Sussex County is doubly blessed

October 22, 2011

Outdoors folks who live in Sussex County are doubly blessed. We have some of the best deer and waterfowl hunting opportunities in the area and plenty of good fishing in both fresh- and saltwater. Right now and until the hard freeze of winter takes over we can expect to have problems deciding which one of the various activities to pursue in the time we can spare from our other obligations.

Deer hunters will have the next two weekends to put a doe or two in the freezer. Then it will be the annual shotgun season from Nov. 11 to 19.   We have another doe season from Dec. 10 to 17. In January some type of deer season will be open for most of the month. Handgun season is from Jan. 7 to 14; shotgun season runs Jan. 14-21; muzzleloader runs Jan. 23-28. With plenty of public hunting ground available, most hunters should be able to fill their tags.

The various waterfowl seasons are too numerous and too split up to list here, but suffice to say if you can locate a blind you should have plenty of opportunities to hunt. Public blinds are available on both state and federal land.

Then we have the fishing. The first signs of rockfish were seen last week with keepers caught out of Indian River Inlet. Anglers to our north are reporting excellent numbers of rock both from the beach and from boats.

Tog fishing has been good and will only get better in the bay and the ocean. Once sea bass season reopens Tuesday, Nov. 1, they too will become an excellent target at ocean wrecks and reefs.

A reminder
Those of us who live in Delaware and have reached the magic age of 65 no longer need a hunting license here, but we must remember to get our Delaware identification number. This number has to be renewed every year because we are talking about old people here, and by next year some of us will be gone to the happy hunting grounds.

Keeping dead people on the rolls throws off the data, and we would not want that.

It is easy to get the number online. Go to the Delaware Fish and Wildlife site and follow the simple instructions. It took me less than five minutes and I am certainly not the brightest beacon on the beach.

Time, tide and current
Since most of us do not have the time to fish 24/7 it is good to know when the most productive times, tides and currents will occur. My personal favorite fishing situation is daybreak with an incoming tide through the change to low. While this works well on the surf and in Indian River Inlet where I do most of my fishing, other tides, currents and times are better in other locations.

The first considerations have to be tide and current. These two factors control most fish activity and will put the quarry in a certain location most of the time.

As a review, tide is the height of the water and current is the direction of flow. Along the beach, incoming current flows from south to north and the outgoing runs north to south. Current flow at the inlet is pretty obvious, but the times of high and low tide vary between the inlet and Oak Orchard, Massey’s Ditch and Rehoboth Bay. It can be over an hour from high tide at the inlet and the same tide at Oak Orchard.

Another factor is the time of slack water.

This condition occurs between the change in current from incoming to outgoing and vice versa. While not considered an optimum time to fish, slack current can be productive in deep water during periods of the new and full moon when the current is strongest.

Time is the factor over which we have some control. We choose when to fish and must include all conditions including the weather when choosing where to fish.

As an example, I love to fish the inlet in the fall when blues, rock and hickory shad are available.

We already know I like an incoming current, so the first thing I check is the tide chart. On Monday high tide occurs at 7 a.m. Since I don’t like to fish in the dark and sunrise is not until 7:15, this tide is too early.

High tide in the evening is around 7:30 p.m. and very close to sundown.

For me the choice is to fish in the afternoon even though I know the water will be considerably more crowded than in the morning.

As you plan your fishing trips, do take all these elements into consideration and you should have considerably more success.

  • 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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