By Eric Burnley Sr.*
Updated: Feb. 22, 2018
DELAWARE BAY While the water temperature in the open bay is still too cold for fishing, I did have a report of kayak fishermen catching small rockfish at the Inner and Outer Walls out of Lewes. I don’t recommend this activity for most folks, but if you are an experienced kayaker and the weather is suitable it may be worth a try.
I went out on Wednesday when temperatures hit the upper 70s thinking I would find someone fishing around Lewes. I never saw a fishing rod although there were several folks parked at Canary Creek. There was one very large boat trailer parked at the Lewes Boat Ramp, but it may have been connected to the construction going on at the Inner Wall.
I did have reports of perch and crappie caught at various spillways in Sussex County and I did see a few anglers at the spillway in Milton earlier in the week. Red wigglers, grass shrimp and minnows have been the best baits in these locations.
INSHORE OCEAN Nothing to report from here. The only charter boat that I know of still running out of Indian River had a trip on Saturday that was canceled by the weather.
INDIAN RIVER INLET Still nothing from the Inlet. A report of a few yellow perch from tidal creeks that feed the inland bays.
SURF FISHING No report of anyone even trying to fish the beach.
FRESHWATER The spillways remain the best bet for catching perch, bass, pickerel and crappie.
WATER TEMPERATURES When we have warm days in the middle of winter many anglers, myself included, want to get out and do some fishing. Unfortunately, while the air temperature may be in the 70s the water temperature is still in the upper 30s and low 40s. White and yellow perch will take a bait or lure, but most other tidewater species will not.
Freshwater fish such as bass and pickerel will feed, but they generally don’t attack a bait or lure as they will once the water warms up. As a general rule a low and slow presentation is required to attract their attention.
It has been my experience that most saltwater fish like a water temperature in the low to mid 50s before they begin to feed. Tog will start moving about with the water still in the 40s while striped bass may be taken from water in the upper 40s to low 50s.
Back in the day when we had great numbers of big trout in the bay, the first fish of the year were often caught in late March or early April over the Coral Beds out of Slaughter Beach. The water was only four or five feet deep and would warm up on a bright, sunny day. Anglers would work bucktails with a purple worm slowly across the bottom and when they caught a trout it was usually a big one. Of course, any day that produced more than one or two fish was considered a bonanza.
Summer flounder seem to like a water temperature between the upper 50s to the upper 60s. This is why we fish an outgoing current in the spring and an incoming in the summer. When the water moves into the shallow areas on incoming current the sun will warm it up. Once the warmer late spring weather arrives and the water in the shallows warms past 68 degrees we need the cooler water from the bay and ocean to get the flounder to feed. Once summer gets here, most of the larger flounder will leave the shallows and retreat to the ocean.
Knowing the water is still too cold to fish, anxious anglers will still be out there giving it the old college try. After a winter like we have had, I will be right alongside them.
*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.