Summer flounder minimum size could drop to 16.5 inches

March 17, 2018

For those of you who picked up a copy of the Delaware Fishing Guide along with your fishing license, you may have to make a few corrections. It looks like we will have a change from the current 17-inch minimum size for summer flounder down to 16.5 inches. The four-fish bag limit and 365-day season will remain.

As it now stands, the National Marine Fisheries Service has approved the size reduction, and we await the Delaware protocols before the secretary of DNREC signs the regulation into law. I am not sure if there will be a public hearing on this or not. I certainly don’t think any saltwater fishermen are going to object to a decrease in the size limit for flounder.

Black sea bass may also see a reduction in regulations. In the past, Delaware has had two sea bass seasons, one from May to September and another from October to December. Current plans call for one season running from May to December. Once again, we await the progression of this regulation through the system before being signed into law.

I really don’t think the drop of one-half inch from the minimum size for summer flounder is going to help me. Every flounder I caught in 2017 was 15 inches, and I doubt they have grown an inch and a half over the winter.

There may be a change in the tautog regulations in the near future. There is discussion on making the minimum size 16 inches and the bag limit four fish. Pretty sure this will ruffle a few feathers among the bottom-fishing crowd.

Fishing report

Saltwater fishermen can’t catch a break in the weather, let alone a fish. The nor’easter last week dropped the water temperature in the ocean and bay down to 40. With tog season due to close Saturday, March 31, and sea bass not opening until Tuesday, May 15, it looks like a long pause for bottom fishermen.

As a general rule, we need 50-degree water before the flounder become active, and 55 degrees is even better. The long-range forecast doesn’t have but two days over 50 degrees before next Saturday. Even when we get a few 50-degree days, they are cloudy with rain.

The only good reports have come from the tidal rivers and creeks on both sides of the state. White perch have been the top catch, with some bass, pickerel, crappie and catfish in the mix. Live minnows are the best bait, followed by bloodworms and nightcrawlers.

I took a ride Saturday and went past Indian River Marina. Most of the boats are still in the parking lot, with only the Karen Sue in the water at the charter boat dock.

Rep. Smyk meeting

On Tuesday morning, March 13, Rep. Steve Smyk held one of his regular constituent meetings at Surf Bagel in Five Points. I went to see if there was any movement on plans by the Agriculture Department to lease public land from the Redden Forest to private individuals or groups for the purpose of deer hunting. So far, no movement.

However, before I could ask about that subject, the problem of school safety came up. That led to a discussion about guns.

It became increasingly apparent that several of the folks in attendance were opposed to gun ownership of any kind and wanted to do anything they could to get their point across. One lady told Steve that if he didn’t support her agenda, she would not vote for him. He told her fine, but he was not going to change what he thought the majority of his constituents wanted just to get her vote.

Toward the end of the meeting, I was trying to explain to one lady why it was a bad idea to prohibit folks under the age of 21 from buying guns and ammo when she interrupted me, saying once again how she didn’t want to take anyone’s guns away. My reply was, “No, but you’d like to.”

Then a gentleman said, “We should register all guns just like we make everyone wear a seatbelt.”

I told him seatbelts and guns were like apples and truck transmissions. They have nothing in common.  

In my line of work and my circle of friends, I have been spared from associating with the real anti-gun advocates. On Tuesday, I was introduced to several.

I am sure they are all pure of heart and only want what they perceive as the best for all of us. Of course, they don’t know all of us and certainly don’t know people who own guns for whatever reason.

I am sure nothing I said or anything that Steve said had any effect on their position. This is why gun owners must always be vigilant.

  • 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