Wind wreaking havoc on fishing conditions

April 30, 2016

Fishing is getting better in spits and spurts. Tog action in the lower bay has been decent with a good many anglers catching their three-fish limit. The problem is, and has been all spring, the *&#@*& wind. The past week is a perfect example. East to northeast winds blowing 15 to 20 knots with higher gusts from Tuesday through Friday. Add in a good dose of cold rain and you have the perfect recipe for miserable fishing conditions. As this is written, Saturday does look fishable, but that could change.

On the beach, some interesting catches were made. Small rockfish have been the most abundant catch, not counting skates and sharks, with a few blowfish and kings all taken on bloodworms. A very few keeper rock were caught on cut bunker. Black drum taken on sand fleas were the real surprise. Several were caught at Herring Point and from Broadkill Beach. Broadkill has been the site of black drum catches in the spring for a few years, but catching them from the ocean surf is a bit unusual. If sand fleas are unavailable, try fresh clams for the drum.

It is time for our short shot at large rockfish in the surf. The spawn is pretty much over in the bays, so the big females will be running along the coast on their way north. It is one of those deals where you have to be there at the right time, in the right place with the right bait. Can’t help you with the right time and place since the rockfish don’t let me know their plans, but clams or fresh bunker will be the right baits. I would also try digging up a few sand fleas, just in case.

The first bluefin tuna of the year was brought in last week. Joseph Cangianelli, Jeff Rossenkilde and Dan Shephard caught the 64-pound bluefin along the 500 line between the Baltimore and Poorman’s canyons. The big fish hit a blue and white Iland lure tipped with a ballyhoo.

Flounder fishing remains slow in the Lewes and Rehoboth Canal, the Broadkill River and the Indian River Bay. Just a few short fish for those who have tried. I hate to keep harping on the weather, but I suspect the cold and rain have kept the flounder from making themselves known.

Another surprise, the crabbing has been pretty good. Both recreational and commercial crabbers are finding success in the waters feeding Delaware Bay.

Indian River Inlet has seen blues, small rockfish and some shad caught during incoming water. White bucktails or metal lures work on the small blues and rock while shad darts and very small spoons are best for the shad. Toggers are using green crabs to take a few keepers out of the rocks.

I am still getting good reports from anglers targeting white perch in the tidal creeks and rivers. You may have to move around a bit to find steady action, but once you do, I think you will be pleased with the quality and quantity of the fish. Right now, bloodworms are the best perch bait.

Ocean warming

I know some people don’t believe the climate is getting warmer, but I know from personal experience the ocean certainly is. I have seen plenty of changes over the past 30 to 40 years to convince me the water is much warmer.

I am not talking about the fishes' up and down population swings. While I am sure warmer water can adversely affect the spawning success of certain species, the up and down cycle of fish, such as striped bass, has been going on for as long as records have been kept. The same is true for Delaware’s beloved trout (weakfish). Back in the 1940s and '50s weakfish were seldom seen, then the big population explosion started in the 1960s, ran till the 1980s and now they are hard to find.

The changes I am talking about are more the movement of fish that have to adjust to water temperature. Until a few years ago, I had never heard of triggerfish and spadefish in Delaware waters, but today we have fishable populations. Black sea bass have been at the Old Grounds for as long as I can remember. Now you have to run out beyond 20 fathoms and fish deeper, colder water to catch them. Flounder were in Indian River and Rehoboth bays all summer. Over the past few years they have left the shallow bays and moved to the deeper, cooler Old Grounds.

I am not smart enough to know why the water is getting warmer; I just know, beyond a reasonable doubt, that it is. I also know that if I fish for flounder in Indian River Bay or sea bass at the Old Grounds, I am going to be disappointed.

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. Eric can be reached at


  • 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