A successful day at the Del-Jersey-Land Reef

November 4, 2017

I was able to join the Oct. 23 group on the Katydid as a guest of Mike Pizzolato. We met at the dock between 5:30 and 5:45 a.m. to get underway by 6.  

Without mentioning any names, there were a few of us who needed a bit of a helping hand getting on the boat since Capt. Brent had picked a slip that was a good 4 feet below the dock. Chris Vann is the mate on the Katydid, and if that doesn’t work out, he can always get a job at the old folks’ home because he has a good deal of experience helping out old folks trying to get on his boat.  

The weather could not have been much better for the two-and-a-half-hour run to the Del-Jersey-Land Reef. Once on site, it was drop and crank as our clam baits were attacked as soon as they hit bottom. The only times I brought empty hooks back to the boat were when the fish got off before I could get them in.

While everyone was catching sea bass as fast as they could reel them in, very few were going into the box. As a guess, I would say only one in every six or eight fish made the short trip to the cooler.

Chris has a good system for keeping track of the catch. If an angler thought he had a keeper, that fish went into a box or bucket on deck. Chris then took the contents of the receptacle to the measuring board to make sure the fish measured 12.5 inches. This is a way to ensure no shorts get into the big cooler and no one gets arrested at the dock.

Capt. Brent works very hard to keep the boat over fish. It is easy to see why he is so successful, and believe me, it has nothing to do with luck. The captain uses the engines to hold the boat in place. You can watch the other boats drifting around at the mercy of the wind and current. As I said, we were always catching fish, while I saw very few come onboard boats fishing close by. There are so many sea bass on the Del-Jersey-Land Reef that anybody is going to drift over some, but when the captain finds a concentration and holds the boat over those fish, the crew is going to catch them at a steady pace.

There were very few other species mixed in with the sea bass. A few blues in the 2- to 3-pound range and a couple of triggerfish. It was my good fortune to catch one of the triggerfish.

The longer we fished, the harder the wind blew. The seas were building up to the 3- to 4-foot heights as forecast. While the stern is the prime location to fish from, as the waves got higher, a few broke over the transom and those guys on the stern got a bit damp.  

Only one sea bass made it to the citation list, as Allen Wright brought in a 3.07-pound knothead. I would say the rest of the catch was anywhere from 12.5 inches to maybe 2 pounds.

We finally filled the box with our nine-man limit of 135 sea bass around 12:30 p.m. and headed to the dock. Once there around 3 p.m., it took Tony at Lewes Harbour Marina a good hour and a half to clean all those sea bass.

Once again, I want to thank Mike Pizzolato for inviting me as his guest and the Monday group of Bill Birago, Harry Glembocki, Randy Ritz, Allen Wright and John Gudknecht for putting up with me.

Beach tag No. 7

The weekend Oct. 21 and 22 saw the annual Boo-Que held at Delaware Seashore State Park. In addition to the food and other attractions, an auction was held by the Division of Parks and Recreation with surf-fishing vehicle tag No. 6 the main attraction.

I know some people do not understand the attraction other people, especially Delaware natives, hold for low-number tags, but as the holder of Division of Motor Vehicles license plate 7711 that my grandfather acquired in the 1930s when the 77 Cab Company went out of business, I never try to explain that which can’t be explained.

On Saturday, tag No. 6 sold for $3,300. The winner was given a choice of tag No. 6 or 7, and he choose 7. That means the only single-digit tag left to be sold is 6. I expect it will fetch an equal amount when it goes up for auction.

The Division of Parks and Recreation did not release the name of the winning bidder as a matter of policy.

  • 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