Masten takes in new state record triggerfish

Buddy Masten from Clayton muscled in what might be the new Delaware state record gray triggerfish while fishing at the Ice Breakers Sept. 30. The 6.34-pounder ate a box crab bait, and was 20 inches long with a 20-inch girth. The big trigger is almost 6 ounces heavier than the existing 5-pound, 15-ounce record, and was weighed on the certified scale at Lewes Harbour Marina. COURTESY LEWES HARBOUR MARINA
October 6, 2012

Fishing has been very good in the ocean, where limit catches of sea bass have been caught over inshore wrecks and reefs. A few tog were taken along with a surprising number of big triggerfish.

The triggerfish of the week is the new Delaware state record 6.34-pounder caught by Buddy Masten at the Ice Breakers. The brute is 6 ounces heavier than the previous state record. My largest triggerfish weighed just over four pounds and was quite a handful to land. I can only imagine what a trigger weighing more than two pounds more was like.

The Delaware Bay reef sites are still giving up croaker, spot, blowfish and the occasional flounder. Blues are chasing bait on the surface around the Outer Wall and taking bottom-fished baits at the reef sites.

The surf is giving up small blues, spot and croaker. Last Friday and Saturday, I caught a few blues from the beach about halfway between the on ramp and the Point. Fresh mullet was the bait, and while the blues were small, I was able to make a nice dinner from my catch.

A few keeper flounder were caught at Indian River Inlet on live spot and Gulp!. Blues are showing up on their schedule with an appearance most likely to occur on incoming water. The tog bite was fair on opening day last Saturday with sand fleas a prime bait. Rockfish have been caught from the inlet on night tides with black Bomber plugs a good choice. Most of these fish are undersize, with larger ones due to arrive in a few weeks.

Muzzleloader season

I had planned to be out there today with my trusty smokepole, but a few years ago I hunted in 80-degree weather, and the conditions were not to my liking. The bugs were fierce; the clothing needed to combat the underbrush and bull briars was hot, and when I shot the deer at dusk I had to field dress it using a head lantern for light, and that brought the mosquitoes on the run. Then I had to stop at the first store I came to and buy several bags of ice in an attempt to cool the meat before it went bad. Hot weather is for fishing; cool weather is for hunting.

It looks like the weather will be more to my liking next week, so I will get out before the season is over. I suspect fewer hunters will be afield during the week, and since I am hunting public land that is a good thing.

DMS Surf Tournament

This weekend the Delaware Mobile Surf-Fishermen will hold their annual surf tournament. Registration will be Friday at the Officers Club in Cape Henlopen State Park with fishing on both Saturday and Sunday. This is an individual tournament with every angler competing for one of the many prizes. There will be categories for men, ladies and kids. The hope is to get entire families involved, and this is what has happened in the past. There will be a raffle as well, so even if you don’t catch a fish you can still win a big prize.

Changing seasons

As this is written, the weather feels more like Florida than Delaware. While that is not always a bad thing in October, it will not last, and colder temperatures are on the way.

We all hope for warmer weather in the spring to get the fishing under way, and then come fall we all want it to get cold to make for better hunting and bring down the rockfish from their summer home in the north.

It really doesn’t matter what we want; Mother Nature will do as she pleases, and it’s up to us to play by her rules. I have a sign on my office wall that says, “Mother Nature Bats Last.” We are the most intelligent animals on the planet, but no matter what plans we make, what structures we build, Mother Nature can wipe it all out in the blink of an eye.

I no longer test my luck when fishing or hunting. I do what the weather, the tides, the water temperatures and the winds dictate. I don’t go out in the ocean unless I have a marine weather forecast with the words “light and variable.” Those days are few and far between during the spring and fall.

It makes no sense to fish for big rockfish and blues when the water temperature is still in the 70s. They will arrive once the temperature drops into the low 60s and stay around as long as it stays above the low 40s.

As previously mentioned, I don’t like to hunt in hot weather. When the temperature is too warm for hunting, I go fishing.

The important thing is to get outside and do something. Those of us lucky enough to live in Sussex County have many choices during the change of seasons. The tough part is deciding what to choose.

  • 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