Good trout numbers an encouraging sign
Fishing remains very good in Delaware Bay with lots of small trout and croaker caught from Lewes to Woodland Beach. A few kings and spot have been taken along with the croaker and trout in the lower bay.
Larry Weldin and I went out on Tuesday morning around 0530. We started in the Broadkill River on what should have been incoming water and found the current at a standstill. Several drifts across the river produced nothing on our live minnows so we packed up and headed to the bay.
Site Eight was just as productive as the Broadkill River until we moved to an area to the west of the site and began catching croaker and trout as fast as we could get a bait to the bottom. We were using Gulp! bloodworms and four-inch swimming mullets on top-bottom rigs. Several of the trout were big enough to keep as well as many of the croakers, but we decided to release everything. By my count we caught many more trout than croaker.
For reasons known only to the fish, the bite slowed around 1100 and around 1130, and we headed back to the dock. Roosevelt Inlet was crowded, and one boat was directly in the middle of the channel, but you come to expect this sort of thing in the middle of the summer.
I had broken the tip of my favorite rod at some point during the morning, so I headed to Lewes Harbour Marina to have Joe replace the faulty part. While he was finishing the job, a man who was fishing from the dock walked in with a 19-inch flounder caught on a strip bait. I suspect he did better than the crew fishing in the middle of Roosevelt Inlet.
The slot-limit striper season has been a bit slow with fish caught out of the Lewes and Rehoboth Canal, Broadkill River and the Outer and Inner walls. Live eels fished around the bridge pilings in the canal and small plugs, jigs and flies worked along the marsh banks in the canal and river have been the most effective baits.
The Cape Henlopen Fishing Pier has been very good for spot, croaker, trout and kings. The occasional keeper flounder is also taken. Those looking for an inexpensive summer fishing trip can do no better than the pier.
Lewes Beach has seen good numbers of spot, croaker and some flounder with the best action early or late in the day on high water. Almost any small jig baited with Gulp! will produce good action. This area is also popular with feather merchants.
Ocean fishing improved with more keeper flounder caught around B Buoy and the Old Grounds. Keeper sea bass are becoming more common here as well. Reef sites nine and ten have seen some flounder, but not yet as many as have been caught farther out.
The 20-fathom lumps hold bluefin and dolphin. It is also possible to run across schools of big bluefish that will destroy your carefully tied ballyhoo baits.
Canyon fishing is very good for bluefin, yellowfin and bigeye tuna. Trollers are connecting with limit catches of both bluefin and yellowfin, and those bigeyes will really test both tackle and angler. A few billfish have been caught. A good friend of mine released a 350-pound blue in the Washington Canyon last Friday.
This is the second year in a row that we have seen good numbers of trout in Delaware Bay and while far from the glory days of the 1970s and 80s, this is certainly an encouraging sign.
Right now the limit for trout is one fish per day with a 13-inch minimum size. If we had no limits as we did back in the day it would be possible to catch and keep many trout on each trip. I am sure this would make a few folks very happy, but would also have a devastating effect on the future trout population. If we want to see the bay full of big tiderunners we have to conserve the small fish we have today.
Trout do mature in their second year and are capable of spawning at that time. I believe this is the reason why once we begin to see more trout it is not long before the population expands. Fish such as rock and flounder do not mature until they are much older and therefore need a much higher minimum size before allowing possession.
Anglers need to be as careful as possible when fishing with any bait in the Delaware Bay. I highly recommend circle hooks so the weakfish can be released unharmed.
I personally will not be keeping any trout for a few years until the recovery is well underway and the bag limit becomes more liberal. You might consider doing the same.