By Eric Burnley Sr.*
Updated: July 23, 2015
ADVISORY: Cape Henlopen beach from Gordons Pond to Herring Point reopened for surf-fishing as piping plover nesting season ends
DELAWARE BAY New moon currents did not have a negative impact on flounder action as those anglers who have mastered the back trolling technique used when fishing the reef sites have scored good numbers of flounder. Back trolling is not really trolling so much as it is backing the boat over productive structure and holding it in place while the anglers vertical jig with bucktails sweetened with Gulp!, live minnows, squid strips, cut bait or shiners. This keeps the bait in the strike zone longer than just aimlessly drifting over the area.
We did see a few tog caught at the Inner and Outer walls and the Ice Breakers with sand fleas a prime bait. Triggerfish and the occasional sheepshead have also been caught from the same locations.
Croaker are just about everywhere you drop a line from the C&D Canal to the Lewes and Rehoboth Canal. It seems the fish in the tidal creeks and rivers are a bit larger than those in the open bay. Several of the croaker I caught last week from the Lewes and Rehoboth Canal had their bright yellow or gold spawning colors on.
Slot rockfish have been caught from most of the tidal rivers, creeks and canals. They are also in the open bay near the Yellow Can and the Augustine Jetty. Live eels, bloodworms, squid heads, bunker chunks, surface lures and swimming plugs have all accounted for keeper rock.
The tidal rivers and creeks continue to provide very good fishing for white perch and catfish. Bloodworms for the perch and cut bunker for the cats.
INSHORE OCEAN Chunking is beginning to take over the tuna fishing at the inshore lumps. Last week the 19-Fathom Lump was hot and this week it could be the Hambone, Chicken Bone or Massey’s Canyon. In addition to the tuna, a 667-pound mako was caught at the 20-Fathom Fingers. Dolphin and wahoo have also been taken from the same structure.
The Old Grounds and the rough bottom around B Buoy have produced good numbers of flounder. When conditions permit, a bucktail tipped with Nuclear Chicken Gulp! jigged on light line has produced very well. During periods of strong current, a Delaware Bay Green Machine and a Tsunami Ball Jig baited with strips of squid, fresh fish or Gulp! will find willing takers. Sometimes the flounder feed on the incoming and sometimes on the outgoing, you just have to wait them out.
Croaker are beginning to show up in catches from the same locations as the flounder. The occasional keeper sea bass is also a possibility.
Small bluefish have taken up residence at Fenwick Shoal. They will hit small spoons and bucktails trolled over bottom structure. I would not be surprised to hear of Spanish mackerel and false albacore in the same general area.
OFFSHORE OCEAN Anglers who troll from dusk to midnight have been catching good numbers of bigeye tuna. The fish have shown up in the Baltimore, Poorman’s and Washington canyons. I have caught bigeyes on 50-pound standup gear, but if I had to crank one up today I would want an 80-pound outfit and a fighting chair.
Dolphin and both blue and white marlin have been caught in the canyons. The occasional wahoo is also taken, but because most offshore fishermen use mono leaders many more wahoo are lost than landed.
INDIAN RIVER INLET There are a fair number of small flounder and a few keepers throughout the inlet and inland bays. As always during the summer, the best fishing will be during times of low boat traffic. Live minnows, shiners and Gulp! have remained the best baits.
Croaker have been caught from the sidewalk and jetty on bloodworms, sand fleas and Gulp!. According to my reports, the fish are averaging between ten and twelve inches. Smaller croaker are in the inland bays. The occasional triggerfish and sheepshead are caught from the rocks.
Small rockfish with the occasional keeper have been caught out of the rocks on drifted sand fleas. This action is best after dark.
blues and shad have returned to the inlet with the best bite occurring on incoming water. Small spoons, bucktails and shad darts work best. Look for diving birds to locate the feeding fish.
SURF FISHING Still slow fishing for kings and croakers. Bloodworms and sand fleas make the best bait and dawn is the best time to fish.
FRESHWATER Very little change here. Bass are active during low light periods on soft plastics, surface lures and jigs. Crappie take small minnows fished on jigs.
We keep hearing about big catfish in the Nanticoke River and Broad Creek. Cut bunker has been the top bait for these fish.
FRESH FISHING LINES During a recent trip to the Old Grounds my rig found permanent purchase on the bottom. While trying to break the mono rig off I managed to snap my braided line almost to the rod tip. This was an indication that my braid had a weak spot that I had not noticed. Since I now had 100 feet less line than I started with, it was time to replace it all.
I keep a pretty good watch on my fishing line and leaders, but having a weak spot that far down is something I would never have noticed. Braid, unlike mono, can weaken without an outward appearance of trouble. If you do notice a frayed section of braid anywhere it is time to replace the line or if the bad spot is close to the tag end, cut that part out and retie the shock leader.
A shock leader should be used when bottom fishing to protect the braid from the rough conditions found on wrecks and other bottom structure I use 50-pound mono on my deep water outfits and 30-pound on my shallow water stuff. I attach the braid to the mono using an Albright knot.
The other problem I see are reels filled only half way or less. A half-full reel is not going to have much line left once you drop a bait 100 feet to the bottom. This creates a smaller diameter spool making it more difficult to crank a fish back to the surface. Mono line is cheap and even braid is one of the least expensive items of fishing equipment so there is no reason to go out with less than a full spool of fresh line on your reels.
*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.