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Flounder catches to drop 30 percent in 2017

August 20, 2016

Beginning in 2017, the number of flounder landed by commercial and recreational fishermen will be cut by 30 percent. The recreational harvest limit will drop from 5.42 million pounds to 3.77 million pounds. Commercial fishermen will go from 8.12 million down to 5.66 million pounds.

The next step for recreational fishermen will be figuring out how to meet the new limit. DENREC’s Division of Fish and Wildlife will come up with options, and then there will be public hearings and comment periods. Once that process is complete, the results will go to the DNREC secretary who will approve the final regulations. Expect this process to begin in early 2017. The current flounder regulations will remain in effect until then.

On the plus side, porgy and black sea bass regulations should remain the same. Not that either of these fish is as important to Delaware saltwater anglers as summer flounder.

White Marlin Open

The White Marlin Open is over for another year and this was one for the record books. Phil Heasly and the crew of the Kallianassa from Fort Myers, Fla., will be splitting up the $2.82 million top prize for their 76.5-pound white marlin, the only one to make the minimum weight. Jim Conway on the Get Reel took home $258,995 for his 790-pound blue marlin. The largest tuna weighed 236.5 pounds and was worth $767,091 for Rich Kosztyu on the Hubris.

A couple of Delaware boats ended up in the money. The Fish Whistle had the fourth-largest tuna at 71.5 pounds, winning $5,626.75, and the Sea Flame won $17,717.50 for the largest dolphin, tipping the scales at 39 pounds.

Fishing report

I am happy to report that more flounder have been caught out of Delaware Bay with the best action at reef sites 6, 7 and 8. Jigging directly over the hard structure has been the key to success. In addition to flounder, small croaker, spot and kings are also taken at the reef sites. Bloodworms can’t be beat for these fish.

The Outer Wall and the Ice Breakers have given up a few sheepshead to anglers soaking sand fleas.  The occasional tog along with some trophy oyster toads are in the same locations and will take the same bait.  Fishing just off the Outer Wall with bloodworms will connect you with kings and small trout.  The south end of the wall will hold small blues that will gobble up your metal lures, with the best of this action on the outgoing current.

I keep seeing photos of flounder caught out of the Lewes and Rehoboth Canal, but all I can catch are small croaker and crabs.  Since my boat is only 16 feet long and I can’t run out to the Old Grounds I will have to keep fishing in the canal until I learn how to catch a flounder.

Not seeing reports of slot-rockfish caught from the Canal or the Broadkill River.  I suspect the hot water has put them off their feed.  I do plan to keep trying to snag one on a soft plastic like a BKD or a small plug like a Seblie.

The fishing pier at Cape Henlopen State Park has seen some keeper croaker and small spot.  Bloodworms remain the best bait.  The few flounder caught from there have been below the 16-inch minimum size.

Flounder fishing also improved in Indian River Inlet and the Back Bays.  No one is consistently boxing a limit, but there are enough keepers caught to make a trip productive.  Live minnows and squid or a jig with Gulp! remain the top flounder baits.  Those who can catch small spot in the Back Bays and drift them through the inlet have a better chance of scoring a keeper.

The best flounder fishing is still in the ocean.  Limits have been caught as close to shore as Site 10 and as far out as A Buoy.  Start inshore and move off if the first location proves unproductive.  Jigging with a bucktail tipped with Gulp! or strips of fish, squid, shiners or smelt has produced the best catches.

Trolling small spoons at Fenwick Shoal is still producing small blues and a few Spanish mackerel.  I hope to try trolling with larger spoons and swimming plugs because I think there should be some king mackerel around the same location.  Small blues, bunker and even Spanish mackerel are prime feed for kings, and all three are present at Fenwick Shoal.

Offshore fishing is hitting its peak.  White and blue marlin are in good supply along with dolphin and tuna.  Nowhere near as many bigeyes as we saw last year, but perhaps now that the White Marlin Open is over more boats will direct their attention toward the big tuna.

  • Eric Burnley is a Delaware native who has fished and hunted the state from an early age.  Since 1978 he has written countless articles about hunting and fishing in Delaware and elsewhere along the Atlantic Coast.  He has been the regional editor for Salt Water Sportsman, Field and Stream, Outdoor Life and the Fisherman Magazine.  He was the founding editor of the Mid-Atlantic Fisherman magazine.  Eric is the author of three books; Surf Fishing the Atlantic Coast, The Ultimate Guide to Striped Bass Fishing and Fishing Saltwater Baits.  He and his wife Barbara live near Milton, Delaware. Eric can be reached at Eburnle@aol.com.

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