By Eric Burnley Sr.*
Updated: Jan. 29, 2015
DELAWARE BAY It is not a good time to go fishing on the Delaware Bay. The water is close to freezing and even if you can find a fish willing to take a bait chances are it will be a small perch or rockfish. The weather forecast promises very cold temperatures and very high winds over the weekend so stay indoors and watch the Super Bowl.
INSHORE OCEAN Last weekend saw some tog caught from Indian River Inlet boats, but they had to seek out deeper water to find fish willing to feed. I doubt if anyone will be going this weekend since there are gale and small craft warnings posted.
Bluefin tuna continue to come in to North Carolina ports. Hatteras got in on the action with one fish over 1,000 pounds reported. Morehead City to the south is still reporting decent numbers of giant bluefins.
blackfin tuna have been caught on jigs by anglers fishing out of Hatteras Inlet. Deep droppers from the same port are catching grouper and tilefish.
INDIAN RIVER INLET Nothing from the inlet, but we did have reports of yellow perch caught closer to Millsboro. It will take warmer weather for me to get out after these perch, but those with better tolerance to the cold may find some action when using small minnows.
FRESHWATER Red Mill Pond is back to being covered with ice so I figure other ponds in the state are in a similar situation. Please do not try to go out on this ice as it will not hold your weight. Four young people feLl through the ice on a pond near Baltimore. Two made it to shore, one is still in the hospital and the other did not survive.
Spillways should remain open and here is where you may find some yellow perch. Try a small minnow on a jig suspended under a bobber to attract these fish.
According to Bob Jones’ fishing report in the News Journal, the Bethel Hole has been closed to fishermen. Poor behavior by people who left trash behind, along with parking problems, caused the landowner to take this action.
SMELL Smell plays a very important role in helping a fish find food. At least one half of a fish’s brain is devoted to detecting scent from the water and in some species it is even higher.
Fish usually have two nostrils just like humans, but these are connected directly to the brain while ours also connect to our sense of taste. Many fish can detect a very tiny particle of scent in the water with sharks and salmon among those with the best sense of smell.
As a general rule, fish that feed during the day in shallow water depend as much if not more on sight while those who feed at night or in the depths where there is very little light depend on their sense of smell to find food.
So what does this sense of smell mean to fishermen? It means that some species will be attracted to a fresh bait better than to a lure. If you put some scent on the lure it will do a much better job of attracting fish. Think about a bucktail deployed 100 feet below the surface for sea bass or flounder. While it may catch a few fish naked it will do a much better job with a strip of squid or fresh fish.
Even a surface lure will perform better when scent is added. While a fish can see the lure pretty well once it is in its range of sight, it will be able to smell the scent from a much further distance.
The more water that passes through a fish’s nose, the more information it can sense. This is why fish usually feed into the current.
Two of our more popular species, flounder and rockfish, almost always feed facing the current because they can pick up the scent of their quarry. These ambush feeders will be alerted to food by its smell long before they can see it.
Sharks can detect the smell of blood in the water from a great distance. This is why shark fishermen use chum to bring their quarry to the bait. I have fished with some sharkers who will drag the chum bag for a mile or more before setting up to fish.
Over the last few years the Berkley product Gulp! has become a staple for saltwater anglers. The scientists at Berkley spent a lot of time finding and isolating the particles that trigger a fish’s sense of smell. Then they incorporated these into their soft baits and the rest is history.
Next week we will look at a fish’s ability to hear.
*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.