By Eric Burnley Sr.*
Updated: October 30, 2014
DELAWARE BAY DISCLAIMER: All reports reflect what has occurred during the past week. I have no idea what fishing will be like after the passage of the nor’easter this weekend. I am certain that no one in their right mind will be fishing as winds are forecast to 40 knots and waves to seven feet.
Good numbers of tog have been caught from various bay structure including reef sites, wrecks and rock walls. The Inner and Outer walls and the Ice Breakers are the most convenient locations for private boaters and have seen good action over the last week. Expect dirty water early next week and that will curtail any efforts to catch tog. When conditions improve green crab will be the best bait.
Rockfish catches were restricted to the tidal rivers and creeks and underwater structure around the Yellow Can. Most of those fish were much smaller than the 28-inch minimum size. A very few keepers were taken from these waters. Bloodworms made the best bait with eels or cut bunker used to take the few keepers.
The nor’easter should encourage those migrating schools of striped bass to our north to move into our region. Look for the first sign of these fish in the upper bay around Collins Beach and shoals at Miah Maull or the Crossover. Bunker chunking has been the top technique in this area.
Shortly after arriving, rockfish will begin to stage at the rips located between Cape May and Cape Henlopen. Here it is trolling with Stretch 25 plugs or drifting with live eels that will do most of the damage.
The pier at Cape Henlopen State Park is closed until further notice. Several pilings must be repaired before the pier can reopen. There is talk of building a new pier, but that would take a lot of time and money.
White perch have been caught in all the tidal creeks and rivers. Bloodworms are the best bait and expect to catch a few short rockfish along with the perch.
INSHORE OCEAN The top sea bass action remains 20 to 30 miles off the beach. Boats that make the long run are rewarded with limit catches plus some triggerfish and blues. Even a flounder or two have been taken. The bait is fresh or salted clam.
Inshore locations such as reef sites 10 and 11, the Radford wreck and the Old Grounds have produced a fair pick of sea bass with a few ling and flounder mixed in the catch. As is always the case, some days are better than others. Clam has been the best bait.
Tog fishing in the ocean remains on the slow side. The warm water temperature has these fish on the slow side, but that could change after the next spell of cold weather.
OFFSHORE OCEAN The best offshore fishing is now down in Oregon Inlet or out of Hatteras Village. They are catching king mackerel, blackfin tuna and a few yellowfins.
INDIAN RIVER INLET Fishing for tog with sand fleas or green crab has been the best bet here. Work the bait tight to the rocks and expect to lose some tackle. It is possible to catch a sheepshead or rockfish with the same bait.
The vast majority of the rockfish being caught are shorts. These fish will take live eels or sand fleas on both day and night tides. The occasional keeper has been caught on eels worked after dark.
Blues in the 10- to 12-inch class have come through the inlet on incoming water. They will hit most any lure you put in front of them with metals able to withstand their teeth better than any other offering.
SURF FISHING Sharks and skates have replaced tiny blues as the most caught fish from the beach. The little blues are still around, but may move out after the weekend storm.
We are getting close to the time when big rockfish and blues move into the surf. I plan to be on the beach on Monday to soak a few clams and bunker chunks just in case those migratory rockfish show up.
FRESHWATER Pond fishing should be improving as cooler temperatures put bass and crappie in a feeding mood. While lures such as Senkos, crankbaits and spinnerbaits will work, a nice live shiner or minnow will work better.
With trout now stocked in White Clay Creek the more serious trout anglers can have a great experience fishing in relative peace and quiet. Live bait, spinners or flies should all work on the trout.
White perch and catfish are in the upper reaches of the tidal creeks and rivers. Bloodworms for the perch and chicken livers for the cats.
AFTER THE STORM According to most reports we are in for a bit of a blow this weekend. I have already reserved a nice warm and dry spot to watch college football on Saturday, but on Monday I plan to be on the beach soaking clams. I really don’t know why, but for whatever reason rockfish seem to like clams when the water is riled up after a blow.
Boaters may have to wait a day or two for the water in the bay and ocean to clear, but then they should have good fishing for tog. The storm and following cold front will drop water temperatures and put these fish in the mood to start eating green crabs.
The big fly in the ointment is how far and how fast the water temperature will drop. A sudden and drastic decline will turn the fish off. They are cold blooded animals so when the water turns suddenly colder so does their body temperature and rockfish may hightail it out further in the ocean where the temperature is better suited to their disposition. Tog will just lay down and wait for things to improve.
If you are the adventurous type you can take a shot at Indian River Inlet during the height of the storm. There is an outside chance that a few big rockfish and blues might come in chasing after bait that will be carried by high tides on the northeast wind. If you decide to do this please stay on the sidewalk and don’t try to go out on the jetty.
*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.