By Eric Burnley Sr.*
Updated: April 11, 2014
ADVISORY: Anglers are reminded that the recreational black sea bass season closed in Delaware coastal waters Jan. 1. Federal waters, which begin 3 miles from shore, also closed on Jan. 1. Open season dates, minimum size and harvest limits for 2014 will be announced when finalized.
DELAWARE BAY Still getting reports of keeper rockfish caught from the upper bay with bloodworms the top bait. Please remember rockfish season is closed in the Delaware River above Reedy Point and also the entire C&D Canal. Anyone fishing with bait in these waters is required to use circle hooks.
White perch have been plentiful in the tidal creeks and along the shoreline in the lower Delaware River and upper bay. Bloodworms or grass shrimp work best for the perch. Perch are also available in the tidal rivers and creeks from Woodland Beach to the Broadkill River.
INDIAN RIVER INLET Had a report of a few short rockfish from the inlet. It may be a week or two before larger fish arrive.
There was at least one flounder caught last week. The 5-pound, 10-ounce beauty came from the FVW Slough. With warm, sunny days this fishing is sure to improve.
INSHORE OCEAN Several boats managed to get out last weekend and most found tog for their parties. Shorts far outnumbered keepers, but at least there was some decent action. The captains were unable to run very far off the beach due to the wind and with better weather in the forecast, this weekend could see a larger number of keepers. "Fresh calm" was the best bait.
SURF FISHING Still nothing from the beach in Delaware, but that could change any day. Rockfish have been caught off of the beach on Assateague Island and we are hopeful they will soon move north.
FRESHWATER From the reports I saw it looks like the opening day of trout season was a great success. Limit catches were made and several citations were caught. I suspect the good weather over the weekend brought out lots of anglers. As the season goes on the number of fishermen will decrease while the stocking will continue.
The ponds continue to produce bass, pickerel, crappie and perch. Live minnows or shiners remain the top baits with jerkbaits, jigs and crankbaits the top lures.
The Nanticoke River and Broad Creek have seen good fishing for bass and crappie. The spillway in Seaford or the Bethel Hole are the top locations for crappie. Bass will be around structure exposed on falling tides. Phillips Landing has seen decent numbers of white perch for anglers soaking bloodworms.
CATCH AND RELEASE With closed areas and the presence of short fish in most of our fisheries we all will be doing more catch and release fishing than we might like. Last week we discussed circle hooks that must be used in some locations and should be used whenever we are fishing with bait. While these hooks are a great help, they must be sublimated by careful catch and release practices.
In order to give a released fish the best chance for survival it must be brought to the boat as quickly as possible. Once there, if the fish is small lift it quickly from the water and using a wet rag secure the animal while removing the hook. Feisty fish like blues and flounder can be calmed by placing the rag over their eyes.
Larger fish should be released while still in the water when possible. A set of release grips can be very helpful in this situation.
If the release can’t be done while the fish is in the water bring it onboard using a rubber-lined net. The rubber is less damaging to the fish’s slime coat and scales. To return the fish to the water lift the entire animal from underneath to support the body and internal organs. Never, ever put your hands in the gills. Every time I see a photo of someone with both hands up inside the gill covers of a fish and the caption says the fish was released it makes me cringe.
When you bring a fish like a sea bass up from deep water the swim bladder is often extending from the mouth. I have read numerous articles on various methods for releasing these fish by puncturing the bladder. I simply return the fish to the water and after a few minutes it recovers and swims away.
The bottom line is the less we handle the fish and the quicker we get it back in the water the greater the chance it will survive. Since these fish are the future of our sport we will all benefit from good catch and release practices.
*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.