By Eric Burnley Sr.*
Updated: May 17, 2018
DELAWARE BAY The rockfish bite in the upper bay remains about the same. Fair number of shorts with a few keepers to 40 pounds. The Submerged Jetty at Augustine Beach keeps showing up in my reports with chunking fresh bunker the most popular technique for landing keepers. The Pipes, Bull Pen and 6L buoy also account for some keeper rock.
Folks fishing bloodworms from shore have caught short rockfish and big white perch. Augustine Beach and the pier at Woodland Beach have been very popular. Green’s Beach and Dobbinsville have also seen good perch fishing.
Black drum have moved into the bay with good catches made at the Coral Beds. Clams are the prime bait with blue crab a good second choice. The Broadkill Slough and Broadkill Beach have also produced some black drum. Sizes run from just legal to 50 pounds.
I was happy to see a report from a charter boat that caught eight black drum and released all but two. Cleaning a black drum can be a chore and quite often the big ones are full of worms, so releasing them is a good idea.
Big blues have been caught around and from the pier at Cape Henlopen State Park. Last week the bite was early in the morning as the tide was coming in. The incoming water seems to be more important than the time of day. Mullet, bunker and spoons have caught most of these fish.
More flounder are showing up in the Lewes and Rehoboth Canal, around the fishing pier and in the bay. A 9.77-pounder was caught in the bay on a clam.
INSHORE OCEAN Right now it is all about black sea bass. Opening day on Tuesday provided most boats with limit catches of quality fish. The occasional cod has been caught along with the sea bass. All of my reports indicate the sea bass are feeding on sand eels.
INDIAN RIVER INLET Jetty jockeys working the night tides with black plugs or bucktails have accounted for a few keeper rockfish. It takes a good deal of work and loss of sleep to be successful in this endeavor, but when you finally connect with a big rockfish it makes it all worthwhile.
Do not try to fish the jetty without the proper footwear. Korkers or similar studded shoes must be worn. I have seen some nasty falls and know of at least one death related to wearing sneakers or other types of smooth-soled shoes on those slippery rocks.
Shad are still invading the inlet on incoming water. Darts and small spoons have done most of the damage.
SURF FISHING A surf tournament on Saturday produced blues, kings, black drum and short rockfish from the beaches south of Bethany. This trend has continued during the week, although the weather has not been the best for surf fishing. Mullet, bunker, clams and bloodworms remain the best baits.
FRESHWATER Not much change in the catch from ponds and the upper reaches of the tidal rivers and creeks. Bass, crappie, pickerel and perch remain the primary targets and most of the reports I have indicate good success on baits or lures.
The big blue catfish have not made an appearance in the Nanticoke River or Broad Creek this spring. I suspect cold water is the reason they have not arrived.
THUNDERSTORMS ON THE WATER Last Saturday a thunderstorm caught several boats out on Delaware Bay and on Monday my son Ric got caught in his kayak on the Chesapeake Bay. All of this happened after dark just to make the experience even more exciting. I am happy to report all hands arrived safely back in port.
You must always check the weather report before heading out and use that information along with you own experience to judge the chances for storms before your return time. My son has a weather app on his watch that includes the latest radar in the area. He saw the storm coming, but it was moving so fast he could not get back to ramp before it arrived.
When you are in a thunderstorm, day or night, your visibility will be zero. The rain is so heavy driven by the wind that you can’t see the bow. You must not panic, even though there is ample reason to do so. You must maintain control of the boat and run it in the direction the waves dictate. Don’t worry about where you are headed unless you are very close to shore. Once the storm passes you can return to your course back home.
I always disconnect all my electronics and lower any antennas once there is lightning anywhere near my boat. You can always turn it back on, but if it gets hit by lightning it will be dead.
Of course, all your passengers and you already have your PFDs on. If not, don't hesitate even for a split-second in putting them 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.