By Eric Burnley Sr.*
Updated: August 28, 2014
DELAWARE BAY Flounder fishing was very good at bay reef sites until the dry nor’easter made the seas toO rough for fishing. Last week it was the strong current from the "super moon" and this weekend when the current subsided the wind picked up. Nevertheless, anglers recorded limit catches on the good weather days in between. Bucktailing directly over the structure at the reef sites has been the top technique. The jigs should carry a sweetener like Gulp!, squid, fish strips or a strip of squid and either a minnow or spearing.
The reef sites also held the larger croaker. These fish took squid, bloodworms, Gulp! or FishBites. Croaker will soon move out of the bay and begin spawning along the oceanfront.
Croaker were caught in the upper bay from Augustine Beach to Port Mahon. Bloodworms were the most popular bait with squid or chunks of fresh fish also used.
Slot rockfish were caught on bloodworms and cut bunker at the Yellow Can and in the mouths of various tidal creeks and rivers. This season will end on August 31 and the minimum size will return to 28 inches.
White perch and catfish are along the shoreline of the lower Delaware River and in the tidal creeks and rivers. Bloodworms for the perch and cut bunker or chicken livers for the cats.
In the lower bay, flounder were caught around the Outer and Inner walls, from the Cape Henlopen Fishing Pier and even from the shoreline between Broadkill Beach and Cape Henlopen. The vast majority of these fish have been small with only the occasional keeper taken. Live minnows, Gulp!, strips of squid or fresh fish and spearing have all accounted for flounder catches. Fly rodders and light tackle anglers working the shoreline with streamers or small lures have encountered a few flounder. Croaker are also taken by these fishermen with the best action in the evening when the tide is high.
The Inner and Outer walls and the Ice Breakers have given up a few tog, sheepshead and triggerfish. Sand fleas or green crabs have accounted for most of these fish. Look for tog fishing to improve as the water cools.
The Broadkill River and the Lewes and Rehoboth Canal hold large croakers and spot. Bloodworms are best for the spot while squid, Gulp! and FishBites will catch the croaker. A few very nice speckled trout have been caught out of the Broadkill River.
Slot rockfish were caught around the bridges over the canal in Lewes and along the grassy shoreline in the canal and the Broadkill River. Some have been taken on surface lures while other fell for clams or small eels. Low light periods at dawn and dusk have been the best time to fish.
The pier at Cape Henlopen State Park has seen good fishing for croaker and spot. High tide has been the best time to fish with bloodworms the most productive bait.
INSHORE OCEAN Prior to the weekend blow, the reef sites, the Old Grounds and the rough bottom between A and B buoys produced good numbers of flounder. I saw several limits caught in these locations on jigs baited with fish strips, squid and spearing combos and Gulp! Another productive rig is a Delaware Bay Green Machine carrying the same baits. I believe this fishery will improve as more flounder leave the bay and head into the ocean to spawn.
The reef sites also held triggerfish and croaker. The triggers and croaker will both take clams. There were a few keeper sea bass caught by flounder fishermen at the Old Grounds.
Trollers caught wahoo, dolphin and false albacore at the inshore lumps. The Hot Dog, Hambone and Chicken Bone were a few of the locations where these fish have been found. Ballyhoo behind a Sea Witch or Ilander has been the best attractor. A short shot of wire leader will help keep a wahoo on the line. The east wind should move clear, warm water even closer to the beach bringing in more of these fish.
OFFSHORE OCEAN Fishing out here should be very good once the wind calms down and the tropical storm passes well offshore. Marlin and tuna will be moving south feeding on bait bunched up by the wind and waves. These are the days when multiple marlin release flags will be flying from outriggers.
INDIAN RIVER INLET Fishing at the inlet and in the back bays has dropped off and it wasn’t that good to begin with. Flounder catches are mostly shorts and the rockfish action has been the same. This is not to say no fish have been caught, it just hasn’t been producing much for the cooler.
The one area that has remained reasonably good is the croaker bite near Buoy 20. The fish may be small, but there are lots of them and they provide plenty of action. Bloodworms will be the best bait.
I would expect to see more blues coming through the inlet as their numbers have increased along the beach. The rockfish run is still a long ways off as the fish are currently holding in New England and New York.
Jetty fishermen willing spend time soaking sand fleas may connect with the stray tog or sheepshead. The same bait drifted at night could produce a few rockfish.
SURF FISHING Bluefish have been in good supply along the beach. Even over the weekend when wind and waves drove most people back from the surf, those who stuck it out had a decent catch of blues with a few kings. Cut, fresh mullet was the top bait.
We are beginning to see better action from the surf and this should improve even more as the fall runs of blues and rockfish arrives here. Cut fresh mullet will be the top bait until they move out and then it will be fresh bunker. Bloodworms will produce kings and croaker.
FRESHWATER Bass fishermen are gearing up for some good fall action in the ponds. As the days grow short and the water begins to cool the bass will begin feeding to put on some weight for the winter. The old favorites like Senkos, crankbaits or live shiners will all do the job.
Crappie are schooling up for the same reason as the bass. Small minnows on a jig or fished under a bobber should produce plenty of action.
The white perch and catfish that normally populate the upper reaches of the tidal rivers and creeks will be caught on cut bunker or bloodworms. This is one fishery that remains fairly constant during the year.
The bass and pickerel in the Nanticoke River and Broad Creek may be caught during falling tides by fishing around cover. The bass seem to like wood while the pickerel prefer vegetation. This is not cast in stone with either one likely to show up in the other's neighborhood. Jigs work for the bass while the pickerel like something shiny. Both will take a live bait.
BE CAREFUL OUT THERE This will be the last holiday weekend of the summer season and while the crowds will not be as large as on the Fourth of July, there will still be plenty of people on the water. Most will be well mannered and sober, but it only takes one bad-tempered drunk to ruin your day.
I believe in defensive driving on the road and on the water. If you can avoid trouble you should do so even if it means your manhood may take a hit. The best thing to do, should you encounter a bad situation, is to call for help from the Delaware State Park Rangers, DNREC Enforcement, Coast Guard or the State Police. You can dial 911 and the dispatcher will put you in touch with the proper authority.
Try to have as much information as possible to give to the responding officer. The license plate of the vehicle or trailer. The boat registration number or at least a description of the craft. Let the dispatcher know if anyone has been injured so they can send medical help right away.
Being on or near the water should be a fun thing, but some people take the occasion to behave badly. Booze is usually involved and the impaired person can put you and everyone around you in danger. The worst thing you can do is get involved in a verbal confrontation that will lead to a physical one. Keep your distance and don’t talk to anyone other than the 911 dispatcher.
*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.