By Eric Burnley Sr.*
Updated: May 17, 2013
DELAWARE BAY We continue to get good reports on rockfish caught in the upper bay. Fresh bunker is the prime bait and the Yellow Can, 6L and 4L buoys are the most frequently mentioned locations.
The Coral Beds showed signs of life with the first reported drum catch made over the weekend. Fresh clams have been the top bait and fishing is best in the evening and after dark. Right now the action is in water as shallow as 10 feet.
Flounder fishing has been fair in the Lewes and Rehoboth Canal and the Broadkill River. Some anglers are catching a limit white others are skunked. Live minnows, squid, shiners and smelt are the top baits. A Speck Rig and Gulp! swimming mullet has been the most productive artificial. The current 18-inch minimum size will drop one inch to 17 inches on June 11. The four-fish daily bag limit will remain.
There have been several weakfish caught in the canal and the Broadkill River. These fish have been up to seven ponds and while not numerous, they do give us hope that trout are coming back.
The Cape Henlopen Pier has seen decent numbers of flounder. Speck Rigs with Gulp! swimming mullet has accounted for many of the keepers. The most productive time to fish has been after dark.
INDIAN RIVER INLET We have reports of very good rockfish action from the jetties at night. The magic time has been between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m., but that can change with the tide and current. Shads and bucktails have been the top lures.
Blues to seven pounds have been caught during the day and at night. They just love shads and bucktails and the local tackle shops love bluefish, but it may be more cost efficient to throw metal lures when blues are in the area.
Recent windy weather has made drifting for flounder difficult with a few fish caught in the VFW Slough. The pier at Massey’s Ditch can be a good flounder location when the winds howl. Try casting a bucktail or Speck Rig with a Gulp! swimming mullet across the ditch and allowing the current to work it back.
INSHORE OCEAN Nothing to report here as we are in between tog and sea bass season. Sea bass will open on Sunday, May 19, and while I have been waiting anxiously for this day, it looks like I will have to put off plans to fish as the forecasted marine conditions call for five-foot seas. I am sure the larger head and charter boats will still sail, but a 22-footer and five-foot seas are too much for old people.
SURF FISHING The beach has been the place to be for keeper rockfish with cut bunker or clams the best bait. Fish to 40 inches have been reported from Herring Point down to Fenwick Island. As always, the best action is early in the morning or late in the evening. An east wind is another positive factor.
Blues to seven pounds have been caught along with a few kings and croaker. Black drum to 30 pounds have been taken on clams at Broadkill Beach on down to Three Rs Road.
FRESHWATER The trout in New Castle County will be harder to catch now that they have become accustomed to life in the wild, but live bait, spinners and Gulp! trout bait should draw a few to the hook. Fly fishers have the section from Thompson’s Bridge to the Pennsylvania line to practice their sport.
Bass fishermen working the ponds are finding good numbers of takers on shiners, buzzbaits, plastics and crankbaits. If the warm weather continues, it won’t be long before the bass go into their summer pattern.
Bass have been caught in the Nanticoke River and Broad Creek with jigs a favored bait. Fishing close to structure on a falling tide is the best technique. Crappie have been caught at the spillways in Laurel and Seaford and the Bethel Hole. Live minnows are the top crappie attractor.
Crappie remain available in several other locations, but the size of the ones caught out of Noxontown Pond continue to amaze. Citation-size fish to over two pounds were caught there last week and hardly a week goes by without someone catching a big crappie out of this private pond.
Catfish and white perch are available in the tidal rivers and creeks on both sides of the state. Bloodworms for the perch and cut bunker for the cats.
THINK BEFORE YOU ACT With black sea bass season opening on Sunday I am sure many people will be out there trying to fill their 25-fish bag limit with fish over 12.5 inches. On the first day this should not be a big problem, but I do ask you to take only what you need and save a few for those of us who won’t make it out until later in the week.
Sea bass are seldom picky so clam, squid or any type of cut bait will usually draw strikes. While it is good to be close to the bottom it is not necessary to maintain contact as you do when fishing for tog. Drop the rig down until you feel bottom then crank up a few inches. This will put the bait in the strike zone and save a few bottom rigs.
I use a top-bottom rig armed with circle hooks. When I feel a bite I let the line go slack for a few seconds then crank it up until the line comes tight. This allows the fish to get the bait into its mouth where the circle hook will do its job on the way out. With such a large minimum size there will be a lot of released fish and the circle hook insures a better survival rate than J hooks.
The larger sea bass in a school will hit first. Once you begin to catch nothing but small fish it is time to change locations.
While the vast majority of sea bass anglers will us bait, some of my biggest fish have come on lures. Metal jigs are great as are the new style large leadheads made by Shimano and Tsunami. Bucktails have too much water resistance to be effective in depths over 50 feet.
Some boats will anchor over structure while others will drift. I prefer to drift because I am too old to be pulling in anchors. An anchored boat will have constant action while drifters will catch when the boat is over the structure then have to run back and make another drift. One exception to this is fishing rough bottom such as found at the Old Grounds. Here the fish are spread out and drifting is often more productive than anchoring.
Head and charter boats will be running from Lewes and Indian River, so if you are like me and don’t want to take a small boat out in big seas give one of these captains a call. I suspect reservations will be required on opening day. Good luck!.