Fishing picks up with cooler fall temperatures

September 18, 2021

With school back in session and football on the TV, fishing takes a back seat in most people’s minds. That’s a shame, because this is the time of year when both fresh and salt water fishing are at their best.

The freshwater ponds will see bass and pickerel feeding heavily to fatten up for the winter when cold water temperatures slow them down and make them feed much less. On the other hand, freshwater trout will be restocked in White Clay Creek, and the few holdovers in other streams will start feeding again. This is because the colder water temperatures are to the trouts’ liking, and unlike opening day in the spring, very few people show up for this fall fishery.

Saltwater fishing is really good in the fall. Right now, schools of baitfish are heading out of the tidal creeks, rivers and marshes to the open bays and the ocean, with gamefish right behind. I was out on Delaware Bay last Tuesday, and the smooth surface of the water was constantly rippled by baitfish all the way from shore to the Outer Wall.

Those of us poor, long-suffering surf fishermen may finally find something to cheer about if, and it’s a big if, some blues, false albacore and perhaps a flounder or trout follow all this bait along the beach.

Flounder will be heading to the ocean to spawn. This means some of the largest seen all year will be holding on structure from the Cape May Rips, Sites 10 and 11 all the way out to the Del-Jersey-Land Reef. The Old Grounds and B and A buoys are also in play. Live spot, whole squid and other big baits will attract the largest flounder.

Fall is, beyond a doubt, the best time for offshore fishing. While some uninvited guests like Ida and Larry may come by and cause all sorts of havoc, when the weather is good, the fishing can be spectacular. Tuna, dolphin and marlin will be schooling up and heading south, and when you find a concentration, the fish will not be hesitant to bite. The problem is finding exactly where the fish will be on the day you want to fish. This is where having friends plus good information on temperature breaks is critical. Your friends can tell you where the fish were, and the temperature breaks can tell you where they should be. Of course, you never know until you go.

Fall bookings on charter boats are not as solid as they were during the summer. Makeup trips are common, so you might be able to get on board a top boat should some member of a regular party cancel. Business people, what better way could you find to reward good employees than a nice fishing trip? Take six or eight on a charter, or the whole gang on a head boat.

Don’t let this fine fall weather go by without getting out on the water or beach and catching some fish.

Fishing report

The weather stole a few fishing days from us last week, but when the conditions were good, the fishing followed suit.

On Tuesday, I took my friend Doug Elliott out of the Lewes Boat Ramp around 7:30 a.m. and we headed to the Outer Wall. I had hoped there would be some bluefish feeding on bait tossed by the rips created by the outgoing current at the end of the wall, but such was not the case.

From there, we headed to Reef Site 8 or the Star Site, and began catching spot and croaker with the occasional tiny black sea bass. Actually, Doug had the secret to catching the sea bass; he got all of them until I finally caught one just before we left.

We were both using Fishbites bloodworms, and there must have been about a million tiny fish down there as they tore our baits to shreds until something large enough to get the hook in its mouth finally came along. All in all, it was a wonderful day on the water. I kept nine croaker and spot for fish tacos. I released a 12-inch trout. Doug didn’t keep any. We quit at 11:30.

Flounder and sea bass make up the catch from the inshore ocean. Anywhere from Site 10 to the Del-Jersey-Land and the Old Grounds to B and A buoys.

Indian River Inlet gives up the occasional flounder, sheepshead and tog. One angler reported he fished the inlet rocks for five hours to catch one keeper flounder, and he was happy. On occasion, blues and Spanish mackerel come through the inlet on incoming water. Try Jerk-Jiggers or metal lures for them. A few slot rockfish have been caught on live spot out of the inlet.

  • 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 several publications and 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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