By Eric Burnley Sr.*
Updated: April 18, 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 Rockfish action in the upper bay was pretty good over the weekend with several keepers to over 40 pounds taken from the shoreline and from boats. Augustine Beach all the way down to Collins Beach saw decent fishing with bloodworms and fresh bunker the top baits. Boaters had their best luck chunking with fresh bunker. Don’t forget the striped bass season is closed above and including the C&D Canal where circle hooks must be used when fishing with bait.
White perch and catfish were caught along the shoreline of the bay and in the feeder creeks and rivers. Bloodworms are the prime bait for perch, while the catfish will take cut bunker.
Nothing to report from the lower bay, but the first flounder of the season was taken on Gulp! from the Lewes and Rehoboth Canal. The cold snap that blew in on Wednesday is going to put a crimp in the flounder action, but I expect it to get back on track next week.
INDIAN RIVER INLET Small rock have been caught here along with a few small tog. I believe we are still a few weeks away from any sizable run of either species.
INSHORE OCEAN Tog fishing was very good for boats running out of Lewes and Indian River. Several parties caught a limit of fish while working inshore structure. Green crabs and clams were the preferred baits.
I spoke with one captain who said he had interesting marks that may have been Boston mackerel while fishing near the shipping channel. The last time we had a good mackerel season was after a very cold winter. Only time will tell.
SURF FISHING The ocean beach remains devoid of anything except the occasional skate. There have been reports of a few rockfish from Assateague Island and we can hope for some of these fish to make it this far north.
FRESHWATER Stocking continues at the trout streams in New Castle County and from the reports I have received fishing remains productive. The crowds will be thinning out as the season progresses and this will improve the fishing experience.
Ponds continue to see good fishing for pickerel. I have seen more pictures of big pickerel this spring than at any time in recent memory. Jigs, spinners and spoons with take pickerel as will live minnows and shiners.
Bass fishing has also been good with big fish caught on minnows and shiners. I have seen a few big crappie and some nice white perch. Larger numbers of perch are in the tidal creeks and rivers feeding into the Delaware Bay.
The Nanticoke River and Broad Creek hold good numbers of bass, perch, crappie and pickerel. There are also plenty of rockfish in these waters, but with the season closed in Delaware and Maryland it is illegal to target these fish.
EARLY FLOUNDER Rockfish may provide the glamor for early spring fishing, but it is the flounder that more people pursue. These fish are never more available to small boat anglers than they are in the spring.
Flounder will be in shallow water until it reaches above 68 degrees and then they will seek cooler, deep water. White they are in the shallows they will be actively feeding on all sorts of bait. I have caught them on shad darts that I believe imitate shrimp as well as the D.O.A. shrimp and live minnows.
One trick I have had good success with is fishing a large minnow without any weight.This will work in water up to six feet deep and is very effective on the shallows of Indian River Bay. Since the bottom is visible here I will let line out until the live minnow is 25 to 30 feet from the boat. Then I put the rod in a holder until it bends down towards the water. A circle hook should be employed for best results. Keep an eye out for other boats nearby as they might not be aware then you have lines out that far from your boat.
When fishing the Broadkill River or Lewes and Rehoboth Canal I use the same technique. When the current is really cooking I may have to add a split shot or very small sinker to encourage the minnow to head to the bottom.
The shallow water along the beach from Broadkill to Cape Henlopen is a good location for early flounder. The Cape Henlopen Fishing Pier has produced good flounder fishing on high tides.
Another flounder killer in shallow water is a Gulp! Shrimp on a small jig head. Just bounce the rig off the bottom and it will be attacked if there are any flounder in the neighborhood.
A lot of folks use a Speck Rig for flounder. This is another good set up and if you tip the hooks with Gulp! or squid it will improve its effectiveness.
As a general rule spring flounder fishing will be best on an outgoing current in the afternoon. Since you have to fish when you can and not always when you want, just get out and do it.
*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.