By Eric Burnley Sr.*
Updated: June 14, 2013
DELAWARE BAY In spite of continuing bad weather, anglers fishing the Delaware Bay are reporting decent catches of a variety of species.
The black drum seem to have moved east to the New Jersey side of the bay and were caught at the Pin Top and the 60-Foot Slough. Please remember that while New Jersey does not have a saltwater fishing license they do have a FIN number that may be acquired online.
Croaker have invaded the bay and are available from the Woodland Beach pier to the fishing pier at Cape Henlopen State Park. The tasty critters are caught from the beach and from boats with bloodworms, squid, Gulp! and clam all producing good results. Many of the croaker do not meet the nine-inch minimum size, but enough keepers are available to make the trip worthwhile.
A fair number of kings, blues and blowfish have been taken along with the croaker on the same baits. This type of fishing usually does not begin until later in the summer, but no one is complaining.
Trout have been a welcome surprise for bay fishermen. Fish to six pounds or more have been caught throughout the bay and while we are certainly a long way from the heydays of yore the presence of these fish is encouraging. The limits on trout are one fish per person per day with a minimum size of 13 inches.
One of the more productive areas to catch trout has been Broadkill Beach. This is no surprise as the area was one of the better locations during the 1970s to the 1980s. Baits such as peeler crab and bloodworms as well as jigs sweetened with Gulp! or peeler crab have been the top offerings.
Lewes Beach and the Cape Henlopen Fishing Pier have been seen good numbers of croaker, kings, blues and the occasional flounder and trout. The area near the Ferry Jetty has been particularly good for beach anglers.
White perch and croakers have been caught from the tidal creeks that feed the bay. Bloodworms and peeler crab are the best baits.
INDIAN RIVER INLET Jetty jockeys continue to score the occasional rockfish with the best action after dark on bucktails and shads. This is the summer pattern that will continue until fall.
Another summer pattern is bluefish moving through the inlet on incoming water. Hickory shad have been mixed with the blues and I have reports of some anglers live-lining the shad for rockfish.
Flounder have been caught in Indian River Bay and Massey’s Ditch. The numbers are not high, but keepers are landed by most folks fishing with live minnows, squid, smelt or a Speck Rig with Gulp! swimming mullet.
INSHORE OCEAN While limit catches of sea bass have been caught from charter and head boats fishing structure beyond 20 fathoms, the usual inshore locations are just not producing the fishing we had hoped for. I was out on Wednesday and in spite of beautiful weather four of us only managed to box six keeper sea bass and four bergalls. We fished Site 11 from 0800 to 1300 and while the bite was steady most of catch was short sea bass, bergalls, sea robins, one short flounder and two very nice tog.
Sharkers continue to do well on the 20-fathom lumps. A mix of makos, threshers, blues and other toothy critters have been taken.
OFFSHORE OCEAN Not a lot of boats have been able to reach the canyons, but those who do report makos and bluefin tuna. Deep dropping for tilefish and grouper has been good.
SURF FISHING Small hooks and small baits are the order of the day from the beach. Croaker, kings, blowfish and small bluefish have been caught from Cape Henlopen to Fenwick Island. Bloodworms, Fishbites, Gulp! and cut bait have all produced results. Not every location is productive at all times, but if you are in the right place when the fish move in, the action can be very good.
FRESHWATER It is summer time on the ponds as top-water lures such as Scum Frogs fished early and late in the day are taking most of the bass. Panfish are also available from the ponds with Noxontown still producing trophy-size fish. Small minnows on jigs or under a bobber have been the hot bait.
The lower Delaware River is seeing good fishing for white perch and catfish. A few rock are in the mix with bloodworms, cut bait and chicken livers working well.
The Brandywine Creek holds smallmouth bass and when the water is clear, various small jigs or live crawfish will attract their attention. Rock bass and sunfish are in the same area.
The Nanticoke River and Broad Creek will give up largemouth bass to those who work structure during falling tides. Crappie, white perch, pickerel, sunfish and the occasional rockfish add a bit of excitement to the fishing.
RUNNING IN ROUGH WEATHER While only idiots go out when the seas are rough, even the most careful boater can get caught out when the weather turns nasty. This is most likely to happen in the summer when thunderstorms pop up usually in the afternoon.
The first thing to do is plan to avoid the bad weather. For me that means leaving the dock at sunrise or earlier and being back no later than 15:00. Granted that schedule won’t work for those who run 60 miles offshore, but if you pull up lines around 1500 you may miss the worst of the weather.
I also keep an eye to the sky and my VHF set to Channel 16. If I see dark clouds to my west I pull up and head for the dock. No waiting to see where the storm is going. I get back as soon as I can.
Last summer we came in early from the bay to the Lewes ramp after seeing black clouds on the horizon. As we were pulling out, two ladies in a small boat were launching. I pointed out the darkening sky and they were surprised. Even so, they soon cranked their boat back on the trailer.
As we were driving out of the parking lot the line to retrieve boats was quite long and we hit blinding rain, thunder and lighting before we reached Route 1. I am pretty sure there were a lot of wet boaters at the Lewes ramp.
OK, so you did not make it back in time and now you have to press on during a thunderstorm. The first thing you must do is remain calm. Anyone who says he or she is not afraid during a severe thunderstorm at sea is either a liar or an idiot. I am personally terrified, but to date I have been able to control my fear and navigate home safely.
The first thing to do before the storm hits is have everyone onboard put on their PFDs and then disconnect all the electronics. If possible to do safely, lower the antennas, secure any loose items on the deck or in the cabin and put all fishing rods down. Outriggers are another problem. Those who have these should look into putting a ground on their boat.
Before disconnecting the GPS get the heading for home and from then on depend on the compass. You will probably have to deviate from that course depending on the direction of the waves.
Put the bow of the boat into the waves and maintain enough forward speed to plow through without flying off the crest and crashing into the trough. Don’t go too slow or there is a good possibility that the boat could turn upside down. In severe cases the waves may be so large that you must attack them on an angle. This is unlikely in the bay, but not in the ocean.
Concentrate entirely on the task at hand. Don’t be distracted by the screaming and crying of the crew, and don’t think about anything except getting through the next wave. Thunderstorms may seem like they last for an eternity, but most are over in less than an hour and then return to your compass heading for home.