By Eric Burnley Sr.*
Updated: July 21, 2016
DELAWARE BAY It doesn’t sound like too many anglers are taking advantage of the slot rockfish season. However, those who are have been catching limits from the shoreline and the open bay. Chumming with bunker is working at the same old locations: Yellow Can, Red Can, Bull Pen, Pipes, 6L Buoy and the submerged jetty off of Augustine Beach. Land-based fishermen are using bloodworms and peeler crab at Augustine, Green’s and Woodland beaches. The piers at Woodland and Port Mahon are very popular locations. Further down the bay, the Lewes & Rehoboth Canal has given up slot rock to those who drift eels around the Savannah Road and the Railroad bridges. Most of the tidal rivers and creeks hold slot rockfish as well.
White perch are in good supply in the tidal creeks and rivers. Bloodworms and peeler crab have drawn most of the attention from the perch. Big catfish are in the same areas and will take the same baits. Cats also like cut bunker and chicken livers.
Flounder fishing has improved in the upper bay with good reports from the New Jersey side of the Crossledge and Miah Maull Shoal. If you plan to fish here be sure to get your New Jersey FIN number online and also be aware that the legal limit for flounder in NJ waters is 17 inches. Squid and minnow combinations have produced most of these fish.
The various reef sites in the bay are seeing more flounder. Jigging directly over the hard structure has worked well. Croaker, kings and blowfish are also around the reef sites and will take bloodworms and squid.
The Lewes & Rehoboth Canal also is giving up the occasional flounder. The area from the Savannah Road Bridge to the Lightship Overfalls has been one of the more productive locations. Squid and minnow or a Gulp! shrimp have been the top baits.
Sheepshead to more than 14 pounds have been caught at the rocks around Ship John Light, the Outer Wall and the Ice Breakers. I suspect even more will be taken now that tog season has reopened. Crab will be the top bait followed by sand fleas.
Croaker and spot are being caught from the Cape Henlopen Fishing Pier. On Friday afternoon the croaker were coming over the rail two at a time. Bloodworms will be the best bait for the croaker.
The broken pilings beyond the end of the pier hold keeper flounder. The best way to access this area is in a kayak. Hold the boat tight to a piling and jig with a live minnow or Gulp!.
INSHORE OCEAN The chunking bite over the inshore lumps has been very good. Butterfish have been the top bait. While Massey’s Canyon has shown up in many of my reports it can get a bit crowded. Other lumps such as the Tea Cup, Ham Bone, Chicken Bone and Hot Dog may be less crowded, although having any one of these locations all to yourself is unlikely. Right now both yellowfin and bluefin tuna are being caught so you should make sure you can tell the difference between the two. Bringing in the wrong size bluefin or yellowfin is a federal crime and you really don’t want to appear before a federal judge.
A few gaffer dolphin have been caught along with the tuna. Closer to shore the flounder action has been hit or miss at sites 10 and 11, the Old Grounds and the rough bottom around B and A buoys. The complaints I hear have to do with drift conditions and how they can cause trouble for flounder fishermen. The weekend weather looks good and with the full moon tides there should be much better drifting conditions. A variety of baits have worked including squid, minnows, Gulp! and strips of fresh-caught ling or sea robin.
A surprising number of nice sea bass have been caught along with the flounder. I had one report where the boat came back with more sea bass than flatfish.
Fenwick Shoals still has good fishing for small blues and Spanish mackerel. Trolling #0 Drone spoons on at least a 15-foot long leader of 15-pound test line is the ticket to success with these fish. Trolling sinkers ahead of the spoon and a ball bearing swivel between the leader and the running line should be part of the rig. I caught bluefish but no Spanish mackerel plying the water this way Thursday. Later worked a wreck for triggerfish, managed to take a trout of about 20 inches and a single trigger.
OFFSHORE OCEAN Reiterating from last week's report: NOAA has introduced a new regulation for releasing billfish. From now on it will be a violation to remove a marlin from the water if you plan to release the fish. No more hero shots of the angler holding the fish, just a photo of the marlin in the water next to the boat.
More billfish and bigeye tuna were caught from the canyons last week. This is to be expected as the best of the offshore fishing will be in August and September.
INDIAN RIVER INLET While more and larger flounder have been caught out of the Inlet and the Back Bays, it is still pretty slow fishing. A squid and minnow package seems to be the top producer with jigs decorated with squid strips or Gulp! also working on the flatfish.
Sheepshead have been caught out of the inlet rocks on crab baits. No report on any keeper tog taken from this area.
Blues and Spanish mackerel have been caught during oncoming water. Try a Jerk-Jigger worked very fast for the Spanish.
SURF FISHING Kings remain the primary target for surf fishermen. Bloodworms or FishBites have been the top baits. An early morning or late evening trip will be the best.
FRESHWATER This hot weather has warmed up the ponds so the bass are looking for the coolest places they can find. Early morning or late afternoon trips targeting Lilly pads, docks and blowdowns with Scum Frogs, soft plastic, crankbaits and jigs have the best chance for success.
Hot weather is a good time to fish spillways. Most of these are deeper and cooler than the ponds and can be very good for bass, perch and crappie.
The same time schedule will be the best time to target the tidal rivers and creeks. Most are best during a falling tide.
*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 three books, Surf Fishing The Atlantic Coast ,The Ultimate Guide To Catching Striped Bass and Fishing Saltwater Baits.