By Eric Burnley Sr.*
Updated: May 11, 2017
DELAWARE BAY Dirty water, high winds and rain continue to hamper the striped bass bite in the Upper Bay and Lower Delaware River. Even when the weather allows boaters to get out, the dirty water has made catching difficult. Some success was reported at the 6L and 7L buoys on cut bunker used as bait and chum.
White perch have been caught as far up the tidal creeks and rivers as the spillways. Bloodworms and live minnows have been the best baits.
The bluefish run slowed mid-week with fish caught in the Broadkill River at Oyster Rocks, the river side of Beach Plum Island, on or near the fishing pier at Cape Henlopen State Park and Lewes Beach. Cut bunker or mullet has worked best.
Tog were caught on green crab and sand fleas at the Outer Wall. Here too the wind and rain limited access. Tog season closed on May 11.
The occasional flounder shows up at the Cape Henlopen Fishing Pier and the Lewes and Rehoboth Canal. Minnows, squid and Gulp! are the most popular baits.
Black drum have not been caught from Broadkill Beach in more than a week. While the dirty water in the bay is partly responsible, it is also possible that the big boomers have moved on to the Coral Beds off of Slaughter Beach. Clams make the best drum bait.
- ADVISORY: Summer Flounder Regulations: As of April 1, the minimum size for summer flounder in Delaware is 17 inches. The bag limit remains at four fish per day and the season runs for 365 days.
INSHORE OCEAN On Wednesday, DNREC sank the Zuni/Tamaroa, the decorated World War II-era Navy tug turned USCG cutter of "Perfect Storm" fame, on the Del-Jersey-Land Reef. The weather was perfect and the sinking went off as planned. This reef deployment will add to the excellent reef material already on this site.
Tog have been caught over inshore wrecks and reefs when sea conditions allowed boats to sail from Indian River and Lewes. Three-fish limits were taken on some trips with fewer fish taken on others. Crab has been the best tog bait.
INDIAN RIVER INLET Bluefish blitzed the inlet on some days staging under the Inlet Bridge and at the end of the jetties. Metal lures and bucktails worked best on the blues. Mid-week saw a reduction of the number of fish taken. The Indian River Bay and Massey’s Ditch also gave up big blues with most of that action on cut bunker or surface lures. During the bluefish blitz a few big rockfish to 40 inches were caught on metal and bucktails.
The occasional flounder has been caught from the VFW Slough and Massey’s Ditch. Minnows, squid and Gulp! work well here.
SURF FISHING Big blues continue to fall for cut bunker or mullet along the beach. Fish well over 10 pounds have been caught with the change of tide the best time to fish. Of course, bluefish being bluefish, they are likely to show up on any tide and under any weather condition.
While rare, big rockfish have been caught from the surf. They have been taken on the same cut bunker and mullet fished for big blues.
Skates and dog sharks round out the surf menu.
FRESHWATER The stocked trout streams in New Castle County continue to produce good fishing. Worms, grubs and live minnows work best along with in-line spinners.
Bass, crappie and pickerel have been caught out of local ponds, the upper reaches of the tidal creeks and rivers and the spillways. Live minnows or shiners will attract all three species. Lure fishermen will stick with stickbaits, crankbaits and jigs.
BLACK SEA BASS On Monday, May 15, black sea bass season will open in Delaware, Maryland and Virginia. I have had my reservation in on a head boat since mid-February, but the weather is not looking very good for opening day. No matter, sooner or later I will get out there and when I do, I plan to get in on a 15-fish limit of prime seafood.
Those who plan to try for sea bass should be aware of some of their particular traits:
First, the largest sea bass eat first. Just like a family dinner where big, old Uncle Harry grabs the biggest portions, the biggest, oldest males will get to the bait first.
Sea bass also have the ability to change their sex as conditions warrant. Most start out as females, but when the dominant male meets his untimely death, one of the females will change her sex to male.
In my experience, the larger fish will jump on a metal jig before the smaller fish. If you have the self-control to use a jig and catch one fish at a time when all around you are cranking in double-headers I believe you will end the day with more quality sea bass.
After the first few days of the season all the well-known structure will have been hit pretty hard. Those with a nice list of secret locations will continue to catch keepers. If you pull up on a wreck or reef, and start the day catching small sea bass chances are that spot has been hammered. It’s not going to improve, so the only sensible thing to do is move.
Last year we had decent fishing for black sea bass on the Old Grounds. They were caught in with the flounder and mixed catches were common. I have no idea if history will repeat, but if so we will have the best of two fisheries.