Future of ocean and fishing looks good

March 15, 2014

During the past few weeks, I have attended two public hearings that seem to present a vision for the future of the ocean and the fish that bodes well for us and the environment. I reported on both meetings in previous columns, and now I believe it is time to look at the combined effect these programs will have.

To the best of my knowledge, the meeting that outlined Delaware’s plan for managing saltwater fisheries is the first time the state has undertaken the subject. When the secretary of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control leads off a meeting pledging to make healthy and productive fisheries a top priority, that is a pretty significant indication the governor is also on board. Some of us in the recreational fishing community felt that Gov. Jack Markell, while not against fishing, certainly was not very active in that area. I still don’t expect to see him on a head boat catching croaker anytime soon, but at least we know he is aware we exist.

The second meeting was an even greater breakthrough. Management of the oceans has been scattered across many agencies both state and federal, so to have a mandate from the president to put everything into one master plan is a great move forward.

While the possibility of offshore wind farms seems to be on the front burner right now, this master plan would also be used to protect habitat and water quality. The biggest problem I see coming from this is the push by some of the enviromorons to make parts of the ocean Marine Protected Areas. This is a bad idea based on bad science and only prevents public access to public waters.

Once every agency, both public and private, has recorded its activity in the database, future projects should be able to navigate the permit process much faster. My hope is once we have all the fishery management plans in one location, it will be easier for managers to see what effect the various managed species have on each other and the environment. Perhaps at that time it will finally dawn on the powers that be that everything we do affects the entire ecosystem, not just the managed species.

Fishing report

The state restocked both Tidbury and Newton ponds this week and since I don’t believe many fish from the previous stocking have been removed, chances are better for success this weekend. The weather looks decent for Saturday and Sunday, and if the warm temperatures this week have increased the water temperatures in the ponds the success rate should improve.

I have had scattered reports of white perch in the Broadkill River and its tributaries. Bloodworms and grass shrimp have been the top baits. Try Oyster Rocks, Petersfield Ditch, the old Route 1 bridge and the town park in Milton.

Freshwater anglers are finding some success in local ponds. Bass, pickerel, crappie and perch have all been caught on a variety of lures and baits. I hope to try Red Mill Pond over the weekend.

I am afraid saltwater fishermen will have to wait quite a while before flounder, rockfish and trout start to feed. In my experience, the water temperature has to pass 55 degrees before any sort of bite will begin. A few fish will be caught in shallow water before the open bay reaches that temperature with the area around Lewes Beach on up to Broadkill Beach and the flats at Indian River Bay prime locations.

Tog should begin to hit over ocean reefs and wrecks once the water reaches the upper 40s. I am hopeful we will see this activity by the end of March if not before.

Delaware Home and Fishing Show

Talk about a good idea, someone has finally found a way to get both fishermen and homemakers to the same show. The Delaware Home and Fishing Show will be held Saturday, March 22, at the Roxana Fire Hall, 35943 Zion Church Road in Frankford. Combining fishing and home goods in one location should give everyone something to see.

All of the merchants listed as exhibitors are local. No Lowe's, Home Depot or Bed, Bath and Beyond. No Walmart, Bass Pro Shops or Cabella’s. The money you spend at this show will stay in Delaware. The hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and even better news, admission is free.

Bill's Flea Market

April 5 is the date for the annual Bill’s Fishing Flea Market. This is one of the busiest flea markets in Delaware, probably because it is free for buyers and sellers. In addition there will be representatives there from several fishing tackle manufacturers as well as public service groups.

If you want to sell some stuff, be there very early. Most of the spaces will be full before dawn.

  • 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