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Summer flounder minimum size changes April 1

April 1, 2017

On Saturday, April 1, the Delaware regulations for summer flounder will change. The minimum size will increase from 16 to 17 inches. The four-fish bag size limit will remain, and the season will be open for 365 days.  

If you purchase your fishing license at a retail outlet, be sure to pick up a copy of the 2017 Delaware Fishing Guide. On page 12 you will see the regulations for summer flounder, tautog and tilefish are printed in red. At the top of the page in small, red print it says, “All seasons and limits subject to change.” Please stay current by consulting: www.fw.delaware.gov or 302-739-9914.

The summer flounder regulations listed in the guide are no longer correct. As of April 1, the website will have the correct regulations, but there are no plans to reprint the fishing guide.

To add a bit more confusion to the matter, New Jersey may go out of compliance with the summer flounder regulations. I have no idea if this will happen, but there has been a good deal of talk about it, with government officials supporting the idea.  

When a state goes out of compliance, the National Marine Fisheries Service can shut down that fishery in that state. This means flounder fishing would close in New Jersey, including its portion of the Delaware Bay. Even if New Jersey does comply with the regulations, the minimum size on that side of Delaware Bay would be 18 inches, one inch larger than on the Delaware side of the bay.

Delaware, Maryland and Virginia compose a region where flounder regulations are uniform. New Jersey is in another region with New York and Connecticut. The northern region has more restrictive regulations because, according to NMFS statistics, those states exceeded their catch quota during the last few years.

We are still a few weeks away from the beginning of any steady flounder fishing, so there will be time to let all this play out. If the reports of a low flounder population are true, and I have seen no reason to doubt they are, I expect we won’t be catching many small fish in 2017 or for several more years in the future.

Kids and fishing

On Saturday, I attended the Saltfish Lurefest in Bowers Beach. The overall attendance was a bit smaller than usual, and the raffle was fixed so I didn’t win anything. As always, the food was more than worth the price of admission, as was the chance to talk with folks I don’t get to see very often.

The real fun of Lurefest is the kid’s raffle. It too is fixed, but in a good way, as each kid wins a new rod and reel, plus other stuff. One little boy, about a year old, won a basketball. It was almost as tall as he was, but that didn’t stop him from bouncing it all over the fire hall. 

Maybe I am getting old (who am I fooling? I am getting old), but watching the faces of those kids when they win something is a joy to me. Even a couple of teenagers who behaved like they were above all this childhood foolishness lit up like Christmas trees when they won their rod and reel.

These kids are not only the future of fishing; they are the future of the world. I wish they could maintain some of their joy as the problems inherent in adulthood come along. Perhaps, going fishing will help them through the tough times.

Fishing report

I wish I had better news from last weekend, but tog trips to the ocean proved difficult at best. My reports indicated a few tog caught, but nowhere near a limit for anyone. A few Boston mackerel were also taken from the ocean.

Delaware Bay anglers found white perch and short rock along the beach with the more consistent action between Augustine and Woodland Beach. Bloodworms have become the top bait for both species. Do remember that beginning April 1, striped bass season is closed, and you must use non-offset circle hooks when fishing Delaware waters anywhere above a line running east from the south jetty at the C&D Canal to the Pennsylvania state line.

There are a couple of things I would like to try this spring. One is fishing for winter flounder at Massey’s Ditch. I caught them there in the 1960s using bloodworms.

I would also like to give those blue catfish a try near Laurel. I caught them in Santee-Cooper, S.C., and they are mighty fine eating. My information indicates cut bunker is the best bait.

The first flounder was caught behind the Virginia Barrier Islands, so they should be here within two weeks. Get those honey-dos done, because it’s almost that time.

  • 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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