By Eric Burnley Sr.*
Updated: August 14, 2014
DELAWARE BAY Fishing remains very good in the bay all the way from the Pennsylvania line to the Outer Wall off of Lewes. Croaker dominate the catch with good flounder action at the reef sites, rockfish in the tidal rivers and creeks and more blues in the lower bay.
Flounder are caught over all the reef sites by anglers who know how to work the rubble. A jig baited with a minnow, Gulp! and strip of fish or squid has been the most productive rig. The best time to fish has been just before and right after a change in current flow. This is when the current is at its weakest point and it is considerably easier to hold the boat directly over the structure.
Flounder have also come from the New Jersey side of the bay at Miah Maull Shoal and the Cross ledge. Here a minnow and strip of squid or fresh fish is the best offering. Please remember that the minimum size for flounder in New Jersey is 18 inches and you must have a New Jersey FIN number to fish there.
The largest croaker are found on top of hard structure at the reef sites and in the tidal river and creeks. We have also caught decent croaker at the base of the Inner and Outer walls. Smaller croaker are over open bottom and from the beaches along the bay shoreline. Bloodworms, clam and FishBites or Gulp! will catch a croaker.
Big spot are beginning to show up in the tidal rivers and creeks. Bloodworms make the best and I believe the only reliable spot bait.
The pier at Cape Henlopen State Park is seeing spot and croaker caught on bloodworms, clam and Gulp! or FishBites. If I were targeting spot I would stick with bloodworms. Flounder have been caught from the pier with the best bite after dark on minnows and squid.
The beach from Lewes to Cape Henlopen has produced small spot, croaker and flounder. The best action will be a dusk and dawn on flood tides.
Small blues are showing up around the Outer Wall where they chase bait in the rips. This is great fun on light tackle or fly rod.
Slot rockfish are in all of the tidal rivers and creeks. The mouth of the Appoqunimink Creek, the railroad bridge over the Lewes and Rehoboth Canal and the pier at Woodland Beach are a few of the locations where these fish have been caught. The Yellow Can and Green’s Beach have also shown up in reports. Cut bunker, peeler crab and bloodworms have all worked on rockfish as have surface lures when cast along a marsh bank.
INSHORE OCEAN The good flounder fishing continues over Reef Site 10, the Old Grounds and the rough bottom between A and B buoys. Limit catches were made last Saturday when conditions were ideal. By Sunday and Monday the current and wind had increased and fishing slowed. The weather report for the weekend looks good and the full moon current should be over. Jigs or Delaware Bay Green Machines baited with strips of fish, squid, live spot or Gulp! and worked over the open bottom or the rubble at the reef sites is the best technique for catching flounder.
A very few small sea bass have been caught along with the flounder, but this fishery is a shadow of what it was two years ago. The occasional ling finds its way to a flounder bait as well.
A shot of clear, warm water came into the nearshore area last week and was still around when we went out on Monday. Reports of dolphin as close as the Buoy Line were received so it may pay flounder pounders to keep a spinning rod ready should a mahi mahi make an appearance. I would use a small bucktail baited with a chunk of fish to attract the dolphin’s attention.
The inshore lumps like the Hambone, Hot Dog or Chicken Bone have seen dolphin and wahoo, but not many tuna. Bonito and false albacore should arrive here very soon and they are great fun to catch on light tackle.
Croaker have been caught at Site 10. So far these have been small fish, but larger models are due to make an appearance in the next few weeks.
Trollers at Fenwick Shoal have been catching small blues and a few bonito. Small spoons or bucktails have been the most productive offering.
OFFSHORE OCEAN The White Marlin Open is over and it only produced one qualifying white marlin. John Bayliss on the Dream Time cranked in a 78-pounder and took home $1,290,411. Yes, you read that correctly: almost $1.3 million for the winning catch. The largest blue marlin weighed 738 pounds and was caught by Sam Lancelotta on the Gratitude. He cashed a check for $511,417. The largest tuna was a 183.5-pound bigeye caught by Doug Mazzullo, but it was only worth $2,000 because the boat Constant Threat did not enter all the Calcuttas. Mike Kalajain on the Plane Simple had the second largest tuna, a 182-pound bigeye, and it was worth $397,836.
Tuna action slowed a bit as most boats were after billfish last week. That situation will change this week as meat fish become more valuable than billfish until the next tournament begins.
The Washington Canyon will probably become tuna central with both yellowfin and bigeyes available. The best bite will be at dawn and dusk making overnight trips the most productive.
Dolphin and wahoo will put a little variety in the day trolling bite. Look for them near weedlines and anything that floats.
INDIAN RIVER INLET No change in the summertime fishing here. Flounder have been caught from the inlet and the back bays, but keepers have been scarce. The VFW Slough, Massey’s Ditch and any other deep water in the bays is going to be the best location for flounder. Fishing before sunrise and at sunset is going to keep you away from the overwhelming boat traffic. Minnows and strips of squid or fresh fish along with a Gulp! swimming mullet is a good combination for flatfish.
The rocks along Indian River Inlet hold tog, sheepshead and flounder. The tog and sheepshead take sand fleas or green crab. The flounder will hit a jig baited with a live minnow or strip of fresh fish or squid.
Sand fleas drifted at night produce short rockfish and the occasional keeper. Bucktails and plugs produce the same results.
On occasion blues will come through the inlet on incoming current. Look for fish breaking on the surface and diving birds to locate the schools. Cast metal lures to catch the blues and save on tackle.
Small croaker and kings have been caught by the Red Buoy at the entrance to the inlet. Bloodworms and clams will work on these fish. I have caught a few keeper flounder from the same hole while using live minnows and strips of squid.
SURF FISHING Small croaker, spot and kings have been caught from the beach, but for the most part they are outnumbered by sharks and skates. Use bloodworms, FishBites or clam to catch these fish.
Small blues are beginning to show in the surf. Try fresh bunker or mullet and expect to catch even more skates and sharks.
FRESHWATER Not the best time of year to fish the ponds, yet we see five-pound bass caught almost every week. Most of these fish are taken early or late in the day by anglers working surface lures in deep cover. The predicted hot spell next week will not make the bass angler’s job any easier.
Catfish and perch have been caught in the upper reaches of the tidal creeks and rivers feeding into Delaware Bay. We are not hearing about as many citation white perch as we did last year, but while the size may be down the number of fish remains high.
White perch are also caught from the Nanticoke River and Broad Creek on the western side of Sussex County. Phillips Landing is good location to take the whole family for a day outdoors and some good fishing. Bloodworms or small minnows work best on the perch.
Bass fishermen continue to find action in these same waters. Jigs worked around sunken structure on falling tides is the top technique for these fish
TRAILER CHECK I know everyone went over their boat trailer with a fine tooth comb at the beginning of the season and had everything working just fine. That was back in April or May and the trailer has seen many miles and dunkings in saltwater since then. I suggest checking everything again before a police officer has you checking it for him.
My lights were just fine in June, but now I have some that don’t work and others that work only when the mood strikes them. Since I have PVC guide posts on my trailer I have decided to mount the lights on these to keep them out of the water. I ordered a kit that will accomplish this from Eastern Marine and have been assured by the management that even I can install it.
Wheel brakes are another trouble spot. I had an email from a reader last week telling the sad tale of how she and her husband had to limp from the boat ramp in Lewes to a repair shop in Milford after the brakes seized on one of their trailer wheels.
If you have trailer brakes and don’t have one of those wash-down kits by all means go buy one or have a trailer shop install one on your rig. When I had my 24-Albemarle I used that brake wash-down after every trip and never had my brakes lockup. I did use Salt-X and I believe that made the washdown even more effective.
Wheel bearings are yet another cause for concern. If you have Bearing Buddies use them after every trip to push out any water that may have entered the wheel bearings. On a long trip I feel the wheels during every stop to see if any are getting hot.
When it comes to operating a boat and trailer rig take nothing for granted. Remember the first of Murphy’s Laws; anything that can go wrong will.
*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.