Big rockfish are few and far between

November 23, 2013
Some quality striped bass have been coming from structure at the mouth of Delaware Bay. Mike Ambler boated this 49-pound trophy after it inhaled a live spot near 8B Buoy. COURTESY LEWES HARBOUR MARINA

Big rockfish have been caught in the Rips, but they are few and far between. Trolling with Stretch plugs or live-lining spot have been the most successful techniques. My reports indicate a large dogfish population in the bay, and these buggers can make fishing with any live bait an expensive proposition. That being said, the largest rockfish of the fall, a 49-pounder, was caught on a live spot.

Farther up the bay, out of Collins Beach, they are catching keeper rockfish on bunker chunks. The dogs soon find the chunks and play havoc with attempts to catch anything else. A few rock have been caught by anglers pulling Stretch plugs in the Miah Maull Shoal area.

Indian River Inlet has given up a few keeper rock to those who fish the night tides using bucktails, eels and plugs. Black Bombers have been an effective plug, with black bucktails combined with a purple worm a good choice for nighttime fishing. Those who long-line flies have also had success. In the daytime, drifting with live spot is the No. 1 producer.

The inlet has also seen keeper tog caught on green crabs. The south side from the bridge to the jetty has been a popular location for togging.

Sea bass and tog have been caught by boats working the lower bay reef sites and those who sail offshore to reef sites and wrecks inside of 20 fathoms. As is always the case in the fall, strong winds have kept the number of ocean trips down.

I wish I had better news from the beach. One keeper rockfish was caught at Broadkill Beach, but for the most part, surf fishing is only producing skates and dog sharks. Even the hardcore beach rats in New Jersey are having a hard time finding stripers, while boat fishermen in the Garden State are having good success.

The one fish that shows up in my reports week after week is the white perch. They are available in all the tidal creeks and will quickly eat a bloodworm. With rockfish playing hard to get, try using light tackle to catch a few of these sporty fish.

Indian River Inlet cleanup

I have made arrangements with Doug Long at Delaware Seashore State Park to pick up the bags, gloves, brooms and pickup sticks at the marina office on Saturday morning. A truck will be parked by the sand bypass area where we can deposit the trash.

I plan to meet everyone at 10 a.m. in the south side parking lot and start the cleaning there. We will then move to the sidewalk along the inlet and do the same. I hope we have a good turnout in spite of the rainy forecast. All serious anglers have foul-weather gear, and we are only supposed to have scattered showers.

I know I am asking those who did not create this mess at the inlet to help me clean it up, but I truly believe all fishermen are impacted negatively by the pigs who have left the trash that fouls our environment. There are groups who would like nothing better than to put a stop to all fishing, and they can use this situation as an example to prove anglers are all disgusting people who have no respect for the areas where they fish. We know that is not true, but many in the general public do not fish and yet are willing to jump on the bandwagon along with groups who they perceive to be environmentalists who will turn them against fishermen. By helping our friends at state parks get rid of this trash we are also helping ourselves.

Deer hunting

I know we are almost through the shotgun deer hunting season, and from some of the reports I have heard, a lot of nice bucks were harvested. If you were one of the lucky ones, how about sending me some photos so everyone can see what a great hunter you are. I especially like to see young people and pretty ladies along with the deer. The pretty ladies are such a welcome sight after years of seeing mostly men with dead animals. The young people show the public that hunting is a family tradition passed down for generations, and that’s what keeps the sport alive. I can only run one or two photos a week, but I promise to get yours in the paper as soon as possible.

As much as I enjoy hunting, I have not been out this year. I no longer have any leased land to hunt, and going on public land during the November season is a bit too crowded for my taste. Perhaps I will get out during one of the later seasons when the pressure on public land is not as great.

  • 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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