Fishermen need to clean up after themselves

November 9, 2013
This was the result of Alex Downs' first duck hunt on a farm near Smyrna - two teal and one black duck for the young lady who attends the Sussex Academy. She is shown with her dad Fred Downs. SOURCE SUBMITTED

Last Saturday was an interesting day for fishermen working out of Lewes. During the week, anglers had been catching good numbers of tog over bay reef sites and at the Outer Wall and Ice Breakers. Then, for reasons known only to the fish, the tog bite pretty much shut off on Saturday. I spoke with the captains of two head boats, and between them they had two tog. Those who toggled off the Outer Wall had a few more fish, but to the best of my knowledge no one came close to the five-fish limit.

All of us genius couch coaches decided it was the new moon current and dirty water in the bay. Some cited the well-known phenomenon that fish always bite during the week then shut off on the weekend. In truth, mysteries like this are seldom solved.

The good news is fishing returned to something approaching normal early in the week with excellent catches of sea bass and tog made in the ocean and bay. The Katydid out of Lewes had a limit of sea bass, a few triggerfish and some tog while fishing the ocean on Tuesday.

The first two large rockfish were caught at the Rips by the well-known Falgowski brothers with both fish weighing in the mid-30-pound range. Joe Morris cleaned the pair of rock and found a variety of baits in their stomachs. Ling were the predominant meal with hog chokers, smooth dog sharks and eels rounding out the menu. Both fish were caught on Stretch 25s that imitate bait such as ling. While two fish do not a run make, it is a start.

Reports from Indian River Inlet are not real encouraging. The better rockfish action from shore has been after dark or early in the morning. Some rock have been caught during the day on live spot drifted from boats.

I fished the inlet on Tuesday afternoon during the last of the outgoing current. The water was reasonably clear with absolutely no signs of life. No birds, no bait and no fish.

The only fish I saw were tog caught by anglers soaking green crabs. Considering the number of people fishing and the amount of bait in the water I would describe the bite as a slow pick.

To the best of my knowledge, no rockfish of any size have been pulled from the surf. I had hoped two days of east wind early in the week would have brought a few of these fish to the beach, but such has not been the case. I did hear of some red drum caught, but they have been few and far between.

Dirty, dirty, dirty

During my visit to the inlet on Tuesday, I was disgusted by the amount of trash littering the south side parking lot and the area behind the sidewalk from the end of the south jetty to the old campgrounds. I would love to blame this mess on the construction workers, but the content of the trash indicated it was left by fishermen. Water bottles and other beverage containers made up most of the mess, but there were plenty of discarded hook packages, bait containers, lure packages and sandwich wrappers in the mix.

The fence in the parking lot was covered with plastic bags filled with trash and at least one large box of trash on the ground. I don’t know if the people who did this think someone from the park is going to pick the bags up, but all Delaware state parks are carry-in, carry-out facilities.

Back in the day, we used to have 55-galloon drums for trash in each park, but the weekenders would pile so much garbage around the containers it was impossible to see the drums. State parks weren’t in the trash-collecting business, so they took away the drums and made the parks carry-in, carry-out. They do supply plastic trash bags for this purpose, and I saw a few of these hanging from the fence.

I gave up trying to reform pigs a long time ago and have been picking up other people's trash when I can. The mess at the inlet was way beyond the amount one person can handle, and I would hope an organization such as the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts, fishing club, civic group or church would make this a community project. It will be a continuing problem, and the cleanup should be done on a regular basis, not just once a year.

I plan to bring it to the attention of the Delaware Mobile Surf Fishermen this week since they are the logical group to be cleaning up a fishing location. When fishermen leave this much trash on public grounds, it makes us all look bad. Those who oppose fishing and public access will use this situation to their advantage and our detriment.

  • 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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