Full moon made tog fishing difficult

February 11, 2012

Fishing remains good for tog and rockfish. Over the weekend, strong currents caused by the full moon made tog fishing difficult, but in spite of this, decent catches were reported by boats fishing the inshore wrecks and reefs.

Rockfish were caught along the oceanfront by trollers pulling plugs and spoons. It was a hit-and-miss fishery where finding birds and whales greatly increased the chance of finding rockfish. Some anglers traveled to the south while others worked close to Indian River Inlet, both finding action.

Indian River Inlet recorded a decent number of rockfish on bucktails, shads and flies. One report claimed fish were caught on both incoming and outgoing current. In any case, moving the lure very slowly is the best technique for cold-water rockfish. One surprised angler caught a 30-inch flounder while fishing for rock from Bubblegum Beach.

In Virginia Beach, anglers are still catching bluefin tuna in the 100- to 300-pound range within a few miles of shore. Rockfish to 50 pounds have also been taken. The number of whales in the area is amazing, and they are coming right to the beach while chasing bait. Trolling Stretch 30s and umbrella rigs on 80-pound gear is the current vogue.

Tog and herring solutions

Beginning Feb. 11, the regulations on tog in Delaware will change. The size limit will be 16 inches, and the bag limit will drop to five fish per angler. The season will close March 31 and reopen April 1 with a three-fish limit and the same 16-inch minimum size.

That season will close May 11 and remain closed until July 17 with a five-fish bag limit and 16-inch size limit. The next closure will be Aug. 31, and the season will reopen Sept. 29, running until Dec. 31. The size will remain at 16 inches and the bag limit will stay at five fish per angler.

While not harvested as a food fish, herring are a popular bait for rockfish and blues. Unfortunately, the low population of these fish has required the closure of herring fishing in Delaware. This is a year-round situation, and a receipt of sale from a state or jurisdiction where harvesting of herring is legal is required in order to possess these fish.

My guess is the new tog limits will not have much effect on private anglers who will still go out to fish the walls, lighthouses and other inshore structure. It will have an adverse effect on charter and head boats where customers like to catch as many fish as they can. Granted, many of these folks seldom if ever catch 10 tog on a trip, but having any restriction on the bag limit gives the impression that if and when they ever did catch that many, they can’t keep them. The fewer fish they are allowed to catch, the fewer people will go out on head or charter boats.

Atlantic sturgeon

Atlantic sturgeon has been declared an endangered species. While the preservationists applaud this move, I find it frightening.

At one point in time, sturgeon were a major source of income for Delaware watermen. They were netted and the roe was sold as caviar. That was 100 years ago and only a small number of these fish remain in the Delaware estuary.

Sturgeon are a slow-growing fish, and trying to restore the population to the level of 100 years ago will take a very long time, if such a thing is even possible. During that time, I fear both commercial and recreational fishermen will suffer economic loss. The preservationists will attempt to close areas of the Delaware River and Bay to any fishing activity on the extremely small chance that a sturgeon might be disturbed.

Another economic loss could come if the dredging of the river is impacted by the endangered sturgeon. With ships getting bigger and drawing more water, the deepening of the channel is necessary to keep the ports in Delaware and Pennsylvania competitive. Halting this on the very remote chance that a dredge might disturb a sturgeon is ridiculous. I did read that the environmental impact study done before the dredging began took into consideration the possibility of sturgeon becoming an endangered species. This will not stop the preservationists from entering a federal lawsuit to halt the dredging operation.

I have said for years that the Endangered Species Act was the worst law ever passed by Congress. The enforcement of the act costs American taxpayers millions of dollars and business interests millions more. All of this money to restore a species to an unrealistic level. Billions of species have disappeared over the course of life on Earth, and once something reaches the so-called endangered level, it should be allowed to join its predecessors.

  • 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