By Eric Burnley Sr.*
Updated: May 28, 2015
NEW STRIPED BASS REGULATION DNREC’s Division of Fish & Wildlife reminds anglers that the new recreational striped bass regulation went into effect May 11. The revised regulation brings Delaware into compliance with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s Atlantic Striped Bass Fisheries Management Plan, which now requires a 25-percent reduction in both the recreational and commercial striped bass harvests in 2015. The new regulation reduces recreational harvest through changes in size limits, but maintains Delaware’s current seasons and possession limits. Read more here about the new regulation.
DELAWARE BAY The beautiful holiday weekend provided plenty of opportunities for Delaware anglers to get out and fish. Those who worked the bay found decent action from New Castle to Lewes.
The rockfish run appears to be over with only a handful of keepers taken last week. It will be a little over a month before the summer season kicks in so until then white perch and catfish will have to satisfy upper bay anglers.
A few flounder and croaker were caught on bay reef sites available to boats sailing from Collins and Bowers beaches. This is just the beginning of the run for both species and action is sure to improve as the weather and the water warms.
Black drum moved from the New Jersey side to the Coral Beds off of Slaughter Beach. Several boats had multiple catches and I am happy to report that at least some of these fish were released to spawn and provide for future fishing fun. A black drum is a big fish and if you can get past the parasitic worms the meat is mild. However, there is more than enough meals in one of these fish to feed a party of six and this seems to be the sentiment of at least a few captains.
Clams will be the top bait for drum and late evening into dark is the most productive time to fish. Anchor on a dropoff then allow the bait to lay on the bottom along the slope. Use a circle hook on a fish-finder rig and when you get a runoff, engage the reel and the fish, be it drum, ray, shark or skate, will be hooked.
Flounder fishing was fair in the lower bay with keepers reported in the Lewes and Rehoboth Canal, Roosevelt Inlet and the flats around Cape Henlopen. The area of the canal from the Savannah Road Bridge to the Pirate Ship, for whatever reason, produced as well if not better than any other location.
Live minnows, squid strips, cut bait and Gulp! all accounted for keepers. Some anglers prefer special rigs, but I have found a live minnow on an unweighted circle hook does as well as any other set up in the canal.
Croaker were caught on lower bay reef sites and this is a good sign for the summer. A very few flounder were removed from the same structure.
Big blues were caught from the Broadkill River and from the Cape Henlopen Flats, but not anywhere near the numbers of previous weeks. Most of these fish were taken as bycatch by flounder fishermen.
INSHORE OCEAN Sea bass fishing has been less than stellar. Most reports indicate plenty of shorts along with a few keepers. The further offshore you go the better your chance of finding larger fish, but even then limits are not the norm. The deeper water does provide the chance of catching a few cod.
Flounder are beginning to show up at the Old Grounds and over inshore reef sites. Right now it is a slow pick with a few sea bass mixed in, but this should begin to change as the water warms.
Shark fishing is improving with both makos and threshers caught last week. Threshers are usually caught along the Buoy Line while makos roam from the 20-Fathom Line on out. I have caught makos in sight of the Lightship Buoy, but further out provides more reliable action.
OFFSHORE The Baltimore did see good yellowfin action over the weekend. Trollers caught fair numbers of tuna along with the occasional dolphin. The first white marlin has yet to be released by a Delaware boat, but Ocean City did see their first marlin this week.
Deep droppers continue to hoist golden and blueline tilefish from the canyon depths.
My son Roger fished the Norfolk Canyon on Sunday catching both tilefish species and a new world-record spinycheek scorpionfish. He had no idea what he had caught, but when the good folks from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science looked at it, they made the identification.
INDIAN RIVER INLET Big blues continue to run through the inlet creating all sorts of havoc. Last Sunday they staged at the mouth and made navigating the inlet more difficult than normal. If you are there when the blues come by try casting a white bucktail with a white worm or a metal lure.
Flounder fishing has been on the slow side for most fishermen. The VFW Slough seems to be a favorite location and I suspect the flats in Indian River Bay hold flounder on flood tides. A live minnow, strip of squid or Gulp! should be enough to tempt a flatfish.
Jetty jockeys are picking away at rockfish in the evening, at dawn or during the night. The always popular white bucktail with a white worm is hard to beat, but don’t be afraid to toss a big swimming plug when shad are in the area.
SURF FISHING The run of big blues is slowing down with a pick from the beach. Cut bunker does the most damage along with clams and frozen mullet.
The occasional rockfish is plucked from the surf. Clams or bunker draw the most interest for local linesiders.
Over the weekend we had reports of kings and croaker caught from Fenwick Island on bloodworms. It would be great if this action would increase and spread out to all the other beaches.
FRESHWATER Warmer water along the shoreline has moved the bass to the deeper parts of local millponds. They do return to the ;illy pads and blowdowns in the evening and early morning where they will take soft plastics, crankbaits and live shiners.
The spillways stay cooler longer and will hold bass, pickerel, crappie and perch into the summer. Prospect the area with a swim bait or minnow under a bobber. Fish on the bottom with a big nightcrawler and you may catch a big catfish.
The upper reaches of the tidal rivers and creeks have good fishing for perch and catfish. It is hard to beat a bloodworm for either of these fish.
LIGHTS While most fishermen do not head out after dark it is possible to be out on the bay, river or ocean when the sun sets. This is especially true when drum fishing because the best action is often just before dark and by the time you land the fish and get ready to head in running lights will be required.
The first thing you must do is check the condition of your lights before heading out. Nothing feels much worsE then flipping that switch and being greeted by total darkness.
It is also a good idea to carry spare bulbs on the boat just in case the lights you dutifully checked at home fail on the water.
Lights are also required to be on during periods of low visibility. This includes fog and even the haze we so often have during the summer.
Your boat has running lights and an anchor light. Make sure you turn on the running lights when underway and the anchor light when anchored. Sounds simple, but I can’t count the number of times I have seen boats anchored with the running lights on and vice versa.
Never take anything for granted. Just because you see a red or green light approaching do not assume the operator has the slightest idea what he is doing. Several years ago I was out on a calm, clear night when I saw the red/green lights of an approaching boat. The closer he got to me the more confused I became. He appeared to be meeting me on my port side, but all I could see was his green light. Come to find out he had replaced his bulb then put the plastic red and green lenses in backwards.
Always 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.