Opening day of trout season is a real party

April 5, 2014

Saturday is opening day for trout season in New Castle County. For those of us who were unable to wrangle a trout dinner out of Newton Pond, this is our chance to redeem ourselves - or not.

Opening day is a real party, with people from every walk of life lining the banks of the six trout streams stocked by the Division of Fish and Wildlife. There will be bikers fishing alongside heart surgeons and little kids with their grandfathers. It is a real cross section of American life. And remarkably, everyone gets along fine, most of the time.

White Clay Creek is by far the most popular location and there are numerous spots along the bank to fish. Unfortunately, there is not unlimited parking, and every spring the police give out numerous tickets.

Above Thompson’s Bridge on Chambers Rock Road to the Pennsylvania line is the fly fishing-only section of White Clay Creek. It too will be crowded on opening day, but should produce some exciting action for those who wave the long rod.

My favorite place to fish on opening day is Wilson Run in Brandywine State Park. Located off Route 100, there is plenty of parking, and the stream is full of trout. This is an excellent place to take the kids because the creek is small with plenty of easy access.

Top baits for opening day will be Berkley Trout Power Bait in yellow, small yellow twister tails on 1/16 or 1/32-ounce jig heads, and earthworms. Some anglers have good luck tossing spinners, but to date they have not worked for me.

You will need a trout stamp along with your general fishing license to fish these waters. The money collected from the trout stamp goes toward stocking in 2015, so by purchasing one you ensure the future of the program.

Rockfish and flounder

Anglers are chafing at the bit to catch some rockfish and flounder, but it will be a few more weeks before we see much action from either of those two species. This week, the water temperature in the bay and ocean broke through the 40-degree mark, but it needs to go up another 10 degrees or more to get the rock and flounder feeding.

The first of these fishes will be caught over mud bottom in shallow water on outgoing tides.

The flats at Indian River Bay and close to shore off Lewes and Broadkill beaches should see early action. Last year, there were several black drum caught from Broadkill Beach on clams set out for rockfish. Early flounder were caught around the fishing pier at Cape Henlopen State Park. For whatever reason, the Broadkill River did not produce the number of flounder we expected to see in 2013. Indian River also fell below expectations. Let’s hope for better luck this spring.

Until then

So what’s a fisherman to do until the flounder and rockfish begin to bite? I have seen good reports from anglers fishing the local ponds in Sussex County. It does take a small boat to access these waterways, so the 25-foot Mako will have to stay on the trailer a bit longer.

Right now, live minnows or shiners are working well for bass, crappie and pickerel. Jerkbaits and jigs have also accounted for some success with these fish.  Those without a small boat can find fish in spillways. I am fond of the spillway at the head of Broad Creek in Laurel. You can expect to catch a wide variety of fish here from bass to rock as well as perch, catfish and crappie. White and hickory shad along with plenty of herring were available here in the 1950s and '60s, but sad to say, those days are long gone. Now it is illegal to possess white shad or herring anywhere in Delaware.

Fishing for white perch is another excellent pastime. Petersfield Ditch off Route 16 close to Broadkill Beach is a local hot spot. Oyster Rocks on the Broadkill River is another good location. It is located at the end of Oyster Rocks Road off Route 1. On the western side of the county, Phillips Landing where the Nanticoke River and Broad Creek meet has good parking and lots of shore access.

The best bait for white perch is bloodworms. Grass shrimp, earthworms and small spinnerbaits like the Beetle Spin will also work. This is light tackle fishing with 10-pound line and six- or seven-foot rods more than sufficient. Younger folks with better eyesight than I have can go down to four- or six–pound test line.

I know these first warm days will make us all anxious to test the big water, but if catching fish is the objective, the sweetwater spots will be more productive.

  • 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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