Shotgun deer season is open statewide

November 15, 2019

Today will see more Delaware people outdoors than any other day of the year, with the possible exception of opening day of trout season in New Castle County. Shotgun deer season is open in all three counties, and between the public land and private leases, you can count on lots of hunters in the woods and fields.

Opening day used to loom large on my calendar as I hunted in both Delaware and Maryland. I was 16 years old in 1958 when I shot my first deer in Kent County and considerably older when I shot my last one in Sussex County a few years ago. I was fortunate to have leases in both Delaware and Maryland for many years, and when I moved to Virginia Beach, I was once again lucky to be invited to hunt on farms on the Eastern Shore. Since I returned to Delaware, I have hunted a couple of time as a guest on other leases, but lately I have just stayed at home on opening day. I could always go on public land, but the fear of getting shot lays heavy on my mind.

For now, I will wish every deer hunter a good and safe opening day, and a successful deer season.

Advisory Council on Recreational Fishing Funding 

The Advisory Council on Recreational Fishing Funding met in Dover Nov. 12. The first order of business was a presentation on a program DNREC is working on to make it easier for people who have to do business with the Fish and Wildlife Division. The new program will keep track of your license, permits and other business so when it is time to renew, they will be able to send reminders and you will be able to renew with a few entries on your keyboard. Those who must submit reports will also find the new system easier to use.

Next, we received an update on construction projects funded by license money and matching federal funds.

The new boat ramp at Millsboro is complete and should be open any day. This project will now have handicap-accessible launch ramps and a few more parking spaces.

Design work is ongoing for the new boat ramp at the end of Seventh Street in Wilmington. This project is funded by money from an oil spill settlement that happened many years ago. Delays caused by politics in New Castle County and the City of Wilmington, not to mention permitting hassles, are never-ending.

Also in New Castle County, the Dobbinsville Fishing Pier may see the design phase get underway in 2020. The board of trustees has to grant the City of New Castle an easement for the pier to move forward, and that process is currently underway.

The undermining of the boat ramp at Massey’s Ditch is supposed to be repaired at the same time as the dredging takes place. The two are separate items, but both should be complete by spring.

The sale of fishing license plates to supplement funding for fishing projects has gotten off to a slow start. So far, only 86 plates have been issued by DelDOT. Saltwater plates account for 70 percent of sales while freshwater account for 30 percent. The new 2020 fishing guide will have more information on how to acquire the plates, and Fish and Wildlife is planning more advertising to get the word out and increase sales.

Fishing report

Big news from the Outer Banks of North Carolina! A new world record southern kingfish was caught Nov. 11 by Brett Jordan. Known in North Carolina and Virginia as sea mullet, the big fish weighed three pounds, one ounce and replaced a record that had stood since 2002 of two pounds, 13 ounces caught in Virginia Beach.

I have been sitting here crying my eyes out looking at photos of two-pound kings caught out of the North Carolina surf, so I am not surprised to see a new world record. Now if some of those big kings would just swim a little bit farther north.

As far as local fishing, it is pretty much black sea bass and tog. Boats, both charter and private, that run to the Del-Jersey-Land Reef and other structure in 100 to 130 feet of water are returning with limits of sea bass. The occasional flounder to six or seven pounds has been taken in the same area. Baits include clam, squid, crab and FishBites or Gulp!

Tog catching has been easy. Tog keeping, not so much. There seem to be plenty of tog under 16 inches and very few that top that minimum size. This is true at the Outer and Inner walls, the Ice Breakers and inshore wrecks. Green crab and sand fleas are still the top baits.


  • 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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