By Eric Burnley Sr.*
Updated: Jan. 20, 2017
DELAWARE BAY The weather has changed for the better and we should see improved fishing for white and yellow perch in the tidal creeks and rivers. Checking with shops in the upper bay area did not reveal any action, but I did get good reports of neds (yellow perch) in the upper Chesapeake Bay around Port Deposit and Perryville.
A few folks have been catching white perch from the Woodland Beach Pier on earthworms. If the weather remains mild this action will improve.
INSHORE OCEAN Tog fishing is pretty good with boats finding limits of fish to 12 pounds. Various types of crabs have been used to catch the white chins. Check with your favorite captain to find out when he plans to run then make reservations for two or three days to hopefully get one good weather day.
INDIAN RIVER INLET An unconfirmed report of small rockfish caught at the Coast Guard Station, but no tog or shad. Perch should be active at the Power Station or at the spillway in Millsboro, but I have no reports to confirm that guess.
FRESHWATER The local ponds are free of ice and the anglers who enjoy cold-weather fishing are back at it. Bass and crappie are the primary targets with the occasional pickerel also taken. Live bait is king with minnows for the crappie and shiners for the bass and pickerel.
LOOK AND LEARN When I was in the US Navy’s electronics school at Great Lakes I had a chief petty officer instructor who loved to say, "Obvious to the most casual observer." I heard this quite a bit since electronics was as mysterious to me as black magic. There was nothing obvious about electrons, protons, resistance or current flow. I finally solved the mystery and became an Electronics Technician 2nd Class before my hitch was up.
I think some people feel the same way about fishing as I did about electronics. They don’t understand why fishing can be good one day and bad the next day even though they fished in the same spot at the same time.
I think one way to understand why fishing varies so much is to look and learn. If you are catching fish hand over fist take some time to observe your surroundings. What is the stage of the tide? Is the sky clear or overcast? Is the water clear or dirty? Is the current fast or slow?
What is the moon phase? Is it dawn, dusk or midday? What were the fish feeding on? Were the fish hitting bait or lures? What was the bait? What type and color lure? Open bottom or hard structure? What was the water temperature? What was the wind direction?
I have known a few anglers who keep a logbook writing down all this information and more. I probably should have done this, but never did. If I had, I would not have to depend on my addled brain now that I am in my dotage.
When I had my charter business out of Virginia Beach I had a real good idea of what we might catch on any given day by looking at all of these conditions. If the water was clear and there was a good rip at the Second Island of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel and the water temperature was above 75 degrees and we were out there at sunrise, there was a good chance we could catch Spanish mackerel and bluefish on 0 size Drone spoons.
When fishing for flounder out of Lewes I look for an incoming current in the Canal during the summer and an outgoing current in the spring. In the summer the incoming brings in cooler water and in the spring the outgoing has warmer water. Flounder like water somewhere near 68 degrees and with cooler water in the spring we need a little warmth from the sun, while in the summer we want the cooler bay water.
As you can see, there are an infinite number of variables to consider when fishing. The more you fish the more you will learn if you just look at what’s going on.
*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.