By Eric Burnley Sr.*
Updated: April 23, 2015
DELAWARE BAY Rockfish are being caught from shore and from boats with both areas seeing a slow but steady bite. The reports I have received indicate the vast majority of anglers are not catching keeper rock, but hey, it’s spring and just getting out on the water is a blessing.
Catch-and-release rockfishing is taking place from Fox Point to Green’s Beach and Dobbinsville.
Bloodworms have been the top bait from shore with cut bunker also effective. Remember to use non-offset circle hooks when fishing with bait from a line running east of the South Jetty at the C&D Canal north to the Penn.-Del. line.
Keepers and shorts were caught at Augustine Beach down to Collins Beach including the pier at Woodland Beach. Boaters launching from these ramps are finding rockfish willing to take cut bunker at the Yellow Can, 4 and 6L buoys.
Broadkill Beach saw a few keeper rockfish and bluefish over the weekend. A bait shop owner from this area told me he was sold out of bloodworms by Saturday afternoon. To date I have not heard a report of any black drum being caught from here. In addition to bloodworms, rockfish were caught on fresh bunker and clams.
White perch are available along the shoreline of the lower river and upper bay as well as the tidal rivers and creeks. One angler fishing with jumbo bloodworms on a big circle hook caught a citation-sized white perch Grass shrimp will also attract the perch.
Tog have made an appearance around the mouth of the bay. Most caught over the weekend were taken from wrecks and reefs. The bite at the Inner and Outer walls has not started, but should get underway very soon. With green crabs difficult to find, anglers are using clams, shrimp and blue crabs. This has not been a major handicap as several boats landed their limit.
Flounder were caught out of the Lewes and Rehoboth Canal last week. Live minnows were the most popular bait. Fishing pressure has been light with a few folks taking home a four-fish limit.
INSHORE Tog fishing was slow last weekend with more cod caught than tog. That would have been fine, but most of the cod were shorts.
No reports of blues or rockfish caught from boats. The high winds and rough seas may have contributed to this lack of interest.
INDIAN RIVER INLET Finally a good report from the inlet. On Tuesday a fair run of bluefish to 30 inches occurred on the north side of the inlet from the bridge back to the Coast Guard Station. Bucktails seemed to be the most popular lure with Swim-shads also accounting for a few fish. On Wednesday morning the action moved to the south side from the bridge on out to the beach. With luck this action will continue for a few weeks. The bite will be on and off as the blues move in and out feeding on bunker.
The inlet saw a few flounder caught. The VFW Slough in Indian River Bay also gave up some flatfish. Live minnows and bucktails accounted for most of these fish.
Most of the tog and rockfish caught from the rocks were shorts. If the bunker schools stay around for a few more weeks we could see keeper rock taken form the inlet and Indian River Bay.
SURF FISHING We finally have a few fish caught from the beach. Actually, if you were in the right place at the right time with some fresh bunker you could rack up a good number of blues to 30 inches. Three Rs Road was one such place and was the North Beach near Savages Ditch. Beach Plum Island south of Broadkill Beach also produced big blues. Blues should move in and out depending on bait and wind. The best bet is to go when you can and hope you hit it right.
Rockfish were caught along the beach from Broadkill to Three Rs Road. Most of the rock are short, but the occasional keeper has been reported. Cut bunker, clams and bloodworms are the best baits.
FRESHWATER Just about all the state ponds from Becks to Records are seeing decent bass fishing. Live shiners have been the best bait with Senkos also accounting for a few fish. Crappie fishing is good in the same ponds with live minnows fished on a crappie jig the hot set-up.
Trout fishing has remained pretty good in the stocked streams in New Castle County. Brown trout were stocked last Thursday and those who were there right after the stocking had good results. Those of us who were there on Wednesday did not fare as well.
The Nanticoke River and Broad Creek have seen fair to good fishing for bass and crappie. The spillway at Laurel and below the dam in Seaford are two of the better crappie locations. Rockfish are moving up these waters from the Chesapeake Bay to spawn. If you fish with bait from now until May 31 you must use a non-offset circle hook. I would expect to see herring and shad congregating at the spillway in Laurel and that will draw many anglers. All herring must be released and only 10 shad may be kept each day.
SPRING FISHING For the most part fishermen start too early in the spring and quit too soon in the fall. This is understandable since in the spring we are all winter-weary and anxious to get out of the house, while in the fall we have caught plenty of fish all summer and many of us are anxious to get out hunting.
The water temperature in the spring is usually too cold for any good fishing and this year the situation has been even worse. I personally like to see at least 50 degrees before even thinking about fishing and really don’t get too excited until I see water temps in the 55 to 60 degree range. Please don’t tell me about all the blues and flounder caught this week with the water temperature hovering close to 50 degrees. Nothing in fishing is a certainty and this is just one of the exceptions that prove the rule. I have no idea what the blues will do, but I feel fairly certain that flounder fishing will only improve as the water temperature gets closer to 60 degrees.
Bottom fishing is a bit more difficult to predict. We can figure out the surface water temperature pretty easily, but the temperature in 50, 60 or 100 feet is a bit more difficult. About the only way to find out if the sea bass and tog are feeding is to drop a bait down and see what happens.
There was a time when it was important to me to catch the first blue, flounder, trout or rockfish of the year. I would go out on any decent weather day and beat the water to a frothy foam and maybe catch one or two fish. Nowadays, I let other folks do all that work. I wait until I hear of lots of people catching fish and then I go. I guess my days as a pioneer are over...
*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.