By Eric Burnley Sr.*
Updated: April 30, 2015
DELAWARE BAY We are getting decent reports of rockfish in the lower Delaware River and upper bay. Fish in excess of 30 pounds have been reported as far north as Cherry Island Flats and as far south as Collins Beach.
Shore anglers are scoring with bloodworms and cut bunker while boaters find better success using bunker chunks. The most mentioned locations for chunking have been the Yellow Can, the 6L and 4 Buoys out of Collins Beach and the Pipes.
White perch fishing has been very good in the Delaware River and all the tidal rivers and creeks down to the Broadkill River. Bloodworms or grass shrimp have been the top baits.
Bluefish action has been the best we have seen in many years. Blues topping 17 pounds have been caught from the bay as far north as Port Mahon and up the Broadkill River to Oyster Rocks. Most of the bluefish have been caught on fresh bunker or frozen mullet. A few fishermen have found success tossing bucktails, metal lures or surface poppers. As of Wednesday the fishing was better in the Broadkill River and the flats inside Cape Henlopen than on the ocean beaches.
Tog fishing is improving daily. On Wednesday the first good catch of tog came in from the Outer Wall so you can bet that location will be mobbed this weekend. Boats working over wrecks and reefs in the lower bay are scoring limits daily. Green crabs have been scarce so anglers have had to make do with clams, shrimp or blue claw crabs. Apparently, the tog don’t care.
The colder than normal weather and strong winds have shut down the flounder bite in the Lewes and Rehoboth Canal and the Broadkill River. I expect that fishery to return by the weekend. Live minnows will be the best bait followed by a bucktail with a strip of squid or fresh fish.
A few black drum were caught from boats anchored off of Broadkill Beach. The best bite was after dark and clams were the top bait.
INSHORE The tog bite was decent over the weekend at reef sites and wrecks close to the beach. A few boats scored a limit while others came close. With warmer weather on the way I think tog fishing will improve before the fishery closes May 11.
INDIAN RIVER INLET Big blues have been running in and out of the inlet, but it is hit and miss for anglers. Metal lures and bucktails have been the most effective offerings. Massey’s Ditch saw some big bluefish, but once again it was you had to be there when the fish passed through. How long this bite will continue is anyone’s guess.
Flounder fishing took a short time out due to low temperatures and high winds. Here too I expect to see much improved action over the weekend and into next week. The VFW Slough on falling water and the flats to the west of the slough on high tide will be good locations with live minnows the top bait.
SURF FISHING The ocean surf gave up a few big blues, but not as many as were caught from the shoreline of the Delaware Bay or out of the Broadkill River. When the blues were not in the area clear nose skates took up the slack.
I had no reports of any keeper rockfish caught from the beach. A few shorts were taken on bloodworms and cut bunker.
FRESHWATER Spring fishing in the ponds remains good with bass, pickerel and crappie being caught on live shiners or minnows as well as crankbaits, jigs and soft plastics such as Senkos. The larger bass will be on the beds so be very careful when releasing theses fish.
The Nanticoke River and Broad Creek are giving up crappie, bass and white perch. Phillips Landing is a good location for white perch while the area of Broad Creek from the Railroad Bridge to the spillway in Laurel can be productive for crappie. Bass will be found around structure on a falling tide. Please remember that both of these waterways are striped bass spawning areas and circle hooks must be used when fishing with any type of bait. Any and all striped bass caught here must be released.
Also, herring and shad congregating at the spillway in Laurel are a big draw this time of year for anglers, but a couple of things to keep in mind when fishing there: 1) All herring must be released; and 2) all shad caught from the Nanticoke River and its tributaries must be released, though anglers may keep up to 10 shad each day when caught from other state waters.
Things have settled down on the streams stocked with trout in New Castle County. Trout have taken up a more natural way of life and anglers will find the water less crowded and fish more educated making for a challenging fishing experience.
EARLY FLOUNDER The first flounder of the year are usually caught in shallow water because this area is the first to warm to the flounder’s happy temperature. Several locations fit this description including the Broadkill River, the Lewes and Rehoboth Canal, the flats inside Cape Henlopen and the shallow areas on Indian River and Rehoboth bays.
The problem with fishing shallow water is the water is shallow. Large boats will not work and running motors over the area can cause problems. I find it best to make a long drift then run back at the edge of the flat so as not to disturb the fish. Dropping tackle boxes on the deck, banging sinkers on the side of the boat and any other loud noise is not going to help the situation. Having said this I can promise you there will be at least one person who will do all of these things making it difficult for the rest of us to hold our tempers.
The best time to fish shallow water is at the top of the tide. If this corresponds with low light times of the day at dawn and dusk so much the better. Early and late fishing will usually cull out the less experienced anglers who usually don’t show up until after breakfast and head in in time for cocktails.
I have an electric trolling motor on my 16-foot tin boat and boy is it great for fishing in shallow water. I can move around without causing too much noise and short drift an area quiet as a little mouse.
One of the most effective techniques I have found for fishing shallow water is to use a live minnow on an unweighted circle hook. I allow the bait to swim on its own and fish it 25 to 30 yards from the boat. Most of the time I will have that rod in a holder while I jig with a bucktail. This method will perform in water to 10 feet deep.
The channels that drain the flats are best fished on a falling tide. The warmer water from the flats will move into the channels bringing bait along for the ride. If you can find a creek or ditch that empties into the deeper water that will be a good location to drift past or even anchor up stream and toss in a bucktail or Gulp! baited jig head.
*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.