First keeper rockfish of fall now being caught

October 5, 2013

Fishing is still pretty good in the Delaware Bay, with the first keeper rockfish of the fall caught around the Outer Wall. Most are taken on plugs fished at night, or dawn or dusk.

Indian River Inlet has also seen a few keeper rock caught on bucktails, live spot or mullet. Flounder are becoming scarce, with most keepers taken on live baits.

Larger croaker have moved to the mouth of the bay or into the ocean. The reef sites and the rough bottom at the Croaker Canyon and in front of the Bethany Beach condos hold most of the these fish.

Big spot are still in the Broadkill River and at the Cape Henlopen Fishing Pier. With this warm weather, I would expect them to remain at least through the weekend. Use bloodworm for best results.

Inshore bottom fishing has been good for flounder and sea bass with a few big croaker also caught at the Old Grounds and the rough bottom between B and A buoys. Planning our second trip of the year with Captain John Nedelka of the Karen Sue on Friday. Should be fun.

False albacore are still on the inshore lumps where trolled spoons or bucktails will hook you into one of these tough fighters. Bonito and big bluefish are possible in the same area.

Farther offshore, the Washington Canyon was alive with tuna and billfish last week. A friend had 18 yellowfin, went four out of six on white marlin and put five golden tiles in the box. The tuna bit at dawn on the chunk.

Surf fishing is becoming very interesting. I have several reports of red drum from the beach. The best time to catch a drum has been very early in the morning or late in the evening. Cut fresh mullet has been the most productive bait. Many of these fish measure below the 18-inch minimum size with a few in the 18- to 28-inch slot. Large reds have been caught to our south, but to date I have not heard of any big ones coming out of the Delaware surf. Other species encountered by surf fishermen include spot, croaker and kings. Small dog sharks and average-size skates are also available.

Tog fishermen were greeted by less-than-desirable weather on Sunday, but I did have reports of fish caught on the inside of the Outer Wall. Triggerfish are still around to add to the bag when the tog are less than cooperative.

Policing the area

Policing the area has nothing to do with arresting anyone; it has everything to do with keeping the environment clean. Back in my Navy days this was the command used in boot camp to get the company on the parade grounds to clean up all the trash.

I am aware that a massive beach cleanup is held every year with tons of trash cleaned from our beaches and waterways. This is a wonderful project, but on the very next high tide there will be more trash brought in from the sea.

The problem is nowhere near as bad as it once was. Back in the late 1940s and early 1950s, the beach was covered in just about every type of garbage and sewage you can imagine. I grew up on the Delaware River in Claymont where open sewers ran into the river, and ships dumped everything from old pallets to crude oil in the water. All of this made its way to the ocean to join even more garbage dumped there. When I was in the Navy from 1961 to 1965, we dumped all the ship’s garbage overboard. I am certain all the other ships on the ocean did the same. Recreational fishermen contributed to the problem by tossing anything they were done with, from beer cans to engine oil, overboard.

Thanks to international and U.S. laws, this sort of thing is now held to a minimum. When I was on the beach this week the type of trash I picked up consisted of plastic water bottles and balloons. I won’t go into the stupidity of releasing balloons that are so pretty to see go up with no consideration of where they go down.

This fall, the weather has been wonderful and the surf fishing has been good. When you go to the beach, please police the area using plastic bags provided by the parks department and take home any trash you find. It only takes a few minutes, and it makes the beach a more pleasant place to be.

  • 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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