By Eric Burnley Sr.*
Updated: September 25, 2014
DELAWARE BAY Another week of hard northeast winds followed by a small nor’easter on Wednesday and Thursday has done nothing to improve fishing. The last report I had indicated the water was still muddy and I expect this condition to continue into the weekend.
The few boats able to sneak in trips between the bad weather days had triggerfish, flounder, blues and croaker at the reef sites. Since the long-range forecast promises better weather I would think these fish will still be available early next week and perhaps as early as Sunday.
In the upper bay the first keeper rockfish of the fall was recorded out of Collins Beach. The 30-incher hit a bunker chunk.
White perch and short rockfish have been caught on bloodworms along the shoreline from Reedy Point to Woodland Beach. Some of the perch have exceeded the one-pound mark.
Big catfish are available from the same areas. The cats like cut bunker or chicken livers and we hear of fish over five pounds almost every week.
Croaker and spot remain in the tidal creeks and rivers. Bloodworms will catch the spot that are often larger than the croaker.
The pier at Cape Henlopen State Park saw decent spot and croaker fishing and once again bloodworms were the best bait. A few blues were caught on cut bunker and a few short flounder were taken on live minnows.
The beach from Broadkill to Cape Henlopen has given up spot, croaker, flounder and blues. Baits such as bloodworms and clam are productive. Many light tackle and fly anglers work this area using small lures and flies.
Blues were reported around the Outer Wall where they chase bait to the surface. Metal lures cast to the feeding fish usually result in a hook up.
Tog season will open on September 29. If the seas have dropped off by then there will be plenty of boats tied to the Outer Wall. I feel the water is a bit too warm for good tog action, but I expect some will be caught.
INSHORE OCEAN With sea bass season closed and tog season still a few days away flounder and croaker will be the prime targets when the wind drops out and the seas settle down. Reports from the few boats that have gotten out during the past few week indicate flounder are still at the Old Grounds and on rough bottom along the Buoy Line. Due to poor drifting conditions limits were hard to come by. Once we get some decent weather the flounder should be there.
Tog season will open on Monday and I expect to see a few of these fish boxed. The best bite will be over wrecks and reefs in deeper water where the bottom temperature will be cooler than the inshore areas.
The east wind that has spoiled so many trips could bring false albacore and bonito closer to the shore. These gamefish can be quite a challenge on light or fly fishing tackle.
We did have reports of blues on the troll at Fenwick Shoal. These fish may be joined by the afore mentioned false albacore and bonito. Small spoons or bucktails will attract all three species.
OFFSHORE OCEAN The most recent report I have indicates there was quite blitz of billfish in the Norfolk Canyon. My source ran down there from Sunset Marina in Ocean City and was six for seven on whites.
No recent reports from anywhere offshore due to the weather. Prior to the blow dolphin were in the Poor Man’s and there were some bigeye and yellowfin in the Washington. The tuna bite should hold up for a few more weeks, but finding a good weather day will become more difficult.
INDIAN RIVER INLET Drifting sand fleas in the rocks at the jetties has produced big croaker. How much longer these fish will be available is anyone’s guess, but I don’t think they will be here much longer.
Tog season will open on Monday and this should return the crowds of bottom bouncers to the rocks. Sand fleas and green crab will be the best baits. In addition to the tog, triggerfish and sheepshead should still be available.
Sand fleas and live eels drifted close to the rocks after dark have produced a fair number of short rockfish plus the occasional keeper. This action should be begin to improve once the coastal stock of rockfish moves down from New England.
Flounder remain in the back bays with one seven pounder taken out of Massey’s Ditch. No matter how late in the season there are always keeper flounder around. Once the live spot faction starts fishing for rock you can bet a few big flounder will also be caught.
More and slightly larger bluefish have been caught during incoming water. Metal lures cast to breaking fish is the best technique.
SURF FISHING Last weekend saw some pretty good action considering it is late summer. A surf fishing tournament held along the beach at Delaware Seashore State Park produced a surprising number of keeper flounder to six pounds. Blues and kings made up the majority of the fish caught with one 28-inch rockfish taken as the only and largest rock of the contest.
The action was also fair at Cape Henlopen State Park with the same type of fish caught, the exception being summer flounder. We fished here on Tuesday afternoon catching a few small blues on cut mullet. At that time the water was clear and the wind was light out of the north. Since then we have seen northeast winds gust to 40 knots and seas running to nine feet. Hopefully, by the weekend things will settle back down.
FRESHWATER The green gunk is still on the ponds I'm seeing, so I don’t think fishing has improved. I am sure some bass are caught by those who fish with Senkos or Scum Frogs, but it can’t be much fun putting up with all that slimy green goo.
Prior to the recent rain, the Brandywine Creek was seeing good fishing for smallmouth bass. A crawfish or any lure that looks like a crawfish will draw their attention.
The Nanticoke River and Broad Creek continue to give up bass to those who work structure on falling tides. Jigs, worms or crankbaits worked around structure will do the trick.
DON'T TAKE FISHING TOO SERIOUSLY Some anglers take fishing and themselves way too seriously. This is supposed to be a fun sport and even if you fish remote streams all by yourself using a tiny dry fly to catch a six-inch native brook trout, don’t look down on those of us who find pleasure in catching spot and croaker out of the muddy Broadkill River on bloodworms.
I can recall a time when I though there was nothing worth catching inside the 30-Fathom Line. When running home after a 12-hour day in the deep we would make fun of the people fishing what I called the Croaker Canyon about two miles off the Old Coast Guard Station. We dubbed those inside the inlet as flounder pounders and anyone fishing from the bridges along Route 9 were perch jerkers.
I still enjoy trips to the canyons, but I discovered there is a lot of fun to be had much closer to shore. That’s right, I am now a flounder pounder and a perch jerker.
The choice of tackle is another subject that can separate some anglers from others. In my opinion using the most effective tackle is the best way to fish. If you need eight ounces of lead and an 8/0 circle hook loaded up with a big glob of clam to catch a cod in 100 feet of water than why use lighter tackle just to prove you can do it? I have news for you; anyone, given enough time, money and chances, can land a 500-pound blue marlin on four-pound line. That is stunt fishing where the boat captain has more to do with the success of the venture than the angler.
When I ran charters out of Virginia Beach I would take out a few guys who belonged to the Virginia Anglers Club in Richmond. I am not kidding you, the rulebook for their in-club tournament was three inches thick. The basic idea was a fish caught on a live eel and 50-pound line did not score near as many points as the same fish caught on a fly with a 2-pound leader.
On one such trip we were fishing a wreck in 90 feet of water and the guys using suitable tackle were catching a fair number of tog and sea bass. The angler from the Richmond club was using four-pound test and got snagged on the bottom. As the boat would rise up on a wave the snag would take line and when it fell into the trough the angler would recover some line. I told him he was snagged right after I saw this act for the first time. He claimed he was hooked to a new world record tog. I swear to you he fought that snag for 15 minutes before the line finally parted and he never did admit he was hung up on the bottom.
I will admit it took me a little while to see the light that everyone who wets a line is an equal to everyone else who does the same. So unless you are trying to win the White Marlin Open lighten up and enjoy the sport as well as the company of the rest of us.
*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.