Fishing failures outnumbering successes since storms

Cape Henlopen surf action has been pretty good. Tosh Tryon, Jim Wahl and Jack Austin had this catch of bluefish and stripers to 25 pounds while using cut bunker near the Herring Point jetties. COURTESY LEWES HARBOUR MARINA
November 17, 2012

Fishing has been hit or miss since the storms moved past. Rockfish were caught in the Rips and close to the beach from Cape Henlopen to Fenwick Island, but the number of successful anglers was far outweighed by the number of those who had nothing to show for their efforts. Trolling plugs has been the most successful technique, with a few fish caught on eels.

Monday was a good day for surfcasters at Herring Point. Big blues and rockfish moved to the beach and were caught on cut bunker. It was one of those rare days when surf fishermen do better than their brothers and sisters in boats.

Tog fishing has been decent in the bay and ocean when boats can sail. Dirty water hindered success, but the fish are there.

Indian River Inlet is beginning to produce a few larger rockfish, but most regulars feel the best is yet to come. Tog were caught out of the rocks on crab bait.

Deer season

Deer season opened with good weather, and I have heard of big bucks taken by local hunters. If you were among the lucky ones please send in a picture. I am getting tired of seeing photos of fish I didn’t catch. Might as well change over to deer I didn’t shoot.

One more day of shotgun season and then it is back to antlerless deer season beginning Dec. 8 and running until Dec. 15. Perhaps I can make it out for a day or two then.


Everyone who is lucky enough to hunt and fish in Sussex County has a great deal to be thankful for. All of us live a short drive from the best of both worlds. We have many acres of woods to hunt and miles of beaches to fish. Include our bays, ponds and rivers, and the fishing possibilities are endless.

The one thing that makes all of this possible is public access. Our boat ramps are free for Delaware citizens, and there is plenty of open hunting grounds in state forests, wildlife areas and parks. I recently spoke with a friend in New Jersey who said he was jealous of our free boat ramps. The ramps in New Jersey are all privately owned and charge $20 in and $20 out. An annual pass begins at $350.

We are also blessed with an abundance of game. Deer hunting gets better every year, and we have people coming here from other states to take advantage of the abundant whitetail herd.

We are currently experiencing the best striped bass fishing in history. Since the Delaware River has been cleaned up and rockfish can breed in places that could not support any life 60 years ago, we are seeing the positive results. Current regulations diminish the impact of poor recruitment years, so the fishery no longer collapses and then tries to recover.

The past two seasons have seen more weakfish caught in Delaware than at any time in the last 15 years. I think it is way too early to declare these fish are back, but I recall how the last uptick in trout began in the early 1960s, and there are encouraging similarities.

Summer flounder fishing has also been very good. High minimum size limits have restricted the number of fish we take home, but anyone who fishes for them can attest we have plenty of flounder.

Everything is certainly not peaches and cream. Flocks of Canada geese that blackened the sky in the '70s and '80s are gone. We are covered up with snow geese, but these birds simply do not attract the following of Canada geese.

As a boy in the 1940s and '50s I can recall coveys of quail along the edges of every stand of trees in Sussex County. They would scare the dickens out of me as I walked in the woods or tried to get a shot at a squirrel. We did not have a bird dog, but would get the occasional bird that our rabbit dogs scared up.

Thanksgiving Day has always meant either a hunting or fishing trip in the morning. In my youth it was a rabbit hunt in Claymont; then we began hunting geese in Smyrna, and now we go fishing. This year I will be fishing in Delaware, weather permitting. Walking into the warm house after a morning on the water and smelling that turkey cooking in the oven is one of the great joys of my life.

After a shower, I will fall asleep watching football on TV until awakened to dine on the aforementioned turkey. I hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving with their family.

  • 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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