By Eric Burnley Sr.*
Updated: April 25, 2014
ADVISORY: Anglers are reminded that the recreational black sea bass season closed in Delaware coastal waters Jan. 1. Federal waters, which begin 3 miles from shore, also closed on Jan. 1. Open season dates, minimum size and harvest limits for 2014 will be announced when finalized.
DELAWARE BAY We continue to receive good reports from folks fishing the lower river and upper bay. Rockfish to 40 pounds have been caught on bloodworms, cut bunker and clams. Last week we heard of fish caught from boats running out of Collins Beach and fishing the 4L to 6L area. Bunker chunking was the best technique.
The beach at Broadkill produced a few keeper rockfish and at least two six-pound trout. Bloodworms, cut bunker and clams all worked on these fish. This has always been a good location for early run rock and trout and so far this year the trend continues.
Boaters got into some very good tog fishing over the weekend right up until the gale force northwest winds hit on Wednesday. Charter and head boats out of Lewes and Bowers Beach got in on the action with some reporting limit catches of three fish per person. A few private boats fished the Outer Wall off of Lewes and caught tog as well.
The Lewes and Rehoboth Canal and the Broadkill River saw limited catches of keeper flounder. Minnows, shiners and Gulp! were all effective. Trout should show up at the Roosevelt Jetty.
White perch and catfish were caught out of all the rivers and creeks that empty into the bay. Bloodworms are best for the perch while cut fresh bunker will attract the catfish.
INDIAN RIVER INLET Fishing is still poor. Small tog and rockfish occasionally show up, but nothing of any size. Once the Chesapeake Bay spawn is complete we should have larger rockfish moving up along the coast.
INSHORE OCEAN Tog have been caught over wrecks and reefs when boats can clear the inlet. Still no sign of rockfish, but that could change any day.
SURF FISHING The occasional small rockfish was caught last weekend, but once again nothing close to a keeper.
FRESHWATER Trout fishing is still good in New Castle County. The last restocking of White Clay Creek will occur May 1 when brown trout will be released.
We are still seeing good reports from pickerel fishermen. They may not have been pickerel fishermen when the day began, but were converted by the number of large fish found in local ponds.
Bass have been caught out of the ponds on live shiners and soft plastics. Crappie are also available on small minnows and jigs.
The Nanticoke River is giving up bass during falling tides with jigs the top lure. Crappie have been reported at the spillway in Seaford and the Bethel Hole on live minnows.
WEAKFISH With the capture of two six-pound weakfish from the beach at Broadkill many of us are thinking about the glory days of trout fishing in Delaware Bay. While I don’t think we will be seeing anything like that in the near future, I do believe we will see some large fish before the year is over.
The last two years I have seen more trout than in the previous 10 years. All were small with few making the 13-inch minimum, but the numbers were encouraging. Trout can spawn as early as their first year so even small fish can reproduce unlike rockfish and flounder that have to be a few years old before reaching maturity. The early spawning may be one reason why we are seeing so many small trout.
With a bag limit of one fish per person I doubt we will see many people targeting trout, but they will be caught by those fishing for everything from flounder to sea bass. Last fall while fishing in 90 to 100 feet of water near A Buoy we began catching trout on every drop. I was surprised to see so many of these fish in this deep water, but there they were.
Most of the trout I have caught over the past two years were in the bay around the Outer Wall while fishing for croaker. Since they were too small to keep I moved away from them and resumed catching croaker in another location.
Weakfish are a soft-bodied fish and I don’t think they have a very strong survival rate when caught and released. For this reason I try to avoid them and when I do catch one I am as careful as possible when removing the hook and returning them to the water. Since I use circle hooks for all my bait fishing, the trout never swallow the hook.
If you encounter trout this year please move away if all the fish are small. Should you luck into a school of keeper-size fish take your one fish and then move away. Playing catch and release with weakfish is not a good idea.
*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.