Rockfish should arrive in mid-November

October 20, 2012

Fishing remains good when the weather allows boats to sail. Flounder season will close Wednesday, Oct. 24, so this will be the last weekend of 2012 for catching some of these popular fish. Sea bass season is currently closed, but will reopen Thursday, Nov. 1.

Tog action remains steady on inshore wrecks and reefs. When conditions are optimum, good numbers can be caught on crab baits. As of last weekend, triggerfish were still mixed in with the tog.

Surf fishing is good if you enjoy catching small blues, kings and the occasional small red drum. The mullet run is still ongoing, and fished cut or whole, this bait will be your best bet. Often the fish are very close to the beach in the wash or just behind the first wave.

The Cape Henlopen Fishing Pier has been producing good numbers of spot on bloodworms. Kings, small blues, croaker and blowfish are also taken on bloods. Cut mullet will draw strikes from blues, and live mullet or minnows fished close to the pilings will take flounder.

There have been a few more keeper rockfish caught at Indian River Inlet. Night tides remain the best with live spot, eels, black Bomber or Wind Cheater plugs the top offerings.

Tog fishing in the rocks has been fair, but most of the fish caught have been on the small side. Rockfish will also take the same sand fleas and crab baits.

The question I get asked most often is when will the rockfish arrive? I wish I knew. Currently, they are in New York and just beginning to show in north Jersey. Unless we get some very cold weather, and I hope we don’t, I would not expect to see many more keepers until mid-November. The reports from up north do indicate good numbers of big fish, so once they arrive, the action will be hot.

Muzzleloader season

Unfortunately, I did not get out during muzzleloader season, so I don’t have a firsthand report. I did hear of two big bucks taken in Sussex County, one near Laurel and one on this side, but I did not see either animal. The buck taken over here was reported to have a live weight of 265 pounds.

There will be several days of doe season beginning today, and since I hunt for meat, not horns, I hope to fill my freezer before the regular shotgun season.

Commercial fishing

In recent conversations I have been told it is commercial fishermen who are responsible for a lack of fish in Delaware Bay. While it is always easy to blame the other guy, in this case that is simply not true. I suspect if all the nets in Delaware Bay were to disappear, recreational anglers would not catch any more fish. Commercial netters in Delaware do not catch enough fish to make a dent in the overall population of any species. They catch so few flounder that it is not considered sufficient to add to the coastwide total. Every rockfish caught is recorded, because each fisherman is required to report his catch and tag every fish. They are allowed a 100-pound per trip bycatch on trout.

Do some commercial fishermen cheat? You bet. Do some recreational fishermen cheat? Yes, they do. I get the DNREC enforcement blotter every week, and there are many more recreational violations then commercial. And most of the commercial violations are for shellfish.

There are commercial fisheries that do damage fish stocks. The long-line swordfishery all but destroyed that stock until it was curtailed. Bluefin tuna have been hunted to brink of extinction because the Japanese are willing to pay outlandish prices for sushi. The cod stock on George’s Bank has been fished down to the point that many of the very companies that depended on that fishery have gone out of business. However, none of these fisheries are in Delaware.

If, as one person suggested, someone were to buy up all the commercial licenses in Delaware, not only would we be putting hardworking people out of business, we would not make any significant improvement to the fish stocks in Delaware Bay.

When striped bass were in trouble, many people thought we could save the fishery by shutting down the commercials. I and several others sought a complete moratorium on all striped bass fishing, because a dead fish can’t make more fish no matter who kills it.

Gov. Hughes of Maryland finally agreed and put the moratorium in place. Today we have a strong commercial and recreational fishery with the recreational sector catching many more rockfish than the commercials. There is no reason why both factions cannot survive and prosper.

  • 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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