Poor weather conditions could affect week's fishing

November 5, 2011
The big bass are here! Garrett Shipley and Evan Falgowski trolled up this impressive limit of Halloween stripers on a shoal at the mouth of Delaware Bay. The fish weighed 35.8, 28.8, 34.5 and 30.1 pounds, and they hold the top spots so far in the annual Lewes Harbour Striper Tournament. BY SUBMITTED PHOTO

First the good news. Rockfish have arrived at the mouth of Delaware Bay. Garrett Shipley and Evan Falgowski caught four on Halloween weighing between 28 and 35 pounds while trolling the rips.

As I was writing this on Wednesday afternoon, Joe Morris sent me two more photos of rockfish over 40 pounds caught on Stretch 25s. Evan Falgowski had a 46.2-pounder, and Chris Wagner had another one that weighed in at 42.6 pounds.

Now the bad news. The lousy weather is forecast to continue at least until Sunday. The sun may shine and the temperature may be warm, but the wind is expected to howl. So what else is new?

Should you decide to ignore the weather and head out to the Rips, please think before you go. No fish, not even a big rockfish, is worth dying for.

Sea bass season reopened on Monday, but the high winds have kept a lid on this fishery as well. Tog fishing at the Outer Wall has been fair with most fishermen making the prudent decision to fish on the inside of the wall.

All reports from the surf and the inlet indicate dirty water and few, if any, fish. The same wind that has kept boats tied to the dock has dirtied the water.

On the plus side we can expect the wind to finally stop blowing, the water to clear and the fish to still be available. If the usual weather conditions apply, the best fishing days will be during the week when most fishermen have to work.

Trolling the rips
Since it appears that trolling with Mann’s Stretch 25s is the current hot technique, I will try to give some advice to those who may not have tried pulling plugs before.

The basic setup is pretty easy. I use 30-pound mono or 40-pound braid on conventional trolling reels. I do not use anything fancy. Penn Jig Master, GTi 320 or Senator 3/0 High Speed reels will all work fine. The 320GTi reels do have level wind, so if you are not familiar with laying line on a reel this model may be a wise choice.

I like a rod with enough backbone to handle the pull of the plug and enough action to allow the lure to work properly. I still have four Shakespeare Sturdy Stick rods that I purchased in 1992 when I went into the charter business.

Rigging the plug is easy. Tie six feet of 50-pound test Ande line to the split ring in the plug. Tie a perfection loop in the other end of the leader and attach this loop to the running line with a black ball bearing swivel. This swivel is the only hardware in the system.

Once on station, let the plugs float back behind the boat about 100 feet. Put the reel in gear and the plug will dive under the water. I only troll two stretch plugs on a boat with an eight-foot beam.

It is impossible for most boats to troll too slowly for rockfish. Some of the twin-engine diesel boats have a trolling valve that lets the clutch slip so the boat can run slow enough for rock. Twin-engine outboards will usually require one engine to be shut down. My 24-Albemarle with a Volvo outdrive would only troll slow enough when at idle speed.

Stretch 25s will tell you when they are working correctly. Watch the rod tips for a steady pulsation. If the action stops you have picked up trash or weeds on the plug. If the plug spins and pops out of the water you are trolling way too fast.

A Stretch 25 is supposed to dive 25 feet under the surface. It seldom goes down that far. The thickness of the running line and the speed of the boat all affect the depth of the plug. Wherever the plug runs, it will bring the rockfish up to it. I have no idea why a Stretch 25 is so deadly on rockfish, but I know beyond any doubt that it is.

Trolling the rips requires some knowledge of the sea conditions. When the wind and current are together, rips will be much smaller than when the two elements are opposed. The first set of conditions make for a pleasant ride, but the second set usually provide more action. Trolling alongside a rip and letting the current carry the plug back to the fish is a good method.

Please do be careful when fishing the rips or the Hen and Chickens Shoal. Large, breaking waves can form at either location, and these have been known to flip boats over without warning. Always wear your personal flotation device.

  • 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