Getting on the water early may be key to success

Talk about Togzilla! Chris Dawson wrestled this 19.7-pound tautog from the Outer Wall. The 30-inch bruiser ate a "white legger" crab, and was weighed in at Lewes Harbour Marina. SOURCE SUBMITTED
December 3, 2011

Rockfish action in the Delaware Bay remains good and should get better. Big fish to over 40 pounds continue to be caught by trolling, chunking and drifting eels. The Eights, Overfalls Shoal and the 60-Foot Slough have all produced trophies.

While fishing is good, not everyone who ventures out finds success. This is especially true on the weekends when hundreds of anglers with varying degrees of expertise and courtesy are on the water.

I have found the best way to overcome the crowds is to get out early. If you leave the dock an hour or more before sunrise you will avoid the majority of less-dedicated anglers.

Not only will the number of boats on the water decrease, the odds of connecting with a really nice rockfish will increase. Stripers are known to feed during low-light conditions, so by getting on the grounds before sunrise you will be fishing during what should be the best time of day. While nothing is guaranteed, I believe you will catch more fish if you are willing to miss a little sleep.

Tog fishing over the weekend was hampered by the strong current produced by the new moon. This is not unusual, as the tog seem reluctant to move around when the current is ripping. This weekend should see improved bottom fishing.

Tog were caught early last week at bay reef sites, the Outer Wall and the Ice Breakers. Crab is always the top bait.

Better weather conditions allowed boats to run out to the 20-Fathom Line where sea bass were waiting. Here too the best action was early in the week, and it should return this weekend.

Surf fishermen and jetty jockeys are still waiting. We need some east wind to move bait closer to shore. Last week in New Jersey, surf fishermen were lined up elbow to elbow catching stripers that had followed sand eels to the beach. We can only hope the same thing happens here.

Great weekend in Virginia Beach
My wife and I visited with our son Ric, his wife Natasha and our granddaughter Dasha in Virginia Beach. The weather was a bit windy on Thanksgiving Day, and while we couldn’t fish, we had even more time together and enjoyed an excellent meal.

Friday morning Ric and I were up at 4:30 a.m. and on the water by 6. The weather was fine and the rockfish were waiting at the Third Island of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. The action was not as hot as I have seen it, but we managed to catch a limit of four rock between 20 and 26 inches. All the fish were taken on Rebel WindCheaters cast to the rocks that support the island.

After securing our rockfish limit, we anchored up at the tunnel tube on the Second Island where we soaked crabs for tog. The same strong current that made the rockfish action so good did nothing for the tog bite. We saw two keepers taken and Ric had both of them.

On Saturday, Roger joined us and we were back at the Third Island about a half hour earlier. We found a bigger class of rockfish anxious to eat WindCheaters. By 8 a.m., we had six in the box measuring up to 30 inches. With the slow tog bite the day before we decided to come in early and had the boat washed and the fish cleaned before noon.

While Ric cleaned the boat and Roger cleaned the fish, I sat in a wicker chair in the sun and gave them the benefit of my accumulated wisdom. Sometimes it is good to be the old man.

Of all the different types of fishing I have done over the years, I enjoy catching rockfish on light tackle at the CBBT more than any of the others. Include my two sons and I do believe it is the most enjoyable fishing experience I can have.

The best is yet to come
I hope you have not winterized the boat, because we have not seen the best of the rockfish run. Reports from as far north as Long Island indicate stripers are still being caught from both beach and boat. Some of the hottest action has been in the ocean close to shore with huge schools of rockfish working under diving birds.

So far in Delaware, only a few rock have been caught from the ocean, and it is possible we could have exciting action up to Christmas and beyond. Even if you have put the boat away, it is still possible to go out on a charter or head boat and get in on the fun.

  • 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

Welcome to The Cape Gazette Archive.
This content is provided free of charge
thanks to our sponsor:

Close ad in...

Close Ad