Trying something different in 2013

January 12, 2013

As I expected, the improved weather brought out more fishermen and they had decent success. Sea bass fishing was excellent; everyone I spoke with recorded quick limits. The best bite is over wrecks from 30 miles on out with some fish caught as close in as Reef Site 11. Clam is the top bait, but jigs can often pull the largest sea bass out of the structures.

Tog fishing was good, with boats reporting close to limit catches from wrecks and reefs near shore. As always, the better fishermen had the most fish. Crab baits did the job.

On Sunday, schools of rockfish showed up about a mile and a half off Bethany Beach, and those who were there had limit catches. The fish were in the 30- to 35-inch class and were taken on trolled plugs or on jigs cast to breaking fish.

The occasional rockfish is still caught out of Indian River Inlet. Those with live spot do best. Bucktails and flies fished deep also provide some action.

Late-season deer hunting

Deer hunters have two more weeks of season left. Shotgun season will be open beginning Saturday, Jan. 19, and continue until Jan. 26. Muzzleloader season will open on Monday, Jan. 28 and continue until Saturday, Feb. 2.

You would think with all the pressure deer get during the regular season, they would be hiding in the swamp until spring. On Tuesday, I saw a half dozen deer feeding in the middle of a cut corn field at noon. I hope there are a few more like that when I go out later this month.

Do something different

This is the time of year when people make resolutions to do something different in 2013. Some want to lose weight. Others will try to attend church more often. Still others will try to give up bad habits like playing golf or fly fishing.

If you are a fisherman, how about breaking out of your old mold and doing something different? Perhaps you only fish for flounder using squid and minnows, so this year try jigging a bucktail with a Gulp! shad.

Surf fishermen might want to try casting jigs in the wash instead of tossing a 4-ounce sinker and two pieces of cut mullet toward the coast of Europe. True, you will have to hold the rod and make more than one cast an hour, but you might enjoy the feel of a strike and playing a fish on light tackle.

Back in my misspent youth, I didn’t think I was fishing if my lines were out inside of 30 fathoms. With age comes wisdom, and enough aches and pains to make long offshore runs less than enjoyable.

Since then I have discovered the joys of catching sea bass, flounder, croaker and other bottom fish on what amounts to half-day trips to the Old Grounds. Truth be told, I have more fish in the freezer and am still back home in time for my late-afternoon nap. I suggest some of you die-hard offshore addicts try this type of fishing before your knees and back are shot like mine.

I began my fishing life catching whatever I could from the tidal creeks and freshwater ponds in Delaware. Once I had my own car, I shifted my attention to the saltwater and until recently totally disregarded the excellent freshwater fishing the state has to offer. If like me, you only fish the salt, make a resolution to give the ponds and creeks a try this year.

Last year I spent several warm winter days soaking worms and casting jigs at the head of the Broadkill River in Milton. You can park right next to the water, and I bring a folding chair to rest my old bones. The fishing is not spectacular, but the occasional perch and bass keep me from falling asleep.

If you only fish from your own boat, why not try a day on a head boat? The cost is reasonable; they supply the bait and clean the boat at the end of the day. In the Lewes area you have several choices, from boats that run out to the ocean to those that never leave the bay. There are full- and half-day trips and special trips for young people.

The one thing I really enjoy about head boats is the new people I meet. There will be grizzled old salts and other folks who have never seen the ocean or bay until the day of the trip. Novice anglers will delight in catching anything that bites and will make you appreciate the beauty and wonder of things some of us take for granted.

So with 2013 well under way perhaps you should reevaluate your fishing and make a few changes in the new year.

  • 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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