around 4 a.m. to be in the canyon by 6-6:30 a.m. Several captains will go out in the late afternoon to catch the sunset bite then stay the night to be ready for the predawn bite.
When I lived in Virginia Beach I had a friend from Maryland in town with a few of his buddies and one of their boats. Back then we had great fishing for rockfish early in the morning and my friend wanted me to stay on VHF Channel 16 so he could hail me to see if we were catching.
I got to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel before sunrise and had my limit of rockfish and was back at the dock by 9 a.m. Never heard from my Maryland friend until I spoke with him by phone later in the day. I asked if he went fishing at the CBBT and he said they did, but couldn’t catch anything. I asked what time he got there and he said by the time they got up, ate breakfast and headed to the ramp it was after 10 a.m. I told him they missed the bite by a good three hours.
*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 three books, Surf Fishing The Atlantic Coast, The Ultimate Guide To Catching Striped Bass and Fishing Saltwater Baits.