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Delaware Fishing Report
When, Where, What and How They're Biting


By Eric Burnley Sr.*

Updated: June 23, 2016

2016 Delaware Fishing Guide

DELAWARE BAY The size of the rockfish in the upper bay has gotten smaller, but there are still a good number of keepers available. The Red and Yellow cans were mentioned as good locations to set up a chumming operation using fresh bunker. If you fish from shore cut bunker or bloodworms have been the top rockfish baits. Just about anywhere from Augustine Beach to Port Mahon has produced keeper rockfish. In addition there are some big catfish and white perch available from the beach.
The tidal creeks and rivers have good perch and catfish action. The perch like bloodworms white the catfish aren’t at all picky and will take bloods, cut bunker and chicken livers.

The bay reef sites are beginning to give up some flounder along with kings and small croaker. So far the flounder bite has been slow with squid and minnows or a jig sweetened with Gulp! nuclear chicken mullet or sand eel the top producers.

The Broadkill Slough gave up small croaker and kings this week. This fishing should improve as the summer wears on. I use bloodworms for both species.

There are some very large sharks in the lower bay and a few charter operations are targeting them. This is a catch and release fishery and all hands seem to have a good time.

The Cape Henlopen Fishing Pier has had some decent flounder to 5 pounds taken on jigs, speck rigs and live minnows. The best way to target flounder here is to fish tight to the pilings. Kayak anglers have good success working tight to the old pilings past the end of the pier.

The pier has also seen some croaker and trout.  As of my last report, these fish were too small to keep.

INSHORE OCEAN Still getting reports of great white and hammerhead sharks close to the shipping channel. Some have been caught and released while others have only been spotted. It is kind of hard to miss 14 or 15-foot of shark swimming across the surface.
The flounder fishing at reef sites 10 and 11 has been steady. I do get more consistent reports from the Old Grounds and the rough bottom around B and A buoys.

Flounder fishing success in the 80 to 100 feet of water is pretty much dependent on the drift speed. Too fast and the bait won’t stay anywhere near the bottom; too slow and only a few flounder will see the bait. Try towing a sea anchor when the drift is too fast. A slow drift can be overcome by bumping the engine in and out of gear.

We still see a few keeper sea bass coming in from the same areas as the flounder. Not many anglers still target these fish, but they have become a by-catch of the flounder fishery.

The small bluefish trolling bite has returned to the Fenwick Shoals. Nothing big, but most folks who go down there come back with a 10-fish limit of blues. Small spoons make the best bait for these fish.

OFFSHORE OCEAN Starting to get reports of tuna and dolphin from the closer Baltimore and Wilmington canyons. Tuna continue to come in from the Washington and Norfolk canyons as well. The key to success is finding a temperature break as close to home as possible.

Bigeye tuna have been mixed in with the yellowfin, but only a few have crested the 100-pound mark so far this year. White and blue marlin have been taken along with the tuna. The largest blue was caught on the Tail to Tail and weighed in at 557 pounds.The crew also had a 70-pound bigeye. The marlin took a Glow Joe Shute lure between the Washington and Norfolk canyons.

INDIAN RIVER INLET Drifting sand fleas has become the top technique for catching rockfish. The best time to try your luck is during incoming water after dark.

Blues and shad have been caught during the same current phase in the day time.  The blues are in the 2- to 4-pound class and like bucktails or small spoons.

I wish I had better news on the flounder bite, but it remains very slow. If you want to target flounder the best time to fish will be at dawn and dusk. Work the flats on high water and the channels when the water is slow. A minnow with or without a strip of squid should work.  Be sure to change the squid strip if it becomes dirty or crab chewed.

SURF FISHING Besides the skates and sharks, it is kings and croaker from the beach. If you hit the right place at the right time you can do well with the kings. The beaches from Dewey to Fenwick Island had the best of the kingfish action last week, but the fish may be further north this weekend. Bloodworms will be the best bait

Some fishermen are going after big sharks at night. This can be fun and a chance to catch a real trophy fish, but most of the sharks are federally protected and cannot be removed from the water. Thus the situational awareness result, to be safe from prosecution, of getting into the water at night with a 6- to 10-foot creature that is not altogether happy in the circumstance and might show it through a mouth full of very sharp teeth and a powerful tail.  Of course, if that’s your idea of fun, have at it.

FRESHWATER The ponds are seeing the usual summertime fishing pattern with bass caught early in the day or in the late afternoon.  Frogs, soft plastics and crankbaits all attract largemouth.

I had a report from Millsboro Pond of two large pickerel caught on crankbaits. A bit late in the year, but I guess no one told the fish.
Some crappie have been caught from Noxontown Pond on small minnows or crappie jigs. These fish are also in other ponds, but Noxontown seems to produce the largest specimens

SUMMER WEATHER There is a weather pattern that comes with summer and if you pay attention you can avoid the worst of it.

During the summer the land and the water can easily have a 20-degree temperature difference. Warm air is less dense than cold air so a difference in barometric pressure develops between the two air masses. Different pressure is what causes the wind to blow and around 3 - 4 p.m. there will be quite a breeze along the coast.

On more than one trip to the canyons I have fished all day in relative calm only to be greeted by a very strong southwest wind as I got closer to shore. In a 22-foot Mako we had to don our rain gear due to the spray. The instant we cleared the inlet we would be greeted by a hot blast of air that had us getting out of the rain suit as fast as possible.  The other sensation that sticks in my memory was the strong smell of suntan lotion mixed in with the hot air.

While the southwest wind can make the ride a bit uncomfortable, in most cases it isn’t dangerous. The danger comes when a popup thunderstorm hits. Most of these occur in the afternoon and can make boating a hazardous experience. Since these storms move from west to east you will have to deal with it to get back to Indian River or Lewes.

I will never forget a friend of mine in Virginia who got caught out in a small but nasty storm, this particular beast centered directly over Rudee Inlet.  My friend was, if nothing else, a determined man. Another friend on the boat was not particularly convinced heading directly in to the storm was the best decision. As they approached the black cloud with lightning spitting out in all directions I feel certain my timid friend thought he was heading into the gates of Hell.  He asked the captain if he planned to go through that thing.  The captain shouted over the wind, "Unless you can teach this d*mn thing to fly I am.”

My timid friend dropped to his knees and began to pray.

Happily no damage was done and everyone survived, but I am sure my timid friend never fished with that captain again.

The best way to avoid the afternoon winds and thunderstorms is go out and come back early. I try to leave the dock by 6 a.m. and be back no later than 2 p.m. I seldom fish more than a few miles from the dock so if I see or hear about an approaching storm I can run back before it hits. If you keep your VHF radio on channel 16 you will get weather warnings.

Offshore fishermen seldom head home before 3 or 4 p.m. so they are going to get the worst of the afternoon winds and storms.  Hopefully, they have a boat that can take a pounding and a captain that has the skills to get them through whatever comes.

 *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.

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