By Eric Burnley Sr.*
Updated: Dec. 1, 2016
DELAWARE BAY At least one large rockfish was caught from the Rips at the mouth of the bay, but that’s been the only good news so far this season. The rest of the bay has been devoid of rockfish except for the small ones caught by perch fishermen.
White perch are available along the shoreline from New Castle to Port Deposit and out of the tidal creeks and rivers. Bloodworms, small jigs baited with minnows and even earthworms have all caught perch.
Tog fishing in the bay has been less than spectacular. A few keepers have been taken on crab baits at the various reef sites and wrecks. Crabs from green to white to sand fleas have been the baits of choice.
There have been a few keeper rockfish caught out of the Lewes and Rehoboth Canal. A live eel worked between the bridges in Lewes has been the top technique.
INSHORE OCEAN A few boats have traveled up to New Jersey looking for rockfish. Some have been successful, others not so much. If you recall last year the rock stayed just off of Wildwood, and perhaps that is as far as they will come south this year. I certainly hope not.
Tog action was very good with limits of big fish brought to the dock over the weekend and on Monday. One boat caught a limit of tog with several citations to over 10 pounds.
Black sea bass catches were also good so long as you were willing to run far enough offshore. A private boat out of Indian River ran 46 miles east to catch their limit of big bass.
INDIAN RIVER INLET My recent fishing excursions to the Inlet had been encouraging until this past Monday. Previously, I had seen lots of bait and caught small rockfish. On Monday the Inlet was dead as a mackerel. No birds, no bait, no fish. Even the current wasn’t running as strong as usual. I have no idea what was wrong, but the tog fishermen were giving up and heading home.
SURF FISHING Another week of dogs and skates. Come on rockfish!.
FRESHWATER Freshwater action remains good in the ponds and the upper reaches of the tidal rivers and creeks. Bass, pickerel and crappie are active and live bait is the most productive choice. Shiners for the bass and pickerel while a small minnow on a jig will entice the crappie to strike. The always popular white perch and catfish will take blood or earth worms with cut bait and chicken livers a better choice for the cats.
White Clay Creek continues to produce trout. Earthworms, grubs or small minnows are good bait choices while the fly rod anglers will have good luck in their section of the creek using wet flies such as the woolly bugger.
CRUSH THOSE BARBS Once the huge schools of rockfish arrive in Delaware waters there will be good deal of catch and release action. So much so, that more striped bass will be released than retained.
A good way to insure the survival of those released fish is to use barbless hooks. I began using barbless hooks when I ran charters out of Virginia Beach. I must admit I did this for purely selfish reasons since a barbless hook is much easier to remove from a customer as well as from the captain.
I also noticed how much easier it was to take the hook out of the rockfish and blues we released. I have had days at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel where one client released over 50 rockfish. On other days we would hit the bluefish just as hard. Anyone who has ever tried to unhook a five-pound blue can appreciate how much easier that task would be with barbless hooks.
I seldom lost a fish due to using barbless hooks. Blues came off easier then rockfish because of their tendency to jump out of the water. So long as the line stays tight the fish will stay on the hook.
I buy regular lures with barbed hooks and then crush the barbs with my fishing pliers. It’s as easy as that and makes life so much better for the angler and the fish.
*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.