By Eric Burnley Sr.*
Updated: May 21, 2015
NEW STRIPED BASS REG DNREC’s Division of Fish & Wildlife reminds anglers that the new recreational striped bass regulation went into effect May 11. The revised regulation brings Delaware into compliance with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s Atlantic Striped Bass Fisheries Management Plan, which now requires a 25-percent reduction in both the recreational and commercial striped bass harvests in 2015. The new regulation reduces recreational harvest through changes in size limits, but maintains Delaware’s current seasons and possession limits. Read more here about the new regulation.
DELAWARE BAY After a month of good bluefish action things are finally beginning to slow down. Some fish are still around and as late as Wednesday evening fly casters found blues inside Cape Henlopen between the fishing pier and the cape. The same crew also caught at least one red drum from this area.
Rockfish action in the upper bay also declined as the spawning run appears to be over. Rock were still caught from Augustine Beach down to Collins Beach including the Yellow Can, Red Can, 4L and 6L buoys and the end of the Augustine Beach Jetty. Bloodworms and cut bunker have been the top baits for fish in the lower slot limit of 28 to 37 inches.
Big catfish to over 12 pounds have been caught out of the C&D Canal. Cut bunker and bloodworms have been the top baits, but I am willing to bet some were caught on chicken livers and homemade stink baits.
The white perch fishing in all the tidal rivers and creeks is good. Bloodworms have produced fish to well over the one-pound mark.
In the lower bay black drum are in good supply. Unfortunately, most have been caught on the New Jersey side near the Cape May Canal. (If you plan to fish here you must have a New Jersey FIN number. It is free and you can get one online.) Clams are the most popular bait with sand fleas or blue crabs also used with good results.
Flounder fishing is fair in the Lewes and Rehoboth Canal and the Broadkill River. Last Friday the Lewes Harbour Marina held their Flounder Tournament and a six pounder took first place. Most of the prize winning fish were in the three to four pound range. A variety of baits including shiners, minnows, squid strips and live minnows along with artificials such as Gulp! and bucktails all produced good results.
Flounder were also caught on the Cape Henlopen Flats by anglers working metal jigs for bluefish.
We have had reports of croaker in the Murderkill River near Bowers Beach with most caught by anglers targeting white perch. Bloodworms produced the best results..
INSHORE OCEAN While the opening of black sea bass season was not a complete dud, it was not the bonanza most had hoped for. Reef Site 11 produced the best results on opening day with boats working further offshore reporting cod as well as sea bass in their catch. While not a red hot bite, keeper sea bass and flounder were caught on the Old Grounds.
As water temperatures approach the magic 68 degree mark, shark fishing should begin to improve. Threshers have been sighted and makos should be close behind. Both of these sharks delight in feeding on bluefish so they should find plenty to eat.
OFFSHORE Yellowfin tuna have been caught in the Wilmington Canyon and could arrive in the Baltimore by this weekend. Trolling has produced most of these fish. Deep droppers in the same area are catching golden and blueline tiles
INDIAN RIVER INLET The run of big bluefish continued into last weekend, but slowed during the week. A few stragglers were caught back in the bays and at Massey’s Ditch.
The lack of blues may give rockfish a shot. The larger fish should be moving up the coast from the Chesapeake Bay and out of Delaware Bay. I would expect the best action on incoming water on baits that resemble the herring and shad that are also at the inlet. Of course, a white bucktail and a white worm will still catch plenty of rock.
Flounder fishing is still a bit on the slow side. These fish are caught out of the VFW Slough and along the jetty rocks as well as Bubble Gum Beach. A live minnow will always work as will bucktails with a white worm, strips of fresh fish and the always popular Gulp!.
Expect the inlet and back bays to be crowded on the holiday weekend. To avoid the long lines at the boat ramp and have the best chance of actually catching a fish plan to be on the water at least an hour before sunrise and back out by 10 a.m.
SURF FISHING Big blues were caught from the beach over last weekend, but not so much during the week. Expect to see a few more caught this weekend, but I believe the main run is over.
I do expect to see more rockfish taken from the beach this weekend as the migratory fish depart the Delaware and Chesapeake Bay and head north. The best action should be very early in the morning, late in the afternoon and at night. Clams, bunker and sand fleas will be the top baits.
Good news for many of us surf fishermen was the arrival of kingfish and croakers at Fenwick Island. Bloodworms produced most of these fish and as the water warms up they should move further north.
FRESHWATER Bass fishermen are now working the deeper water of local ponds as most of their target species have moved off the beds. The outside edges of lily pads where the water drops off is a good bet with early anglers having the best success. Senkos, jigs and soft plastics will do the job.
Big crappie continue to come out of upstate ponds. Noxontown and Garrisons saw impressive catches with a minnow-and-jig combination one of the top producers.
Spillways continue to produce a mixed bag of bass, pickerel, perch and crappie. A live minnow fished on a jig head under a bobber is a good way to explore the possibilities of any spillway.
INLETS With fishing in the open waters of the bay and ocean improving anglers will be heading out to these areas. In order to reach their favorite fishing spots they have to transit an inlet. In some cases, like Indian River Inlet, this can be a very scary undertaking, but even normally tranquil inlets can pose a problem for novice and experienced captains alike.
Never ever take an inlet for granted. They all have their little quirks that can jump up and bite you on the posterior.
Some, like Indian River, have standing waves that are worst on outgoing water. When I ran my 14-foot tin boat out into the ocean from Indian River I would plan my trips to leave during the slack water before the incoming and return at least an hour before the outgoing. I do the same thing today in my 16-foot tin boat.
During the time I had a larger boat I would go in and out without too much concern about the stage of the current. That is not to say I didn’t take every precaution possible, I just didn’t stay at the dock because the current was outgoing.
To get out during times when the standing waves are rolling in, begin by slowing down. I have seen too any idiots run full speed into the standing waves, go airborne and then land in the trough just in time to be met by the next wave. Somehow, most of them survive, albeit with the cries of their passengers sounding in their ears.
Take each wave as it comes. It is not unusual to have a wave break across the bow. Don’t panic, the water should run off as you prepare for the next wave. Keep your speed equal to the waves so you approach each one without flying over the top or allowing the force of the wave to broach the boat.
Once outside the inlet keep in the channel between the red and green buoys. There is a shoal on the south side of the inlet that can produce some interesting wave conditions.
Coming back in is a lot like surfing. Let the wave carry the boat on the top and be prepared to add more speed in the trough to keep the following sea from coming in over the transom. Then it is back up on top of the next wave. There may be a second set of standing waves closer to the bridge, but they are not as steep as the ones at the mouth of the inlet.
Roosevelt Inlet can also be a bit rough on a north, northeast or northwest wind. Nothing like Indian River Inlet, but caution is advised under these conditions. The shoal area here is inside the inlet where the Broadkill and the Canal join. This is well marked with a red buoy.
I have not been out of Mispillion Inlet in a few years, but I suspect it is still the same. Never had a problem in the inlet, but there is a big shoal at the mouth. I run to the north after leaving the inlet, then back to the east once I have cleared the shoal. Small boats can run straight out on a flood tide, but I prefer to go around the shoal so I don’t get into the habit of running over the shallow area.
As I said earlier, all inlets can be dangerous. Take your time, watch the water and good luck. And for Heaven’s sake, don’t try to run any inlet in a jon boat or pontoon.
*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.