By Eric Burnley Sr.*
Updated: October 23, 2014
DELAWARE BAY Fishing reports from open bay areas have been scarce due to high winds and seas. When boats can sail, tog have been the main target with most of these fish caught at rock jetties from Fourteen-Foot Light to the Outer Wall. Green crabs have been the most popular bait.
The more successful anglers are moving around from one location to another catching a few tog at each stop. Another idea is to try fishing a bit away from the pile of boulders over rocks that have tumbled off the main structure. A few triggerfish have been caught along with the tog.
Every week we hear of more keeper rockfish caught as far up the bay as Reedy Point down to the Lewes and Rehoboth Canal. Shoreline anglers have had some success at Augustine Beach, Greens Beach and the fishing pier at Woodland Beach. Boaters are finding a few keeper rock at the Yellow Can and along the channel out of Collins Beach. The railroad bridge in Lewes has seen a couple of keeper rockfish caught on live eels. Chumming with cut bunker has worked best from a boat while beach anglers are using cut bunker and bloodworms. Most of the rockfish are still under the 28-inch minimum size and the keepers are running from 28 to 32 inches.
Blues were around before the latest storm, but as the water temperature drops they will be moving out. The pier at Cape Henlopen State Park reported plenty of bluefish over the weekend with most caught on cut bunker or mullet. Bottom fishermen caught blues on cut bunker. The majority of the bluefish taken have been well below 12 inches.
The tidal rivers and creeks hold short rockfish, white perch and catfish. Most of the rockfish and perch have been caught on bloodworms while the catfish will hit cut bunker or chicken livers. The bridges on Route 9 and at Petersfield Ditch or the Thirteen Curve Road have been good access points
INSHORE OCEAN Sea bass season opened on Saturday, but nasty weather kept many anglers, including me, off the water. Sunday was even worse, but I did get out on Monday. Unfortunately, the sea bass at Site 11 decided to take the day off. I ended up with one keeper and high hook on the boat had three. Boats that ran much further offshore had considerably better luck.
Tog fishing at Site 10 was even worse yet. Only one was caught on the boat when we stopped there on our way back home. I did see reports from Tuesday when one boat had three tog at Site 10. The three-day storm we had this week will churn up the water and drop the temperature so I have no idea what anglers will find this weekend.
OFFSHORE OCEAN I had no reports from Delaware boats, but party boats from North Jersey had good catches of yellowfin, swordfish and the occasional bigeye. Boats out of Oregon Inlet and Hatteras had king mackerel, blackfin tuna and a few yellowfins.
INDIAN RIVER INLET Soaking green crabs for tog has been the best bet here. The action is far from fast and furious, but the tog are running to 20 inches when you finally catch one. Those who put in their time can expect to catch at least one meal.
A few more keeper rockfish to 33 inches have been caught on live eels fished after dark. Shorts still outnumber keepers by 30 to one, but that should begin to change as more migratory fish move down from North Jersey.
Blues still come through the inlet on incoming water and will still hit metal lures or bucktails. Most of these fish have been small, but I had reports of blues to seven pounds caught at Ocean City Inlet.
SURF FISHING Tiny blues are still the primary catch for surf casters. Cut mullet remains the top bait, but with the mullet run all but over I expect to see bunker take over the top spot. A few kings were caught on mullet or bloodworms.
The storm could move a few more rockfish down the beach and I for one certainly hope so. Those of us who might like to rush the season can toss chunks of fresh bunker into the sea, just in case.
FRESHWATER As water temperatures begin to drop, bass in the ponds will move away from the shallow water along the shoreline and into deeper water where the temperature is more consistent. Most Delaware ponds are not very deep to begin with so the fish may be around the base of the dam or in a few deep holes towards the middle. Live shiners will be the best bait with crankbaits or Senkos the top lures.
This is the time of year when crappie begin to school up and may be caught in numbers as well as size. One 2.25-pound crappie was caught in Silver Lake last week on a live minnow making it one of the largest crappie taken this year. The angler returned the fish to the lake so you too have a chance to catch a real trophy. Look for good crappie fishing in most of the spillways as well as Noxontown Pond.
The fall trout stocking of White Clay Creek is over so sweetwater anglers should have some good fishing right on through the winter. Live bait such as minnows or meal worms will work as well as spinners or flies.
White perch have been caught in good numbers in the upper reaches of the tidal creeks and rivers. Bloodworms have been the best bait.
COLD WEATHER BOATING Striped bass will be here soon and tog fishing is going to get better so many of us will be going out in our boats during cold weather. While danger is always present when you are on the water it is even more hazardous when the temperature drops.
It is important to dress correctly to ward off the cold air temperatures, but when you are wearing several layers of clothes you will have a tough time staying afloat in the cold water. That’s right, always wear your PFD!
Open boats have a tendency to send spray on board when the wind blows. Since days when the wind doesn’t blow are as rare as hen’s teeth during the late fall and winter you should wear an outer layer of protective gear such as Grundens or Helly Hansons. This extra layer of heavy outerwear will make you even more immobile in the water, so guess what? Always wear your PFD.
The best footwear for cold weather fishing are a pair of rubber boats. Not hunting boots, because the soles on hunting boots are not designed to handle a wet deck. Here too the extra weight of these boots will make it difficult to stay afloat should you fall overboard or should the boat sink. The solution is to WEAR YOUR PFD!
*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.