Boats are going offshore for sea bass and doing well

Spot may soon have a creel limit and bait fish limit. Submitted photos

Winter fishing is in full effect for the most part, you sure aren’t going to find any summer fish still hanging around. Maybe the occasional summer flounder but they are usually caught trolling stretches in the ocean for migratory striped bass. That is one thing no one is doing in our waters yet. The migratory bass are still up north and are barely near enough to make a boat ride worth the trip. Will they come close to shore this year, I’d give that solid nope. Next year we will have a one-fish slot limit for striped bass, but get to keep our summer slot season in the summer. We will know that in a couple of months most likely.

Winter flounder season doesn’t start until Feb. 11, get the cat food cans and tampers ready. Small hooks and yellow corn, make some noise and catch a winter flattie. I don’t think I have seen one of those in a while. When we were kids catching winter flounder was a thing.

The boats are going offshore for mainly sea bass and doing decent from Delaware to Maryland. The weather calming down a bit has helped let them get out there. Some days are better than others, the nature of fishing, or catching I should say. Lewes, Indian River Marina, and Ocean City have plenty of charter and head boats still going out for sea bass and tautog. Dress warm, you can always remove layers, can’t really add what you don’t have.

Land based anglers are doing well from the surf if you like dogfish and skate for the main catches. Short striped bass can still be caught, you just have to find them or wait for some to show up where you are fishing. If you have seen any internet chatter about teasers used with lures there is a reason, they work. The teaser mimics food competition, as well as gives a predator another target. Anglers can catch two striped bass at a time, like using a speck rig. The food competition works by tricking the fish into thinking (reacting, they don’t “think”) that the lure (another fish) is chasing a bait fish or food.

Fish competing for food

Many fish will compete for food and try to eat something before the other fish can. You see this a lot when those big bluefish are here in the summer. Pulling in a blue while watching other bluefish try to steal the food, that is a form of food competition. Another good example is watching gulls fight over a french fry, same concept.

White perch are hitting bloodworms around the area creeks and canals. Great to eat and easy to catch. There are short striped bass mixed in those schools in many areas. If you can find grass shrimp they are much better bait, just have to do a little hunting for them.

Sturgeon found at Augustine Beach near the boat ramp by Jeff Weaver.

Bass and pickerel are still hitting in the ponds. Slow retrieve is the best bet for winter freshwater fishing. Those fish will eat, they just won’t put or waste a lot of energy. Fish know how well a meal will recharge their batteries, so to speak, or at least maintain their current metabolism. That is why big bait catches big fish. Large fish will not waste the energy to try and catch a small fish that won’t replace the energy used to catch a small fish. Funny how they know that, nature knows what it needs to survive and thrive.

Speaking of bluefish, the MAFMC meeting about the new creel limits will be live and online next week on Dec. 10. If you search the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council on Google you will find their site and the information for the webinar. There will also be discussions on summer flounder, which if put under their jurisdiction could have creel limit of 17 to 19 inches and a season as early as 2020. There are a lot of changes coming up in our fishery. I know many hate meetings but if you don’t pay attention things get changed without the public’s input. I go to enough that I would love to get that time back in my life, but they are important in the long run.

You can make a difference

Pay attention and interact, you can make a difference. Keep up with DNREC meetings, the ASMFC and the MAFMC, these all govern our fisheries in one way or another. Some species are state controlled and others are federal.

Another meeting to bore you to death but is necessary. On Dec. 16 Delaware and Maryland will have a joint meeting at 6 p.m. at Wor-Wic Community College, 32000 Campus Drive, Hazel Center Room 302, Salisbury, MD.

This meeting will be about spot and croaker. Literally could be regulations on how many spot you can carry as bait next year, as well as a creel limit on spot. If you want to know how bad a fishery gets, well think about this, they want to put a limit on bait fish. People filling coolers to the brim with spot over the years has probably not helped. I haven’t seen a decent croaker bite in a while either.

Way back in the day scup was the top catch in the Delaware Bay, then that was hammered and it switched to croaker. Regulations have become more and more necessary for common fish as more stress is put on them due to regulations from other fishing limits.

Anglers at the Fall Fish Bowl Surf Fishing tournament battled some big waves on a beautiful day to surf fish.

DNREC would like everyone’s help with sturgeon sightings, not just the dead ones washed up on shore but also live sightings. There have been many sturgeons found on the shoreline up and down the Delaware River and Bay, there is reason for that. I get to tell you about it in the next week or two. All you have to do to report them is search DNREC for sturgeon, they have a form you can fill out.

From DNREC … “The Division is now asking for your help to learn more about this mysterious species by reporting any sturgeon sightings (dead or alive) or interactions in Delaware waters. Interactions may include accidentally catching a sturgeon while fishing, seeing a sturgeon washed up on a beach, or even watching a swimming sturgeon. All interaction information is valuable so it is important to take note of the location, the length, and the presence of any tags. If possible, take a photo of the whole fish and one of the mouth. Photos are helpful for identification and for determining the health of the fish.”

The Indian River Coast Guard Crew will remove the navigational buoys around the inland bays next week. If you boat down there and go out for winter fishing, make sure you have your buoys marked on your plotter. The dredging of Masseys Ditch will start in January, but crews are getting pipes ready and staging for that project. There will be areas you will need to be cautious crossing over those pipes.

Millville event Jan. 11

Keep Jan. 11 open for the Millville Fire Company’s Outdoorsman Marketplace at the Millville Fire Station. There will be a lot more fishing and hunting gear this year for sale from local vendors. Icehouse bait and tackle is setting up a smaller version of their tackle shop at the event. Local tackle maker DS Custom Tackle will be there with some killer deals and free Fishbites samples while supplies last. The firearms simulator will be back. Lots of food and I hear local oysters from the inland bay growers will be available, with beer.

The show on Jan. 11 will be a great day to get out of the house and into some new gear. Bring the family, there are all kinds of things for the whole crew.

Rich King’s outdoors column runs Thursdays in the Delaware State News.

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