By Eric Burnley Sr.*
Updated: Nov. 26, 2014
DELAWARE BAY There are rockfish in the bay, but the keepers are few and far between. There are good numbers of rock off the South Jersey coast, but few have moved within striking range of Delaware boats.
The Upper Bay along the channel between 4L and 6L buoys has been fair for rockfish with more shorts then keepers. The same is true for the Yellow Can and the channel east of Augustine Beach. Chunking with bunker has been the top technique.
The rips between Cape May and Cape Henlopen have produced a few big rockfish on trolled plugs or drifted live eels or spot. To say it has been a slow pick is a vast understatement.
Tog fishing in the bay has been pretty much a bust with the exception of the Outer Wall and the Ice Breakers. When weather conditions permit safe toggling off the rocks anglers have had some success using green crabs. One key to catching tog in any number is not staying in one location too long. The more successful fishermen are moving around until they catch a limit.
The tidal creeks and rivers hold good numbers of white perch with some of citation size. Bloodworms have remained the top bait. Catfish and small rockfish have been taken on the same bait in the same locations.
INSHORE OCEAN I must admit I was somewhat surprised to hear that limits of tog were caught at Reef Site 10 over the weekend. After the beating this location took the previous weekend I didn’t think there would be any keepers left. Let’s hope it holds up for the coming weekend as the rockfish run is so poor I don’t think many boaters will even try. Green crab has been the top bait here.
Sea bass catches have been excellent for those who are willing to run 20 miles or more off the beach. The Del-Jersey-Land Reef is 26 miles off the Indian River Inlet and this artificial reef (one of 15 in Delaware waters) is the closest location where one can expect a decent catch of sea bass. Most anglers are baiting up with clam or squid. Jigs will cull out some of the short fish. Flounder and triggerfish have been caught along with the sea bass
INDIAN RIVER INLET A few more keeper rockfish were caught after dark on live eels or spot. The majority of fish are still below the 28-inch minimum size during both day and night tides.
One technique that is used by a few fishermen is trolling plugs at night. This method will not work during the day when lots of boats are present, but it does produce when traffic is low.
Tog fishermen soaking green crabs are catching these fish out of the rocks. It is a matter of how long you can stand to sit on the rocks waiting for a bite that determines how many tog you catch.
SURF FISHING If you enjoy participating in a completely fruitless endeavor, please join me on the beach where we can drown bunker chunks together. I have heard of one keeper rockfish caught from the sand this fall, but that reality does not deter me from trying. Let’s face facts, if I had any sense at all I would never go surf fishing in the first place.
FRESHWATER Last week there was skim ice on Red Mill Pond and while it didn’t last very long it was an indication that the water is getting very cold. Cold water means live bait or a very slow presentation with artificial lures. I am sure there are bass willing to take a bait or lure, but it is going to take a bit of patience to catch one.
Crappie are not quite as difficult to catch as bass, but it will still take a small minnow on a jig to get them to strike. The biggest problem will be finding concentrations of these fish in the ponds or rivers. Spillways are always a good choice during cold weather.
White perch and catfish have been caught from the tidal rivers and creeks. Bloodworms will be best for the perch while cats may be taken on cut bunker.
LET'S BE THANKFUL Delaware fishermen have a great deal to be thankful for. We have pond fishing second to none with bass, crappie and pickerel all plentiful. Our tidal rivers and creeks also hold the same species. There are even piers to aid in accessing many of these locations.
The trout stocking program puts fish within easy access of anglers in all three counties. We have excellent fishing in the spring and then again in the fall when White Clay Creek receives an additional stocking. This is all the more remarkable since there is no historical record of trout ever being native to Delaware waters.
Saltwater fishermen can access areas from Wilmington to Fenwick Island. Delaware boat ramps are free to Delaware residents and so is walk-on surf fishing. Those surf fishermen who choose to drive on the beach have plenty of access thanks to our state parks.
While saltwater fishermen never really know what they are going to catch from one year to the next those who are willing to go after what is available rather than what they wish was available have excellent results. The flounder fishing in the ocean last year was the best it has ever been while croakers lined the bottom of Delaware Bay. I went after both and now have a good supply of fish for the winter.
Much of this good fishing and access is due to the work of people at the Fish and Wildlife and State Park divisions. They manage most of the ponds in the state, run the trout stocking program, operate the parks where many of us fish and manage many of our fresh and saltwater species. We need to be thankful for their work in our behalf.
*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.