By Eric Burnley Sr.*
Updated: July 17, 2014
Stopped by Lewes Harbour Marina on Thursday morning and just about every boat in the place was out fishing. Some were going for flounder while others were after croaker and all should have had excellent results. If you have not made it out yet this year, now is the time.
Flounder are on structure at all the reef sites, but you have to work them correctly to be successful. It is absolutely critical to present the bait to the fish who are on top of or lying tight to the structure. If you don’t know how this is done I suggest a trip on a bay charter or head boat where the mate can give you instructions while the captain puts you on the fish.
Croaker are available from the beach at Augustine all the way down the bay to Cape Henlopen. They really like bloodworms, but will also inhale squid, cut fish, Gulp! or FishBites.
Boaters are catching croaker as far north as the Yellow Can and down to the Outer Wall. Some of the largest croaker are in the rivers such as the Leipsic and the Broadkill. Shore casters working the beach from Beach Plum Island to Cape Henlopen are finding croaker and small flounder while bait fishing with bloodworms or casting flies or lures such as the D.O.A. shrimp.
Croaker and spot have been caught in good numbers from the pier at Cape Henlopen State Park. Woodland Beach pier has seen croaker and white perch. Start with bloodworms and switch to other baits if the fish seem very hungry.
Tog season has reopened and we haven’t had any reports yet, but I expect the Outer Wall is lined with boats as this is written on Thursday morning. Some of the reef sites and wrecks in the lower bay should also hold keeper tog.
Reports of slot rockfish are hard to come by, but we do know they have been caught near the Power Plant in the upper bay with peeler crab the top boat. Anglers working around the Savannah Road Bridge in Lewes have had good luck with rockfish while using clams and pencil eels.
INSHORE OCEAN Flounder fishing has been very good at the Old Grounds, Site 10 and the rough bottom near B Buoy. Limits have been caught by good flounder fishermen while the rest of us end up with three or four keepers. A bucktail baited with strips of squid, fish or Gulp! has been the best offering. When the current is too strong, try an eight-ounce sinker and a Delaware Bay Green machine baited with the same stuff.
Croaker have started showing up in the same locations. Reports say they are on the small side right now, but the bigger ones should be along soon. Squid, bloodworms and Gulp! will all catch croakers.
Fenwick Shoal is rumored to have lots of small blues and a few bonito. Trolling with small bucktails and spoons will attract both species.
Massey’s Canyon, the Hot Dog and the Hambone have produced bluefin tuna. Several boats have taken their over and under fish on the troll. Yellowfins and dolphin have been caught in the same locations. No word on the chunking bait.
OFFSHORE OCEAN Not too many boats made the long run to the canyons last week as the weather was a bit breezy. Those that did came back with yellowfin tuna and dolphin and released both white and blue marlin. I expect to see a big fleet out there this weekend as the weather looks very good.
INDIAN RIVER INLET Flounder fishing right in the rocks of the jetties has been fairly good. A bucktail tipped with squid or a live minnow has been the top bait.
With tog season back open expect more people along the rocks soaking sand fleas or crab. Also expect to see some sheepshead, triggerfish and croaker caught along with the tog.
Nighttime jetty jockeys are finding more short rockfish than keepers, with enough fish over 28 inches to keep them coming back. The usual suspects, bucktails, black plugs and sand fleas, are all in use.
Folks drifting the inlet are catching flounder and rockfish on live spot. Those who choose less expensive baits such as minnows and squid also catch flatfish. The VFW Slough, the Burton Island Ditch and Massey’s have been locations favored by flounder fishermen.
Croaker have made an appearance at Buoy 20 in Indian River. I understand the bite is pretty steady, but the fish are smaller. If you have young kids and you want to introduce them to fishing there is no better time and place.
SURF FISHING Summertime is not the time to go surf fishing in Delaware. A few croaker and kings may be caught, but chances are you will only come up with sharks and skates. Big rays have been caught from the beach and if you luck into one be very careful. I saw a YouTube video where a man had a stingray spine go all the way through his foot.
FRESHWATER Bass fishing will be an evening or early morning adventure. Scum Frogs worked in the Lilly pads is one way to attract a big bass. Another way to catch a big bass is to suspend a very small piece of nightcrawler on a #6 hook below a bobber and let it drift among the lilly pads. Do this around 8 a.m. and you just might catch the largest bass of your life. At least that is what Ryan Andrew did last Friday when I had him out fishing at Redden State Forrest. Ryan had attended my summer camp fishing program at Delaware Technical and Community College, and we had our graduation ceremony at the pond. Ryan passed with flying colors.
The same small pieces of nightcrawler produced a pretty steady supply of sunfish. I am sure the technique would work in most of the ponds in Delaware.
Smallmouth bass should begin to show in the Brandywine once the creek clears up after the recent heavy rains. A real crawfish or something that looks like a crawfish will attract a smallmouth’s attention.
White perch and catfish may be caught from any of the tidal creeks or rivers that flow into the Delaware or Chesapeake bays. Cut fresh fish or stinkbaits will attract the cats while it is hard to beat bloodworms for the perch.
BOAT RAMP FOLLIES This is the time of year when boat ramps become very crowded, especially on a Saturday afternoon. You can avoid the crowds by launching before dawn and pulling out before noon, but not many people will follow that advice.
While I am certain no one reading this has ever been guilty of making a fool of themselves at a boat ramp, you really don’t want to have an encounter with those other people who do.
Prepare the boat before going to the ramp. Have everything loaded aboard at home before you leave the driveway and then all you need do in the parking lot is remove the tie-downs before backing down the ramp. Make sure you remove the strap around the stern. It is surprising how well that thing will hold the boat on the trailer no matter how hard you pull on the bow line.
Never back down the ramp partway and then start to load the boat. I can promise you someone will do this without fail at every boat ramp in the world on any given Saturday.
When using the ramp at Indian River Marina you must move the boat to the courtesy dock as soon as it is in the water. Have someone move the boat while you park the rig or vice versa. Upon returning, drop off someone at the courtesy dock and have them get the rig and then enter the line waiting to retrieve the boat. Do not try to get in the ramp until your rig is backing down. This is the rule at this dock and should be followed at all times.
A sudden thunderstorm will create havoc at any boat ramp. You must wait your turn even it if means getting very wet. Do drop all antennas and turn off all electronics. Take all rods out of their holders and lay them flat on the deck or in the cabin. Have the crew put on PFDs if they don’t have them on already.
Never, ever get into a confrontation with someone who is causing a problem at the ramp. If the situation becomes untenable call 911 and make a report. In many cases the person causing the problem may be under the influence of alcohol and will not be inclined to behave properly even after you have pointed out his misconduct.
*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.