Trout season begins March 4

February 25, 2017

Next Saturday, March 4, will see the opening of the Delaware trout season with two ponds stocked with 500 pounds of rainbows and browns. Newton Pond off Route 16 near Greenwood and Tidbury Pond near Dover will receive their quota of trout.

This is a great way to start off the fishing season, and both ponds host good numbers of family fishing groups. I try to be at Newton Pond sometime during the day, and if the weather is good, there will be plenty of anglers catching a few fish. The pond is an old borrow pit, so it is pretty deep with steep banks. Fortunately, there is an excellent fishing pier where those of us who have long passed our mountain goat stage can fish in safety. At the far end of the pond, a boat ramp can be used for launching kayaks, canoes and other non-powered boats.

I wish I could give you a few sure-fire fishing tips, but while mine are well tested, they have not been productive. My best guess would be a worm on a small hook fished on a 6- to 8-inch leader above a small slip sinker. This should keep the bait near the bottom where a cruising trout may find a free meal.

Do remember you must have a Delaware general fishing license and a trout stamp. Children ages 12 to 15 must have a Young Angler Trout Stamp that costs $2.10. All are available online.

Black sea bass regulations

Finally, some good news for recreational fishermen. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council have decided to maintain the status quo for black sea bass for the 2017 season. Delaware anglers will have a 15-fish bag limit and a 12.5-inch size limit with two seasons. The first begins May 15 and runs until Sept. 21, with the fall season beginning Oct. 22 and continuing until Dec. 31. As with all federal regulations, these must be approved by the National Marine Fisheries Service and signed by the Secretary of Commerce.

The reason for the status quo is black sea bass are not overfished. The spawning stock biomass and the recruitment numbers are both above average, and the mortality is well below the target. In addition, due to the warming ocean water and the increasing population, black sea bass are now being caught as far north as Maine.

Delaware should see good sea bass fishing, but it is possible we will have to travel beyond the 20-Fathom Line to get in on the best bite. Last year, we saw some decent sea bass numbers at the Old Grounds, but these fish were a bycatch of the flounder fishery. Those who managed limits were fishing in deeper, cooler water.

I have already booked a sea bass trip for May 15. Of course, that means we will have the earliest hurricane in history strike the coast. I will apologize now to all the other fishermen who have booked that date.

Remington 700 Bolt Action Rifle

In case you missed the show on CBS, 60 Minutes did a segment on the Remington 700 Bolt Action Rifle. It seems a defect in the trigger action will allow the rifle to fire without the trigger being pulled. Remington is recalling all of the 700 rifles made between May 1, 2006 and April 9, 2014. There is more information on this and a class-action lawsuit online.

Fishing report

I had hoped the mild weather we are experiencing would allow boats to run out to the tog grounds. Well, they did get out, but they didn’t catch many fish. I spoke with several folks over the weekend, and they all reported very slow action or none at all. The general excuse seems to be the water is too cold.

Yellow and white perch catches have also been pretty slow on this side of the county, with much better success in the Nanticoke River and Broad Creek. I spent about an hour at the head of the Broadkill River in Milton Saturday. I watched eight to 10 folks fishing the high tide and did not see a single fish caught. Next week, I think I will head over to Laurel and try my old stomping grounds, Broad Creek.

Ponds in Sussex County are yielding bass, pickerel and crappie. Live minnows, shiners and the ever-popular garden hackle have been the top baits. In-line spinners, jigs and crankbaits have worked as well.

Reports from the beach and Indian River Inlet were identical, no fish in spite of a fair number of people out there trying. If this warm weather continues, we could have some hickory shad in March.

  • 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