Catch rate low due to high boat traffic

December 8, 2012

Rockfish action in the Delaware Bay is scattered at best. Trolling, chunking and eeling are all producing, but considering the number of boats on the water, the catch rate is pretty low.

Some of the better catches have been made while chunking at the 60-Foot Slough on the New Jersey side. One boat had 30 rock Tuesday, but only six were over the 28-inch minimum size. You must have a New Jersey FIN number to fish there.

Eeling was fair in the Valley over the weekend with a few keeper rock pulled out of the deep water. Eels also accounted for the occasional rockfish at the Eights and Overfalls Shoal. Trollers caught a smattering of rockfish at those same locations.

If you can find birds working over schools of baitfish, there is a chance you might catch something by trolling around the action. I have had reports of success and failure along the oceanfront during the past week. Some birds, especially gannets, can dive deep underwater to catch a meal and don’t have to wait for rockfish or blues to drive the bait to the surface.

Last Friday, four of us ran out to the Eights and trolled for rockfish. We were pulling Stretch 25s, and 30s as well as a Drone 4-1/2 spoon on a downrigger.

With no luck at the Eights, we moved to Overfalls Shoal then to Cape Henlopen down the beach to the Navy Jetties, then out to Hen and Chickens Shoal and back to the Eights. We started around 7 a.m. and came in around 1 p.m. No hits and very little showing on the SONAR. The water was 48 degrees and dirty with suspended sand.

Joe Morris and I discussed the lack of rockfish in the bay and concluded the two big storms stirred up the water and brought down so much fresh water that perhaps the rock have avoided the bay for better conditions beyond the three-mile limit. While we were at it, we found the solution for the impasse in Congress and solved all the problems in the Middle East. It was a productive conservation.

Tog fishing has been reasonably good both in the bay and the ocean. Ocean fishing has been much better than the bay, but good numbers of tog were caught out of Bowers Beach. Several limits of tog were reported by boats fishing the ocean from Lewes and Indian River Inlet.

Holiday gifts

There seems to be a big push this year to buy gifts made in the United States. When it comes to fishing tackle, this is no easy task. Just about every rod and reel sold in the Untied States is made overseas. Even the last holdout, Penn Reels from Philadelphia, is currently producing their products in Asia.

While the products may be made overseas, you can buy them from a local business. Your favorite tackle shop has plenty of good gift ideas and should be the location for all your fishing related gift buying. They will also have locally produced items such as bucktails, bottom rigs and flies. No fishermen worth his salt ever has too many of these items.

Another idea to keep your spending local is a gift certificate for a trip on a head or charter boat. Head boats cost from $50 per person and most charter boats will run an inshore trip for six people for $600 to $800. There are a few guide services available locally to take anglers fishing for everything from sweetwater trout to rockfish. Cost is dependent on the type of trip.

Hunters can also find gifts at local gun shops. The shop owners and their employees know all there is to know about local hunting opportunities and what type of gun is right for the kind of hunting available.

There is at least one shooting range in Sussex County that offers sporting clays. A gift certificate for a day trying to bust clay targets that come out of nowhere, skim across the ground and drop in from behind will challenge any shooter. I love this sport and wish I had the time to participate more. Once again, your money will remain locally.

Fishing Virginia

I have had good reports of rockfish around the Cape Charles area. One friend had a 55-pounder on Sunday while drifting eels at Plantation Light. Trollers are also scoring in the same area.

There is a launch ramp at Kiptopeke State Park that will put you close to the action. Launching there avoids the toll on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel that can be a bit expensive for a rig with a dual axle trailer.

You will need a Virginia saltwater fishing license and FIN number. Both are available online.

  • 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