By Eric Burnley Sr.*
Updated: April 16, 2015
UPSTATE TROUT SEASON I can personally report that there are plenty of trout in Wilson’s and Beaver Run, however they are not easy to catch. I spent several hours fishing in both locations on Wednesday while coming home with just one fish. I used good old earthworms that apparently don’t interest these fish. The only thing that made me feel better was I only saw one other fish caught.
I am getting reports from Battery Park to Broadkill Beach of rockfish caught by both beach and boat anglers. Most of these fish fail to meet the 28-inch minimum size, but a few keepers have been mixed in with the shorts.
Please remember that non-offset circle hooks must be used north of a line that runs east from the south jetty at the C&D Canal and any rockfish caught from this area must be released. The same is true for the Nanticoke River and Broad Creek in lower Sussex County.
The top baits have been bloodworms, fresh bunker and clams. All three baits have taken fish from shore while the best bait from boats fishing the upper bay has been bunker. Chunking with bunker is doing the best job in these areas. I had reports of keepers taken from the Yellow Can and along the channel out of Collins or Woodland Beach.
Shore fishermen have found success at Augustine, Green’s, Woodland and Dobbinsville. Broadkill Beach has seen the best of the rockfish action in Sussex County.
White perch fishing is pretty good in all the tidal creeks and rivers in the state. It is a waiting game with the perch feeding on their own schedule. Bloodworms and grass shrimp have accounted for the vast majority of fish caught.
No word of any tog or flounder caught in the bay. I would hope to see a few flounder taken from the Lewes and Rehoboth Canal and the Broadkill River by next weekend.
INSHORE OCEANTog fishing was decent over the weekend, but due to cold inshore water successful anglers had to run 20 miles or more off the beach. The current warm weather should begin to improve tog fishing a bit closer to the dock. Another thing plaguing tog fishermen is a lack of crabs for bait. This situation should also improve within the next few weeks.
I have had reports of bunker and birds in the ocean, but no reports of any rockfish caught under the birds or in the bunker schools. It may be awhile before we see any consistent rockfish action in the ocean as the fish are now up the rivers and won’t be moving back down until after the spawn.
INDIAN RIVER INLET Not much to report from here. A very few rockfish on bucktails and even fewer tog on crab. We need warmer water to get the tog in a feeding mood and the spawn to be over so the rockfish will move back into the ocean.
FRESHWATER The ponds are beginning to produce bass on a regular basis. This is spawning season so the fish may be on their beds giving anglers easy access to some big fish. Casting a soft plastic lure on the bed will get a quick reaction from the fish, but it takes a quick reflex from the angler to set the hook. Please be careful with these big females as they are the future of the sport.
I can vouch for the good panfish action as I caught five sunfish while trying to catch my one trout out of Wilson’s Run. The aggressive little buggers would attack my earthworm before the trout could find it. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Crappie and pickerel are hitting live minnows and jigs. Citations for both species have been caught during the past week.
White perch citations have been registered by anglers fishing the tidal rivers and creeks. These fish are available from Claymont to Milton to Laurel to Portsville. Bloodworms or grass shrimp have been the best baits.
FISHING SNOBS There was a discussion on one of the online fishing forums recently about what is the highest form of fishing. Is it gently presenting a dry fly to native brook trout? Is it catching a 1,000-pound blue or black marlin? Is it consistently landing trophy striped bass from the surf on a plug you made yourself? Or is it one of the hundred other types of fish and techniques that seem to make the purveyor believe he or she is far superior to those of us who are content to catch croaker on squid or sunfish on earthworms?
When I lived in Virginia I discovered there was a fishing club in Richmond that ran a members-only tournament during the year that scored the anglers' catch not only by weight, but by technique used to catch the fish. A 50-pound rockfish that was caught on 40-pound line and big hunk of bunker would not even be in the running with a one-pound rainbow trout taken on a dry fly with two-pound tippet.
This emphasis on light line made for some interesting trips. I had three cub members on my boat for a bottom fishing trip. One guy hooked the wreck using four-pound line. He swore he had a big tog because every time the boat would go up with a wave the “fish” would take line and when the boat settled back in the trough the “angler’ would gain line. This little demonstration of stupidity went on for quite some time before the sewing thread finally broke.
The idea of fishing should be having fun. Granted, I have more fun when I am catching more and bigger fish than anyone else, but since that rarely if ever happens I must get my enjoyment from catching what the fishing gods allow and enjoying the company of my companions.
It's arguably a natural tendency to prove that bigger is always better; we can’t help it. But real anglers are dismissive of that adage; they fish with reasonable tackle, not the stunt stuff. They will take time to help out other anglers who perhaps don’t have all the skills necessary to catch the target species. And they never look down their nose at other fishermen just because the fish or technique these people enjoy don’t meet the phony standards set by fishing snobs.
*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.