Social distancing is key when enjoying great outdoors

Jenny Stewart with a nice short bass caught at 3Rs on bloodworms and sand flea combo, bridge in the background

This past week was decent fishing up and down the state. It is great to see people getting out and getting some air. Social distancing is occurring in the fishing community. None of us want to fish next to anyone anyway.

From freshwater to saltwater, there were a lot of people enjoying themselves. We have a few days of warm weather like Wednesday, and some mixed with rain and warmer, then a little cold snap is coming. Not to worry, the fish are moving and they don’t care.

The freshwater action around the area has been great. There seems to be a lot of people fishing more now than ever. A store in Milford said they sold more licenses last weekend than they ever had. People are finding fishing as a great way to get out, social distance and enjoy the outdoors even with the whole family. Anglers are catching bass, catfish, perch, crappie, bluegills and pickerel. Nice mixed bag for a day on the water.

Trout are still being caught in the northern rivers. No idea when DNREC will do another stocking. They announced it will be random and not announced so as to keep the crowds down to a minimum. Good plan. Opening day was rather calm and quiet.

Up north, the Delaware River and upper bay is producing some nice keeper striped bass as well as short bass. White perch are also the hot catch. Bloodworms for the white perch and short bass, bunker chunks for the big bass. A large bass this time of year will take a whole or half bloodworm. Boat fishing has been producing the large bass, but pier fishing has seen some keepers caught in the past weeks.

Rick Ott catching crabs around the inland bays

If you are boat fishing, the hardest part is fishing with friends and social distancing.

Jacin Allen and his buddies did it the right way. “We all took our boats and just fished near each other and had a great time,” he said.

“We anchored up six feet apart or more. DNREC was passing by as I hooked up and they turned back to watch the fight and the solo net job. They congratulated me and was on their way. They didn’t mind being the backdrop for the photo. We all caught fish and had a good day on the water using bunker from Port Penn Bait and Tackle.”

That has been another issue, getting bait. Port Penn Bait and Tackle is open up north, Lighthouse View Bait and Tackle has a bait vending machine at the Cape Henlopen fishing pier. You can hit up a seafood seller or grocery store for clams, shrimp and squid. Some bait shops are open, but with the new restrictions you will need to call first.

The Cape Henlopen fishing pier has seen some short striped bass action and of course skates but other than that, it has been quiet. The Indian River Inlet has decent short striped bass action especially at night. Everyone has been fishing the walls since you cannot fish the beaches, even next to the walls. At the moment it is a $150 fine if you are in an area that is marked off limits, which could push up even more.

Jacin Allen gets the photobomb of the week with a keeper striped bass from the Big D and DNREC enforcement for the photobomb. Photo by Lance Barrowcliff from the other boat.

Surfing is not allowed at the Indian River Inlet beaches anymore due to the newest COVID-19 restrictions. Parks shut all of that down the other day, officially. There is a large amber sign in the northside parking lot.

You can walk some of the state park beaches for exercise and to walk your dog. Trails are also open around all the Delaware State Parks, all the amenities and facilities are closed. Parks tried to keep some of the bathrooms open and cleaned, but people were stealing the hand sanitizer.

Please practice social distancing, stay 6 feet away from other people and in your own “group”. I have five people I allow in my “new circle” so I know I am safe. We have all been avoiding other people like the plague for weeks, if not longer.

Maryland has closed all their parks and beaches. Assateague is closed. Maryland boaters can fish for food, not recreational boating. Delaware boaters can enjoy the water, fishing or not, but you can’t pull up onto beaches and sandbars. They are closed to fishing as well for walk on. Charters and head boats are not running.

Drive-on beaches remain open with restrictions. That has been going well, this time of year the beaches are all but empty. As it gets warmer more will venture out to fish the beaches. Delaware State Parks just wants everyone to follow the new restrictions. So do all the true surf anglers, this is the best time of year to surf fish for striped bass, and soon drum and bluefish.

Lance Barrowcliff with a bass while fishing with the boys

The surf has been good action for short striped bass and the occasional rumored keeper, and of course skates and dogfish. Both of the “trash fish” are good to eat by the way. Cleaning the skates is a chore, but you can hit up YouTube for techniques. Dogfish are sharks, clean them right away. Just cutting them into steaks is fast and easy — perfect for the grill. Dogfish is used to make fish and chips in the UK.

More people are catching short bass thanks in part to using sand fleas or Fishbites bloodworm formula. The scavengers don’t hit those baits as much as they do with cut bait like squid or bunker chunks. The red packaged Fishbites work better this time of year, they dissolve faster and work well in colder water.

Small pieces of Fishbites are your best bet to extend the life of the package. Last year the Lighthouse View Bait and Tackle crew did a comparison of Fishbites versus bloodworms.

There was a lot of space on the beaches for the surf anglers to spread out and fish.

“There are maybe 10 trucks out here and I can barely see half of them,” said Michael Berg. “I used my range finder and the closest one is a 141 yards away.”

I did some math for the new space restrictions of 60 feet or 20 yards between vehicles. Just how many vehicles can each beach roughly accommodate? This is not official from the state of Delaware, but it is pretty close. It would be nice if this were a in place year round to give everyone some space out there instead of the summer parking lot the drive on beaches become.

They could even get rid of actively fishing with that much space between vehicles, just like Assateague. Those unattended lines wouldn’t be in anyone’s way, nor would anyone swimming.

Levi Layfield and Jack Owens with their 17-inch, 2-pound, 3-ounce crappie caught on a white and chartruesse jig in Georgetown.

I started with Beach Plum Island State Park as an example since it is usually one of the shortest drive on beaches, but not the shortest this time of year.

Beach Plum Island State Park’s drive-on section is 968 meters to be exact (roughly) using Google Earth’s mapping tools. Converted to feet, that is 3,077 feet, and every vehicle has to be distanced at 60 feet (20 yards). That leaves room for roughly 51 vehicles. The only reason this could become an issue is if (when) the drum start running the Delaware Bay beaches. By the way those fish have to get from point A to point B. They are caught on the oceanfront beaches as well.

If it gets real nice weatherwise and you want to fish the shorter beaches, you might want to keep in mind you need to check the beach as you pull on for the amount of vehicles. Cape Henlopen has two of the shortest beaches. It is not OK to “squeeze” in between people properly spaced.

Below I did a rough estimate of all of the Delaware State Park drive-on beaches.

Rough length of beach in feet, divided by sixty feet per vehicle, equals number of vehicles allowed on that stretch of beach. This is not official from the State of Delaware. I did my own figuring and math. Distances are rough due to trying to find boundaries from Google Earth. It is hard to see the boundary signs from space, so I guessed in a few cases using landmarks.

Beach Plum Island State Park … 51 vehicles in 3,077 feet

Cape Henlopen State Park

Point Comfort Station crossing … 38 vehicles in roughly 2,257 feet

Naval Crossing … 87 vehicles in 5,249 feet*

Herring Point to Gordons Pond … 136 vehicles in 8152 feet*

Delaware Seashore State Park …

Key Box to Faithful Steward … 275 vehicles in 16,512 feet*

3Rs … 82 vehicles in 4,921 feet*

Fenwick Island State Park

York to south crossing … 207 vehicles in 12,467 feet*

  • taking into account the areas off limits to vehicles, roughly

You can go outside. The air isn’t lava. Everyone needs some fresh air and sun is good for you. If you don’t want to be around anyone at all, stay in your yard.

Parents should probably stop letting the kids in neighborhoods run around together. Maybe it is time to take that family fishing trip to the local watering hole.

Hike some trails, or take a long walk on a beach. You can social distance and never be around anyone. Places that look full, move on to the next area.

I have been out and about to wildlife areas and parks and haven’t had to avoid too many people.On the drive-on beaches we can barely see the next vehicle. My friends park 60 feet away if we want to yell to each other. We prefer the space, you will too.