Fishing's improving; deer hunting is under way

October 8, 2011

Fishing in the Delaware Bay remains slow, but as the junk from the floods up north clears out I expect a dramatic improvement. The reef sites are producing a mixed bag of kings, flounder and rockfish, but the number and size of these fish is pretty small. The beach at Broadkill has seen decent numbers of bluefish and a few kings while the Broadkill River holds good numbers of white perch.

Bottom fishing in the ocean has been very good. The Buoy Line and the Old Grounds hold plenty of sea bass and a few big croaker. Many of the sea bass are under the 12.5-inch limit, but combined with the croaker and ling it is possible to put together a decent catch.

Those willing to run 20 to 30 miles offshore are finding limit catches of sea bass along with cod and tog. It helps to have a long list of wrecks in this area as these are the structures that hold the fish. Prudent skippers fish several wrecks each day so as not to wipe out the population on any one structure.

Not very many boats still running offshore, but those who do find tuna, white marlin and dolphin. This time of year the trick is finding warm water and fishing the temperature breaks.

Indian River Inlet is giving up rockfish, flounder and blues, but not in any great number or size. This is about to change for the better. As the days grow shorter and nights cooler rockfish will begin to move into the inlet and we should have a good number there over the next two weeks. Larger blues and more tog will also be available.

In the surf small blues continue to dominate the suds. Use small chunks of fresh mullet on small hooks to catch these fish. There are enough in the 12- to 14-inch class to make for a few good meals.

Deer hunting is under way
Today is the opening day of muzzleloader season and I suspect the fields and woods will be full of nimrods searching for that elusive big buck. Of course, archery season has been open since Sept. 1 and last Saturday was the first of eight days of October antlerless season.

Muzzleloaders have become increasingly popular with the introduction of the inline rifle, pellet power and bullets as opposed to balls. The modern muzzleloader 50-caliber rifle is extremely accurate and deadly. The last deer I killed with my CVA inline was beyond 75 yards and I was using an open sight. I also have a CVA sidelock that uses a cap to fire balls. I took three or four deer with this rifle before I got the  inline. Another great benefit of muzzleloaders is you can purchase a decent rifle for a reasonable price.

The downside to muzzleloaders is the cleaning. All the black powder residue must be removed or it will corrode the barrel and ruin the gun.

Delaware certainly has a long season and ample opportunities to hunt deer. Before moving to Virginia Beach in 1989 I had four leases in Delaware and Maryland. When I returned I found it difficult and expensive to lease hunting land and so I have been hunting on public property.

Living in Sussex County I am fortunate to have a lot of public land to hunt within a reasonable distance from my home. Redden State Forrest is a huge tract of land by Delaware standards and holds a good deer population. I have a theory on how to hunt public land. First consider the typical hunter who will be out during deer season. He has not scouted the area and will never venture more than a few feet into the woods. He will only walk on large trails and spends most of his time sitting at the edge of the woods and the field. It seems to me that a hunter who takes time to scout the area and determine where the deer are traveling has a much greater chance of finding success. Setting up in the woods at a location where several game trails converge would be a good idea.

Putting up a stand on public property is not a good idea because there is a good chance it will be stolen or at least occupied by someone other than you. Carrying in one of the small one man ground blinds is a better solution. Scout out the place and set up the blind before opening day to make sure you can do it with minimal problems on the day of the hunt. I would be on site at least two hours before hunting time to get the blind in place and be ready when the rest of the hunters begin spooking the deer out of the fields and hopefully towards you.

  • 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