By Eric Burnley Sr.*
Updated: July 20, 2017
DELAWARE BAY Overall fishing in the bay has improved with more kings, flounder and triggerfish taken primarily on reef sites. The occasional trout has been caught in the same areas. The key to success is the ability to hold the boat directly over hard structure and drop the bait or jig down as close to a 90-degree angle as possible. While drifting from one structure to the next also works, it is not nearly as effective as working directly over the rubble. Baits include shiners, squid, live minnows, bloodworms and Gulp!
Some of the reef sites and the Outer Wall hold good numbers of triggerfish and sheepshead. Successful anglers will toggle off the Outer Wall as if they were fishing for tog. Baits for sheepshead include crab and sand fleas while the triggerfish like clam, bloodworms or squid. Keep in mind the tog season reopened on July 17.
Still not hearing much about keeper rockfish in the summer slot limit. One is caught here or there with no real pattern. Rockfish on either side of the 20 to 25-inch slot seem to be abundant.
The fishing pier at Cape Henlopen State Park has seen a few keeper flounder on live minnows fished near the pilings. Triggerfish have also been caught around the pier supports with small pieces of clam the best bait. The top time to fish for triggers has been on slack water.
The supply of white perch and catfish remains steady with the tidal creeks and rivers as well as the shoreline of the river and bay. The fishing piers at Port Mahon, the C&D Canal and Woodland Beach are popular access locations. Bloodworms remain the prime bait for perch with cut bunker tops for catfish.
- ADVISORY: Summer Flounder Regulations: As of April 1, the minimum size for summer flounder in Delaware is 17 inches.The bag limit remains at four fish per day and the season runs for 365 days.
INSHORE OCEAN The flounder action seems to be improving at the Old Grounds as more fish have been caught over the past week. Baits such as squid, minnows and Gulp! have worked equally well. The key to fishing success here is find the structure where the flounder are feeding. The Old Grounds is a very large area and only a few locations are going to produce sizable flounder.
Sea bass have been caught off of wrecks and reefs on clam, squid and Stingsilvers. This late in the season most of the structure has been hit pretty hard, but a few keepers are still available.
The wrecks at Fenwick Island have seen blues in the two to three-pound class caught by trolling small spoons. Bottomfishing on these wrecks can be good for triggerfish on clam baits.
Look for dolphin around the bass pot balls and any other floating structure outside the shipping channel. Even when bottomfishing, keep a spinning rod handy with a small bucktail or hook already attached. When a dolphin is spotted cast the bucktail or baited hook in its direction.
Chunking and trolling have both produced tuna at the inshore lumps. They can be a bit congested on the weekends so make plans to arrive early in order to snag a good spot.
A couple of interesting events this week at the lumps. The Get R Done out of Ocean City was trolling for tuna at the Chicken Bone when they caught a 200-pound swordfish. To take a sword in 20 fathoms on a trolled bait in the daytime is very unusual. The Surface Tension out of Lewes left for the Lumps at 1 p.m. on Wednesday and they were back at the dock by dusk with three tuna and dolphin caught on the chunk. So much for getting an early start.
OFFSHORE OCEAN Tuna fishing has been a bit spotty in the deep. A few are caught on the troll, but some boats are switching to deep dropping for tilefish so the party can take some meat back home.
I have a very good friend who only fishes for bills and he has yet to release his first this year. He has no reason as to why billfish are not here, but hopes they arrive before the White Marlin Open in two weeks.
INDIAN RIVER INLET While still a long way from hot, the flounder bite at the Inlet and in the Back Bays has improved from dismal to hopeful. While four-fish limits are extremely rare, keepers are becoming more common.
The southside of the Inlet alongside the campground, the VFW Slough and Massey’s Ditch are some of the better fishing locations. Live minnows, squid, spot and Gulp! have all accounted for some flatfish.
Triggerfish and sheepshead have been caught out of the jetty rocks on sand fleas and clam. Drifting sand fleas after dark has produced a few keeper flounder. Drifting the same area with a live minnow during the day can produce flounder.
Blues have come through here on early morning tides.
SURF FISHING No change here. Kings on bloodworms along with dogfish and skates.
FRESHWATER No change here either. The lower Brandywine River is seeing some musky and bass on live bait and plugs. White perch are also available on bloodworms.
The ponds give up largemouth bass on Senkos, Scum Frogs and live minnows. This summer heat has the fish seeking shade under Lilly pads and blowdowns.
The upper reaches of the tidal rivers and creeks hold bass and crappie. An early or late day falling tide is the most productive time to fish with crankbaits and jigs.
START EARLY Anyone that has lived in Delaware for long will tell you, when the Delaware State Fair is open we will have the hottest weather of the year. And so it opened on Thursday and the temperature went well into the 90s with a heat index even higher.
Fishermen are likely to be on vacation or at least planning a trip or two during this hot spell and while the marine forecast for the next week is good, there are some precautions that should be taken. The first is plan to leave the dock before sunrise. This has several advantages including fishing during the coolest time of the day. For those fishing offshore an even earlier start is recommended in order to have lines in the water before sunrise.
Those of us who fish close to the beach can get out early and be back well before those afternoon thunderstorms. Offshore anglers have to learn to dodge them or hang on for dear life when caught in one. I am sure getting shot at without result is life’s most fearful experience, but my guess is living through a big thunderstorm at sea in a small boat comes in as a close second.
Be sure to carry lots of water on the boat or up on the beach. Beer and soda do not count. Homemade iced tea will work, but nothing beats water for keeping hydrated.
As discussed earlier, sunscreen is mandatory.
The fishing does seem to be improving in this hot weather, but taking care of yourself and your friends is always paramount.
Always wear your PFD!
*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 three books, Surf Fishing The Atlantic Coast ,The Ultimate Guide To Catching Striped Bass and Fishing Saltwater Baits.