With Sandy gone, when will we get back on the water?

Wesley Humes, 9, of Milford; Cale Betts, 15, of Milton; and Chris Brown, 13, of Milford, after a successful morning of Delaware's 2012 youth waterfowl hunt. The three were accompanied by Alan Humes and Joey Melvin. SOURCE SUBMITTED
November 3, 2012

You have probably heard about Hurricane Sandy by now. I do believe most of us in Sussex County got by without too much damage and with few if any injuries. I did see photos of Bayshore Campground in Ocean View, where I had a trailer for 17 years, and it was pretty well flooded. The Cape Henlopen Fishing Pier did not look too good, but the beaches at Lewes and Rehoboth were in fine shape. I saw no damage to any boats moored in the Lewes and Rehoboth Canal, although I did not see all of them. Indian River Marina did not look too bad in the photos I saw.

As this is written on Wednesday afternoon, the Cape Henlopen and Delaware Seashore state parks are closed, and sand-moving equipment is on site clearing the road at the Indian River Inlet bridge. One photo I saw showed waves breaking where the road should have been, and it will take awhile to move all the sand and rebuild the dune.

With everyone safe, the next question is, when will we be able to get back on the water? While I have no way of knowing exactly, I don’t think it won’t be that long considering the extent of the storm. The beaches at Lewes and Rehoboth did not look all that bad, so I am hopeful the ocean beaches will reopen by the end of the week. It will take awhile for the water to clear, and it will be sometime next week before all the fresh water in the bays has moved out.

Many of us had planned to fish for rock during the full moon, but the seas were a tad too rough. This will be my first target once we get back out.

Indian River Inlet, once we can get there, will be the first place I would expect to see some reports of fishing success. Rockfish and big blues could be in there feeding right now, but most of us must wait until the road is clear.

The good news is all the state wildlife areas are open so hunting activities may continue. Shotgun season will open Friday, Nov. 9, and I know hunters will want to do some scouting after the storm.

Caption correction

Last week we ran a photo of the new Delaware state record sheepshead and somehow I managed to send the wrong caption. The correct caption is: Chris Wentz from Spring Grove, Pa., has broken the Delaware state record for sheepshead with this 15.7-pounder he pulled from the Outer Wall. The existing record was set last fall by a 15.5-pound fish.

Fisheries management: How it works - or doesn't

Last week we reported the recreational sea bass season, which was supposed to open Nov. 1, was postponed indefinitely. The reason for the closure is that recreational fishermen have over fished the 2012 quota on black sea bass and may have overfished the 2013 quota as well. Depending on decisions made at the December Mid-Atlantic Fisheries Management Council meeting, black sea bass season could remain closed until 2014.

Unlike commercial fisheries where all landings are recorded, the recreational landings are an estimate based on the best available data. For years, this data was provided by the Marine Recreational Fishing Statistical Survey, which was so poor even the federal government said it was useless. We now have a much better survey that uses data collected from fishermen along with information from fishing licenses and fishermen identification numbers. While better, it is not perfect.

The data is collected in waves throughout the year, so if a problem with overfishing is occurring it can be dealt with quickly. This is what happened with black sea bass.

Federal law dictates that when overfishing is occurring, the various fisheries councils must take action to stop it. Overages must be paid back by the fishermen responsible for the overfishing, and in this case it is the recreational angler.

Folks I spoke with at the Mid-Atlantic Council did not hold out much hope that the current data will change. They would not make any predictions about the final outcome for black sea bass regulations, but I did not sense that we will be allowed to fish for them anytime soon.

  • 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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