By Eric Burnley Sr.*
Updated: Nov. 25, 2015
DELAWARE BAY The Rips between Cape May and Cape Henlopen produced the first two rockfish of the fall run. The 15-pound class fish were taken last Saturday on MOJOS trolled between the Eights and Overfalls Shoal. On Tuesday morning a few more rockfish were caught from the Rips. We are hopeful this is just the beginning of a great fishery this year.
If you plan to fish the Rips it would be a good idea to acquire a New Jersey FIN. These are free and available online. Without the New Jersey FIN you can get a ticket for fishing on their side of the Delaware Bay. Since it can be difficult to see boundary lines on the water, having the FIN will take some worry off your mind.
Something else to be aware of is the increased enforcement of the moratorium on fishing for or procession of striped bass in federal waters. The Coast Guard will be enforcing this regulation, as will Division of Fish & Wildlife Natural Resource Police. You really don’t want to violate this law as it is federal and instead of seeing a state magistrate you will be hauled before a federal judge.
The weather last weekend did nothing to help anglers. A very few tog were caught over bay reef sites and that’s about it. If we see better weather conditions the tog fishing could improve. Reports from the Outer Wall indicate a very few keeper tog caught on the very few days when fishing was possible.
White perch are still in good supply and size in the tidal creeks and rivers. Bloodworms have produced most of these fish with many over the one-pound mark.
INSHORE OCEAN Very few boats tried to fish out here over the weekend. Those who did took a beating and did not catch many fish. Better weather this weekend should produce better fishing for tog on the inshore wrecks and reefs with black sea bass over structure beyond the 20-Fathom Line.
INDIAN RIVER INLET Small tog and rockfish on sand fleas, eels and green crab. The occasional keeper is boxed with most of the larger rockfish taken after dark.
SURF FISHING We are supposed to have light east wind late this week and that could be what we need to move the rockfish close to the beach. If they make an appearance, cut bunker or fresh clams will be the best bait. On the off chance that big blues and rock blitz the beach chasing bunker, try large plugs or metal lures.
FRESHWATER It looks like some decent weather for bass or pickerel fishing over the holiday weekend. The cold spell early in the week should have sent a message to the fish that winter is coming and they better eat everything in sight. The state ponds and tidal rivers and creeks should see excellent action.
Trout are still available in White Clay Creek. Baits such as minnows, worms and grubs are the best bet with spinners and flies always available for the pure of heart.
PLUGS AND METALS IN THE SURF It is possible that we could see large numbers of big blues and rockfish in the surf this fall and early winter. If this does occur Delaware surf fishermen may get a chance to use some of the lures that haven’t seen the light of day in years.
Like most of us, I usually rig two surf outfits with bait and enough weight to hold bottom, cast the baited rig out, put the rod in a sand spike, then sit and wait for a bite. I always have a lighter outfit rigged with a metal lure just in case the opportunity arises to do some casting.
I grew up reading about surf fishermen on Cape Cod casting big plugs with linen line and Penn Squidder reels on bamboo rods and landing huge striped bass from the surf. I must admit when I finally did get out on Cape Cod I never used the first piece of bait catching big blues and decent-sized rockfish on poppers and metal lures. It was a dream come true.
Back in Delaware I found metal lures worked well on big blues, but plugs were soon destroyed. The same was true during the glory days of big blues on Hatteras Island.
Then the big blues went away until this spring and so did my metal lures. Now it looks like the big blues and rockfish could descend on Delaware beaches so perhaps those artificials will come back into play.
I use metal lures, like a Hopkins No=Equal or Shorty, because they cast like a bullet and can be fished in any depth of water. Crank it in fast and it stays close to the surface. Work it slow and it will hug the bottom. Let it touch the sand then bounce the lure and it looks like a sandeel trying to escape. It can be deadly during a blitz when you don’t want to use a surface lure for fear of hooking a seagull.
Poppers will produce those heart-stopping strikes that you will never forget. wo types of surface lures are available. The pencil popper that takes considerable work to produce the desired action. Once the lure hits the water allow it to rest tail down for a few seconds then take out the slack and slowly crank it in while whipping the rod tip so the plugs dances pretty much in one place.
Cup-faced poppers are worked with the same rod action, but are cranked in a bit faster. It doesn’t hurt to rest the plug for a few seconds, but be aware the best of these plugs are weighted so they cast better and they will sink.
A sort of combination of the two poppers is the walk-the-dog lure. It will scoot across the surface going from side to side as you twitch the rod.
Then there are the swimming plugs. Entire books have been written on how to fish these, so I will only touch the surface. Metal-lipped plugs have a slow swimming motion and require a slow retrieve. Darters have a sloped head that causes a swimming motion when allowed to work in a strong current. They work best in a rip with only a fast enough retrieve to keep a tight line. The jointed or solid minnow plugs work best with a steady retrieve. Needlefish lures work best when cranked in with a very slow retrieve. All plugs do their best work during low or no light situations.
*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.