Wind and rain throw off area fishing conditions

September 10, 2011
You don't see many groupers in our area, especially one this big. Steve Kibler landed his 49.2-pound snowy while on a special deep-water bottom-fishing head boat trip out of Fisherman's Wharf with Capt. H.D.Parsons. COURTESY LEWES HARBOUR MARINA

Fishing is far from recovered from the hurricane and with more rain, high winds, and big seas forecast for the end of the week it may be awhile before we get back to anything approaching normal. The Delaware Bay did produce a few flounder over the weekend, and the mouth of the bay gave up some nice croaker, but overall the inshore fishing was slow. Farther out in the ocean from the Buoy Line to Site 11, sea bass, ling, croaker and flounder were caught.

Offshore fishing remained very good, but big seas kept many boats at the dock. Those that did fish found dolphin, white marlin and yellowfin tuna from 50 fathoms out to the deep. Deep droppers had tilefish and swords.

Indian River Inlet is still seeing some rockfish and flounder, but not in the numbers you would expect for this time of year. Incoming current is the best time to fish here as cooler, cleaner water from the ocean moves in during the flood.

Small blues were caught from the surf on fresh mullet. Once the water settles down we should be in for good surf fishing as the mullet run is under way.

On Saturday I fished with my sons Ric and Roger out of Rudee Inlet in Virginia Beach aboard Ric’s 20-foot Jones Brothers. Reports from the lower Chesapeake Bay indicated dirty water and slow fishing, so we decided to try the ocean. It proved to be a good decision.

The first wreck we hit lies about 8 miles out, and the water looked pretty good. We fished here for about a half an hour with Roger catching a 3.5-pound triggerfish while Ric and I fed a never-ending progression of little sea bass. We moved another 4 or 5 miles out to the rubble field around the Chesapeake Light Tower where we caught nothing over 3 inches long.

The next wreck out is the Gulf Hustler and we ran the 5 or 6 more miles to that site and found another boat anchored up on the structure.

We decided to drift the wreck and began to pick up a larger class of sea bass mixed in with small blues. The action was fast and most drops produced double headers for Ric and me while Roger kept fishing with a Tsunami ball jig flavored with strips of bluefish. This was the same rig he used to catch the first triggerfish and he soon caught a second one.

As we have seen here, most of the sea bass were under the 12.5-inch minimum size, but we were able to put nine nice fish in the cooler. Those along with the two triggers made up what I considered a decent catch.

As we were thinking about calling it a day I spotted a dolphin swimming alongside the boat. Ric sprung into action and tossed over some chunks of bluefish to keep the dolphin interested. He then dropped over a hook baited with a bluefish chunk and was soon fast into the fish. After a brief but spirited battle Roger netted the 10-pounder.

On Sunday Ric, Roger and another friend ran 30 miles out to the Triangle Wrecks where they caught more than 50 keeper sea bass to 3.5 pounds. They knew the inshore wrecks were barren and we had picked over the Gulf Hustler, so they ran the extra distance and found the hot bite.

Plan now for fall fishing

Back when weakfish and Canada geese ruled the waterways and skies in Delaware, most outdoorsmen put up their fishing gear by late September and began getting their goose blinds ready. We surf fishermen were the exception, because big trout came into the surf and were easily caught on live spot. On one memorable November afternoon, Leonard Maull and I racked up 49 trout at Fenwick Island using three dozen spot we bought for $10 from Mrs. Murray at her Ocean View store. Leonard and I had the entire beach to ourselves.

Today, goose hunting is nowhere near as popular as it once was, and we have rockfish and big blues competing for our attention in the surf, bay and ocean. Boats are not put away until Christmas, and if the weather gives us a break the fishing can continue into the new year.

Those of us who have done a lot of fishing over the spring and summer need to take a look at our tackle and boat. Both must be in tip-top shape to contend with the harsh conditions and big fish we expect from now on. This is the time to make repairs and replace worn line and other tackle before the action heats up as the weather cools down.

  • 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