Fishing recovering from Irene

September 3, 2011
Prior to the hurricane, Ryan Cene battled this 182.5-pound bigeye for over five hours after it was hooked in Baltimore Canyon aboard the Finomenal, with Capt. Fred Wick and mate Andy Nowakowski. Pictured with Ryan are Ross Cene and John DiLeo. The group had a great trip, also releasing a white marlin, and putting a pair of yellowfins and several dolphin in the box. COURTESY LEWES HARBOUR MARINA

Fishing was very good just before the storm, and while most areas are still recovering from the heavy rains and winds that created dirty water, at least one boat had a decent catch of croaker about 12 miles out of Ocean City, Md., on Tuesday. The Delaware boats that sailed the same day did not fare as well.

On Wednesday there were reports from the Cape Henlopen Pier of good spot fishing. Small pieces of bloodworm on a small hook was the most productive method. Two keeper flounder were caught out of Roosevelt Inlet.

One boat ran offshore to the Poorman’s Canyon and returned with yellowfin tuna caught in 50 fathoms. This would indicate colder water in that location than was there before the storm.

The Judy V out of Indian River Inlet had a mixed bag of croaker and sea bass on Wednesday. The captain reported 65-degree water on the surface. Once again this is much colder than prior to the storm.

Hunting seasons
Delaware hunting began yesterday with the resident Canada goose and dove season openers. I could easily pop a few Canada geese from my backyard, but I am pretty sure discharging a 12-gauge shotgun is not permitted in a residential area. Pity.

Sussex County does not have a state wildlife area with a resident Canada goose population, so hunters must travel to Kent County to find the nearest public hunting ground. The Milford Neck Wildlife Management Area, Blackstone, Norman G. Wilder, Milford Neck and Little Creek all have goose blinds available.

Sussex does have managed fields for dove hunting. The Assawoman Wildlife Area will be open on Saturdays from 1 to 6 p.m. during September, and permits will be issued from the check station beginning at noon. The Nanticoke Wildlife Area will be available to dove hunters from opening day with no permit required. The state has planted sunflowers to attract the doves.

I am not much of a dove hunter. They are way too small and fly way too fast for me to hit. The same is true for teal, and that season opens Saturday, Sept. 10. Public hunting is available at Prime Hook State Wildlife Area on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.

State blinds 1 through 8 will be open on a first come-first served basis with permits issued at the tag board on Little Neck Road.

Capt. Ben Betts
Capt. Ben Betts passed away last week. He, along with Capt. Frank Bader on the Fish Hawk, Capt. Buddy Wagner on the Miss Ene and Capt. Bill Massey on the Aquarius were the old hands when I began fishing out of Barbara Porter’s South Shore Marina in the late 1960s. They ran wooden boats and did not need LORAN or a GPS to find great fishing locations.

Capt. Ben ran the Ethel, and his conversations on the radio with Capt. Bill Massey were the stuff of legends. Since these conservations were going out over the air, most were fit for family newspapers, but especially when the fishing was slow, the occasional off-color reference would slip in.

Capt. Ben was instrumental in getting me my own pit at Snow Farm in Smyrna.
Jimmy Snow let Ben handle the yearly pits and all were hunted by people connected in one way or the other with South Shore Marina and the Indian River Boat Owner’s Association.

I did fish out of South Shore and I did belong to IRBA, but never in my wildest dreams did I think I would get my own pit at Snow Farm. I was happy just to be invited as a guest in Ben’s Walnut Tree Pit.

As Canada goose hunting began to reach levels never before seen, the pressure on the pits became so high that instead of letting hunters select which pit to hunt, Ben decided to assign one man to run each of the half-dozen or so pits he controlled. This man would select five others and these six would hunt in just that one pit.

Why Ben decided to let me run one pit I will never know, but I will be eternally grateful. Because of him I was able to experience the best Canada goose hunting in the world until I left for Virginia Beach in 1989. I hope goose hunting will return to its former glory, but I am sure that will not happen in my lifetime.

I last saw Capt. Ben a few years ago at Lewes Harbour Marina. He was still hunting the Walnut Tree Pit and still doing a little fishing. He will be missed.

  • 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

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