Offshore fishing nets sea bass

October 1, 2011

On Tuesday afternoon Doug Elliott and I went to Herring Point for a little surf fishing. The fishing was less than spectacular (Doug caught two little blues), but the amount of wood on the beach was more than I have ever seen before.

This was not new wood. Most of the stuff looked like it been underwater for a very long time, perhaps along the bottom of a creek or the Delaware River. I suspect the recent rains and floods washed it out and carried it downstream.

There was little if any wood in the water, but as the tide came in the waves began to wash the stuff on the beach back into the ocean. I did notice this wood barely floated with most of the larger pieces under the surface. This would make it extremely dangerous for boaters who should be very careful until this stuff finds a new home.

Another thing I noticed was the lack of plastic trash mixed with the wood. There were a few old pieces of plastic and a couple of plastic bottles, but considering the amount of wood on the beach the amount of plastic was minimal.

Having grown up in Claymont on the banks of the Delaware River during the 1940s and 50s when everything known to man was dumped into the water and most of the trash ended up on the shoreline, I can say having wood on the beach is not the worst thing that can happen. Even in the ’60s and ’70s we would find pallets and other trash on the beach and today you have a hard time finding a piece of wood to use as a cutting board. The water is noticeably cleaner and that is a good thing for us and the fish.

Fishing report
Over the past few days boats running out 30 miles or more are finding large numbers of sea bass on wrecks. The Katy Did managed a limit catch of 25 sea bass for every one of the six fishermen on board.

Closer to shore, B Buoy, A Buoy and the Old Grounds are giving up sea bass and ling, but the number of keeper bass is much lower than farther offshore. The good flounder fishing available before the hurricane seems to have vanished.

Delaware Bay reef sites have produced a mixed bag of flounder, croaker, kings and bluefish. The morbid weather has kept many anglers off the water making an accurate report somewhat problematic.

Several keeper flounder have been caught from the rocks at Indian River Inlet by anglers drifting with live minnows or casting Gulp! This is also the time of year when drifting with sand fleas can be productive for rock and tog. I expect to hear more about the tog fishing next week as the season reopened on Thursday.

In the surf, small blues and a few kings make up most of the catch. Cut chunks of fresh mullet on small hooks have been the top bait.

I was surprised to see the News Journal feature a front-page story on menhaden on the day of the meeting held by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission last week in Lewes. The ASMFC wants to reduce the catch of menhaden to achieve a sustainable population.

While a few states do have a baitfishing operation on menhaden, the only jurisdiction that still allows the factory-owned purse seine boats to operate is the Commonwealth of Virginia. The only menhaden processing plant on the East Coast is located in Reedville, Va., and so long as it remains operational there is no chance Virginia will do anything to decrease the amount of menhaden they allow to be taken from their waters.

Maryland has complained for years that the Virginia menhaden fleet has taken so many fish there are none left to feed rockfish and other species that depend on them. These complaints have fallen on deaf ears in Virginia.
The other fishery that takes considerable amounts of menhaden are the pound nets. Virginia has refused to regulate them in any way and is not likely to do so anytime soon.

In the last vote on establishing a menhaden management plan taken by the ASMFC, Virginia was the only member to oppose the measure.

If the ASMFC can pass a meaningful regulation and use its power to force Virginia to comply it will make the recent earthquake centered in the commonwealth seem like the tinkling of a tiny bell.

  • 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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