A disappointing start to black sea bass season

May 18, 2018

May 15 was opening day for black sea bass, and I had booked a space on the Angler out of Ocean City back in February. To say I was excited to get out after a long, cold spring would be an understatement.

I was up at 3:45 a.m., on the road at 4:15 and in line at the Angler office by 5:15. We started boarding at 5:40 and I had my fishing spot on the bow and in a soft seat in the cabin long before our 6 a.m. departure.

After a two-hour run to the southeast, we began fishing. Several of us started out using jigs, while most of the customers used top-and-bottom rigs baited with clams or squid. I anticipated getting a hit as soon as the jig hit bottom, but that didn’t happen. I worked the lure fast, slow and everything in between without result. I began to notice that the folks using bait weren’t doing any better.

The captain moved the boat, but that had no effect on the catching. He tried anchoring and drifting, all without an improvement in the fishing.

Sea conditions began to deteriorate around mid-morning as the wind increased. By noon, we were looking at winds blowing 15 to 20 knots and seas running 4 to 6 feet. We moved some more and set the anchor several times, but the fish just did not cooperate. With the bad weather and the lack of fish, the captain headed in two hours early. No one complained.

I ended the day with one bite, resulting in one black sea bass. High hook was maybe three or four fish. Several patrons had nothing.

I have fished on the Angler before with excellent results. The mates and the captain are first class, so I don’t know why we ended up with such a bad day. I can only guess, using my experience as a charter captain, that the captain thought where he took us would produce lots of fish, and he was wrong. I have been there, and it is no fun. I hope to fish on the Angler again and have a better day.

Fishing report

A few boats did do very well on sea bass May 15. The Katydid out of Lewes and the Karen Sue out of Indian River had limit catches for their patrons. The Fisherman’s Wharf head boat had a good catch of sea bass topped off by a pool-winning cod. Several charter and head boats cancelled their trips due to the NOAA weather forecast.

Drum fishing has been pretty good on the Coral Beds. Clams have been the best bait and evenings the best time to fish. If you do go out in the evening, please be aware of possible thunderstorms. A few boats were caught out last Saturday and those aboard have some exciting stories to tell their grandchildren. Fortunately, all made it back to port safely.

Black drum have also been caught from the surf. Here too clams have been the best bait. Short rock with a few keepers, blues and kings have also come off the beach. Cut mullet or bunker for the blues and bloodworms or FishBites for the kings.

The fishing pier on Cape Henlopen State Park has seen a few big blues every day. Last week the bite was early in the morning during the flooding tide. It seems the high tide is more important than the time of day. Mullet, bunker and spoons have done the best job on the blues. A few flounder were caught from the pier on jigs with Gulp! tails.

The Joe Morris Memorial Canal Flounder Tournament is today, and I wish all those anglers the best of luck. Results will be in next week’s column.

Spring surf tournament

Old Inlet Bait and Tackle held its annual surf tournament May 12. The results are:

Open Division: Kelsey Cycyck, 70 points; James Lange, 67 points; John Pilcicki, 59 points; and Scott Aiken, 52 points. In the Women’s Division, Alison Grove took first with 40 points, Brandy Timmons second with 35 points and Kaytelyn Gore third with 25 points. Only one winner in the Kids Division: Logan Wierzbicki with 12 points. Cash and trophies were awarded to the adults, while Logan walked away with a new surf rod and reel.

The big money went to Fred Smith, who caught the largest bluefish and the largest fish in the tournament. The combined total for that one 27-inch blue was $3,500.

I was happy to see a lady take the top spot in the Open Division. This is a first for this tournament and will give all those hotshot surf fishermen a wake-up call.

Scoring fish included blues, kings and black drum.

  • 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