Leave striped bass regulations alone

August 7, 2021

My poor striped bass, or rockfish, as we call them locally. They are being regulated to the point that, to the best of my knowledge, no charter or head boat operation in Delaware runs trips targeting just rockfish. Capt. Aaron Hurd does catch more than his share of slot fish, 28 to 35 inches, but they are just a part of his flounder trips.

Over in Maryland, they just reopened the rockfish season after closing it for two weeks to prevent release mortality, because that is especially high in the summer when the Chesapeake Bay water temperature is in the upper 70s to low 80s. They have a one-fish bag limit, and a size limit of 19 inches and above.

I have played catch-and-release with Chesapeake Bay rockfish over an oyster bed. We were using single-hook lures, and as soon as the jig hit the water, it was taken by a fish. Using a dehooking tool, the rockfish were released without ever being touched by human hands.

Even a one-fish bag limit is not enough for some people. Stripers Forever wants to put a 10-year moratorium on striped bass so no one can take even their one fish home for dinner, and God forbid that a commercial fisherman should sell any striped bass he or she might catch.

This is an online group with no actual membership count that I could find. Their main support comes from a grant from the American Fly Fishing Trade Association. This group supports many good projects that fight for conservation of fish and water quality.

The problem I have with a 10-year moratorium right now is we don’t need it. Striped bass are nowhere near the depleted state they were in back in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s when many people, myself included, lobbied Congress, and anyone else who would listen, for a striped bass moratorium. We have a lot of small striped bass that will grow and join the coast-wide migration at some point. True, the young-of-the-year numbers have been low for a few years, but not a long enough time to push the panic button quite yet.

The other problem I have is a bunch of people who don’t ever kill the fish they catch want to impose their ethics on all fishermen. Sorry, Charlie, I and all of my friends eat the fish we can legally keep. We support the charter and head boat industry, the bait and tackle shops, and all other related businesses that depend on fishermen who keep their catch. I also support the commercial industry that catches and sells striped bass within their legal quota. We don’t need a bunch of New England do-gooders coming down here and trying to change the culture of our people.

Fishing report

Flounder and black sea bass still provide most of the action for anglers fishing the inshore bottom structure. Good anglers and captains can still catch their limits of both, although not on the same structure. Sea bass are found offshore in 100 to 150 feet of water, with the Del-Jersey-Reef still a good destination. Clams, squid, Gulp! and jigs all work on these fish. 

Closer to shore, the Old Grounds and the rough bottom near B and A buoys provide good flounder action. A minnow with a strip of squid is still a favorite, but I am seeing Gulp! in more and more reports as the bait used to catch a four-fish limit.

The reef sites in Delaware Bay hold a variety of fish. You can find trout, croaker, kings, flounder, spot, triggerfish, sheepshead and tog on this structure. Use jigs baited with Gulp! or strips of squid or fresh fish to catch trout and flounder. You won’t get a lot of activity, but when you do catch a fish, it should be a good one.

Try a top-bottom rig baited with bloodworms, squid, bits of fresh fish, clam or Fishbites to target croaker, spot and kings. Use small hooks for these fish, as they have small mouths.

Sand fleas have been the hot bait for tog, triggerfish and sheepshead. I fish them on a single J hook rig tight to structure either on a reef site or along the Inner and Outer walls or the Ice Breakers.

The fishing pier in Cape Henlopen State Park has seen good fishing for spot and croaker with some kingfish mixed in the catch. One angler caught a slot rockfish close to midnight Sunday morning on a chunk of bunker. Flounder have been caught on minnows or Gulp! fished tight to the pilings.

The Lewes and Rehoboth Canal still holds a few flounder. They will hit live minnows or Gulp!


  • 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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