By Eric Burnley Sr.*
Updated: July 24, 2014
DELAWARE BAY Flounder fishing has been fair from as far north as Miah Maull Shoal and on down the lower bay to Site 8. Hard structure in the reef sites holds the most fish with some available on the open bottom at Ship John, Flounder Alley and Miah Maull. Please remember that the main shipping channel is the dividing line between Delaware and New Jersey. If you are on the Jersey side you will need a New Jersey FIN number and may only keep flounder that are 18 inches or longer.
Croaker are pretty much everywhere in the bay and the tidal creeks and rivers. I did have one report of croaker caught as far north as Chester, Pennsylvania. Back in Delaware, the shoreline from Augustine Beach to Port Mahon along with the pier at Woodland Beach have seen good croaker action. Bloodworms remain the top bait and you might even catch a few slot rockfish from the same area.
Boaters are catching plenty of croaker out of Bowers, Mispillion and Lewes. Reef sites hold lots of fish and I expect they will be on the Coral Beds and other rough bottom as well.
Some of the larger croaker have come from the tidal creeks and rivers. I have been catching all I want and more from the Broadkill River and the Lewes and Rehoboth Canal.
Slot rockfish are available from Augustine Beach to the Inner Wall off of Lewes. Bloodworms, cut bunker and surface lures have all been effective. The best action has been at dawn or dusk.
Tog season opened and attracted several boats to the Outer Wall and the Ice Breakers off of Lewes. A few anglers managed to catch a limit while others struck out. Mixed in with the tog were sheepshead and triggerfish. Sand fleas and green crabs have been the top baits.
The pier at Cape Henlopen State Park has seen very good fishing for spot and croaker. Bloodworms, FishBites and clam are the top baits. Most of the flounder caught here have been shorts with the occasional keeper falling to minnows on a Speck Rig.
Shoreline fishing at Lewes Beach and Cape Henlopen State Park is restricted to croaker, spot and short flounder. Bloodworms will be the best bait.
INSHORE OCEAN We have seen limits of flounder caught from Site 10 and the Old Grounds. A bucktail sweetened with strips of fish or squid remains the top attractor. Another good flounder rig is a Delaware Bay Green Machine behind a six or eight-ounce sinker. Bait the hook with strips of fish or squid or a live minnow and Gulp!.
While rare, we have seen one or two keeper sea bass caught from the same locations. These fish hit baits intended for flounder. On Tuesday we had a report of a large monkfish taken by a flounder fisherman near B Buoy. You just never know what you are going to catch from the ocean.
Croaker are beginning to show up at Site 10. Most are on the small side, but larger ones will arrive next month into September.
Trollers are catching small bluefish at Fenwick Island. Small spoons and bucktails are the prime lures.
The Hambone, Hot Dog and Massey’s Canyon have seen fair numbers of bluefin tuna. Trolling has been the most productive technique with some boats catching their over and under fish. A few yellowfin, dolphin and wahoo have been caught from the same locations.
OFFSHORE OCEAN When conditions are good, the yellowfin tuna action follows suit. Trolling and chunking both produce fish with the latter employed after dark. The Washington Canyon has been steady while the Baltimore and Poor Man’s are hit and miss.
Billfish action has been a bit slow. We should be coming into the best time of year for white and blue marlin with the White Marlin Open just a few weeks away.
Dolphin are staged around just about any floating object and can save an otherwise slow day. Wahoo visit the spread on occasion and if the tackle holds they add more meat to the box.
Several boats are including deep drops as part of the offshore experience. Golden and blueline tilefish are available to those with arms strong enough to crank them up from the depths.
INDIAN RIVER INLET Live spot account for the largest rockfish and flounder. Drifting close to the sea wall at the Coast Guard Station has been a very popular location to drown a spot. As you can imagine, things can get out of hand here on the weekends.
Less-crowded locations such as the VFW Slough, the slough by Burton’s Island and Massey’s Ditch also produce flounder. If you don’t have live spot try a bucktail with a strip of fresh fish, squid or a live minnow and Gulp!. No matter where you chose to fish, I strongly suggest getting out on the water at first light to avoid the crowds.
Nighttime jetty fishermen are catching a fair number of short rockfish along with the occasional keeper. Drifting sand fleas is an easy way to fish the rocks or you can cast plugs, bucktails or flies.
Tog have been caught out of the jetty, but not in any great number or size. Sheepshead are also in the mix with sand fleas or green crabs the top baits.
Lots of croaker near Buoy 20 in Indian River. What they lack in size they more than make up for in quantity. Small pieces of bloodworm or clam will catch all you can handle.
Blues and shad occasionally visit the inlet during incoming water. Casting small spoons is the easiest way to catch either one.
SURF FISHING Beginning to hear better reports from the beach. Spot, croaker and kings have been caught from Cape Henlopen to Fenwick Island. It is still a slow pick at best, but better a slow pick than no pick. Bloodworms or clam make the best baits. Fish right in the breakers for best results.
FRESHWATER Some decent sized bass have been caught from the local ponds with the best action at dawn, dusk or after dark. Casting Scum Frogs, jigging with Senkos or tossing crankbaits has done most of the damage.
Panfish such as sunfish and crappie will be under fallen trees or Lilly pads where they can get out of the sun and wait for a bait to pass by. Small jigs baited with a minnow or worm will draw them out.
The Nanticoke River and Broad Creek hold bass, pickerel and white perch. The spillway in Laurel or the shoreline at Phillips Landing provide easy access for fishing these waters.
SO YOU WANT TO FISH OFFSHORE? Late summer is the prime time to take a trip to the canyons. The weather as about as stable as it gets and both tuna and marlin should be available in good numbers.
Those who would like to fish from their own boats will need to have a seaworthy craft capable of traveling at least 120 miles round trip and handle a steady diet of three to four foot waves. If you have such a boat the next thing you will need is about $10,000 worth of tackle and electronics. Having an ample supply of friends and family willing to make the trip and help pay expenses is also a plus.
Or you could charter a boat. This is an expensive venture, but nowhere near as expensive as doing it yourself. A full day offshore will cost north of $1,000 while an overnighter can be twice that much. Split up among six anglers it really is not that bad considering what you get in return.
You will have an experienced captain and mate who know how to find and catch offshore fish. They will do all the work while you and your friends get to enjoy the fruit of their labors.
An all-day trip will target tuna and marlin with some dolphin and wahoo always a possibility. An overnighter will also target tuna and marlin with both trolling and chunking coming into play. In addition, some boats will do deep dropping, adding tilefish to the list of fish.
In addition to the fish you will experience the beauty of the ocean like you have never seen it before. The deep blue of the Gulf Stream, the sea life such as turtles, whales and various birds, and if you do an overnighter you will see more stars in the sky than you ever imagined.
If an offshore trip is on your bucket list there is no better time to go than right now.
*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.