First fishing trip of the year unlucky

March 23, 2013

We finally had fishable weather over the weekend, and boats that ran offshore to the 100- to 120-foot depths found tog waiting to be caught. The bite was a steady pick with fish to 14 pounds caught on crab baits.

Freshwater fishing has been good for white perch and crappie. A crappie weighing more than 3 pounds was caught out of Noxontown Pond in New Castle County. Closer to home, several ponds in Sussex County have reported decent catches of crappie. Small minnows or crappie jigs produce most of the action.

White perch are moving up the tidal creeks and rivers. Phillips Landing near Laurel is always a good spot for perch. Bloodworms and small minnows are the top perch baits.

First trip

On Tuesday, the afternoon weather was tolerable, so my wife Barbara and I decided to make our first fishing trip of the year. We did not travel very far. The head of the Broadkill in Milton has lots of parking and a nice bench to sit on that is somewhat out of the wind.

I dug up a few earthworms from my garden and placed them in a coffee can, just as I did when I was a kid fishing for suckers in the Brandywine Creek. When we arrived in Milton, several men were already fishing along the banks and it looked to me like they were all using live minnows. I figured I could do just as well with my hand-dug worms.

I had my No. 6 hook suspended about three feet under a bobber and I cast the rig about 25 yards from shore. With no weight on the line, the wind moved the bobber around at will, so the bait covered a lot of bottom.

It took about a half hour before I had my first bite. I was talking with Barbara while checking on the bobber, and at one point I could not find the float. At first I though the wind had blown the bobber ashore; then it popped back up and I finally realized I had a fish.

The wind had blown my line into a tree branch about a foot from shore, and when I had the small white perch to the bank this snag prevented me from landing my prize. In my attempt to shake the line off the branch, I shook the fish off the hook. My first fish of the year became a long-line release.

After another half hour of unproductive fishing we moved to the spillway below the pond. It was getting colder, so we sat in the truck watching braver men than I catch nothing.

On the way home, we decided to give Red Mill Pond a try. The owner of the pond had drained it over the winter, but the water level was back to normal. I wanted to see if all the fish had departed for deeper water. So far as I could tell they had, but I do think the fish are still there; we just need a bit of a warm-up.

On an earlier trip to the pond I had observed two bald eagles flying around. They have now taken up residence in a tree on the south side of the pond. This tree is in someone’s backyard, but the eagles don’t seem to mind. We were too far away to tell if they had built a nest, but they did spend a lot of time on one branch.

As we were watching the eagles, an osprey swooped down and plucked a fish out of the pond. He is obviously a much better fisherman than I am. I don’t know how good the fishing will be in Red Mill Pond this year, but the bird watching is off the charts.

I had planned to try again on Wednesday, but when I got up the temperature was 27 degrees and the wind was blowing about 15 knots. I will wait for the next warm day.

Flea market

On Saturday, April 6, there will be a huge flea market in the parking lot at Bill’s Sport Shop. The sale begins at 5 a.m., and I am sure there will be a crowd waiting in line.

This is a sale for folks who have more fishing and boating stuff than they need. The tables are free, and it is first-come, first-served with vendors setting up well before the market opens.

Parking will be at a premium, and please be careful if you have to cross Route 1.

  • 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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