The year that was in fishing

December 28, 2013

It's not exactly the best time of year for gathering fishing reports, as most people are involved in the holiday season, not in fishing. We did have a good report from the Katydid on tog catching at Site 10. It was not the smoothest trip due to high winds and rough seas, but they were able to put a good number of fish in the cooler.

Waterfowl season opened, and Saturday was not a good day for shooting ducks or geese. Something about 70-degree temperatures in late December put the birds up high and out of range.

Year in review

This past year was like all others when it comes to fishing. Some good, some bad and some things that stayed the same.


It was not a good year for flounder fishermen who depend on the fish that inhabit our Inland Bays and even the Delaware Bay. This includes me with my 16-foot Starcraft.

The Delaware Bay reef sites saw fair fishing if the angler was willing to learn how to work the rubble. Drifting over open bottom was seldom productive.

The Lewes and Rehoboth Canal produced a few fish in the spring, but nothing like the action we have come to expect. Even the 17-inch size limit was not much help.

The Rehoboth and Indian River bays saw very poor fishing for most anglers. Live spot produced many more keepers than any other bait. Those of us who dragged around squid and minnow combinations fared rather poorly.

It was a slightly different story in the ocean. Larger flounder could be caught at ocean reef sites on a variety of baits. I found cut bait to be my best producer while others had luck with live spot, squid and shiners.


It was a good year for trout. We had more fish than I have seen in 15 years, and while most fell short of the 13-inch minimum size, there were some five- and six- pounders landed.

Weakfish were in the Delaware Bay, Inland Bays and the ocean. In October, we caught trout on every drop in 90 feet of water at the Old Grounds and took home a seven-fish boat limit.

Everyone is hoping for even better trout fishing in 2014. I doubt we will ever see the size and number of fish we had in the 1970s and '80s, but one can always hope.

Spot and croaker

Spot fishing was the best I have seen in Delaware. I had excellent catches in the Broadkill River, and the folks who fish the Cape Henlopen Pier were in spot heaven. These are short-lived fish, and we hope they had an excellent spawn to keep the population at a high level.

Croaker showed up in Delaware Bay two months ahead of their normal time of late summer and stayed around until fall. To say this made anglers who fish on head boats happy is quite an understatement. The head boat captains were equally pleased.

The only problem I observed was the absence of big croaker at the mouth of the bay in the late fall. I have no idea why they didn’t show up, and I hope this is not a reflection of a poor spawn.

Sea bass

Over the past few years, we have had good sea bass fishing at the Old Grounds and the ocean reef sites. This year was much different. The fish just were not there. There were plenty of sea bass over structure farther offshore, but those of us who have small boats suffered.

I had become accustomed to catching plenty of short fish and culling out a fair number of keepers. This year we had a hard time finding shorts and an even harder time catching anything over the 12.5-inch minimum size.

The only saving grace was a larger-than-normal number of ling. When combined with the few sea bass we caught, the ling made for a decent catch.


My favorite fish was noticeable by its absence for most of the year. A short run in the fall produced quite a few fish at the mouth of the bay and then along the oceanfront, but not in their usual haunt at Indian River Inlet. Some folks blame the dredging operation for changing the bottom contour, and this may have had something to do with the poor fishing.

The summer fishery for resident males was pretty good. An early start to the day and working the mouths of tidal creeks and shorelines was the best technique.


The canyons were red hot for bigeye tuna, marlin and dolphin. The inshore lumps had a few good days, but nothing like years past. The bigeye action was the best I have ever seen, and I would be surprised to see it continue next year.

  • 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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