By Eric Burnley Sr.*
Updated: May 25, 2017
DELAWARE BAY It has not been a great spring season for keeper rockfish in the lower Delaware River and Upper Bay. The constant rain and wind have made for dirty water as well as discouraging many anglers from even going fishing. A scattering of keepers has been caught at the Yellow Can, 4L and 6L buoys, the Augustine Jetty, Dobbinsville and the pier at Woodland Beach. Bunker chunks and bloodworms have been the prime baits. It is still possible that there are some large females left in the river, but I find it more likely that all have gotten past during the bad weather. Not that it makes us feel any better, but the trophy season in the Upper Chesapeake was not that good either.
White perch and catfish have been more cooperative than the rockfish. Bloodworms work on the perch while the cats prefer cut bunker or chicken livers. Augustine Beach, the C&D Canal, Woodland Beach and all the tidal rivers and creeks hold plenty of both species.
Black drum fishing has been good off of Slaughters Beach and from shore at Broadkill Beach. Clams and live blue crabs have been the top baits. Evening is the most productive time to fish. Black drum are difficult to clean and many contain worms, so please keep only those you plan to eat.
The fishing pier at Cape Henlopen State Park continues to produce big blues. Incoming water has been the best time to fish with cut bunker or mullet. Poppers and metal lures can produce when the fish are in a blitz mood.
Big blues are also caught from the Broadkill River as far up as Oyster Rocks. Most anglers are soaking cut bunker or mullet for these fish.
Flounder have been taken from the Lewes and Rehoboth Canal, the Broadkill River and the Cape Henlopen Fishing Pier. The Joe Morris Memorial Canal Flounder Tournament saw fish over four pounds caught. Minnows, squid and Gulp! have all produced decent results.
- 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 I finally made it out to the black sea bass grounds on Tuesday. Eight of us left Lewes on the Katydid at 0600 and arrived at our fishing location at 0830. The first drop of clam baited top-bottom rigs proved the fish were there and they were hungry. Plenty of keepers at the first stop, and when they ran out we moved to another location. We must have moved 20 times or more. As soon as the keeper-to-short ratio fell the captain went looking for more big fish. By 1300, we had a boat limit and headed back to Lewes. Arriving at Lewes Harbour Marina around 1530 it took the fish cleaning crew over an hour to prepare the catch. It was a great day on the water.
Limit catches of sea bass have been the rule when the boats can leave the dock. The weather has made for more lay days than fishing days. At least one flounder has been caught by the sea bass fleet.
INDIAN RIVER INLET The inlet continues to see the occasional bluefish blitz with the pockets on either side of the jetty and along the beach the site of most of this activity. SP Minnows and metal lures work best on these fish. The blues have also been caught out of Indian River and Rehoboth bays. Massey’s Ditch and the beach at White House Farms are two locations mentioned in the reports. Cut bunker and mullet have been the top baits.
Flounder catches are still on the slow side. A few have been caught out of the VFW Slough and Massey’s Ditch on minnows, squid or Gulp!.
SURF FISHING Blues are still the mainstay of the surf fishing scene. Most have been caught on cut mullet or bunker, but on occasion they will attack surface lures or metal. The bite is scattered from Herring Point to Fenwick Island and you have to be in the right place at the right time to connect. The best of the action has been on incoming water, but some blues have been caught on the ebb.
In recent days I have seen a few kings caught from the beach. Bloodworms are the best bait for these fish.
FRESHWATER I know Red Mill Pond is high and muddy, and I expect most of the other ponds are the same. Live bait should still work along with noisy lures. Bass, pickerel and crappie remain the top target species.
The Nanticoke River and Broad Creek still hold big, blue catfish. Cut bunker has been a productive bait.
HOLIDAY WEEKEND There will be a lot of people on the water this weekend and this is going to cause problems. Make sure you use defensive boating practices and try to stay out of trouble. Fishermen are best served by getting out by dawn and coming back in during the early afternoon. This will avoid the crazy mess at the boat ramp and the afternoon drunks.
Please wear your PFDs when you are on the water.
*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.