Striped bass off being caught off Delaware’s coast

Tim Bingnear caught this 37-inch striped bass off the coast of Delaware.

Winter is supposed to be the slow time of year. Everything kind of freezes, but that part of winter isn’t here yet. That is usually about mid-January when the fishing all but shuts down and it just gets cold, and you’re tired of it being gloomy. The winter doldrums. We rearrange our gear, man caves, and dream of spring fishing and hunting.

Right now we are living the dream of striped bass off the coast of Delaware. These migratory fish are coming in close enough to let anglers catch them. Usually the fish are beyond the EEZ, and we aren’t even allowed to target striped bass. Everyday a few anglers are out looking for the fish just inside the EEZ, up to about two miles out. A few times a week in the past two weeks anglers have gotten lucky and found striped bass. There are also migratory bass running some of the local creeks and waterways of Sussex county, you just have to find them.

Boats are trolling mojos, stretches and bunker spoons. Many are marking fish but having a difficult time hooking up. It is hard to get striped bass to bite when they are feeding on bait fish they are following. Jigging has done okay for a few anglers willing to take the time to stop the boat and drift over a school of striped bass. Mostly they are feeding on bunker and sand eels. Fresh bunker is nonexistent you will need frozen for soaking chunks in the surf. Same with mullet.

David Eastburn had some company fishing the Indian River Inlet recently.

The short striped bass action around the inland bays has been okay most days and full on skunk the next. That is hit or miss action. All of the resident fish have the feed bag on and are actively moving around looking for food. The right time and right place is key at that point. Everyone is concentrating on striped bass. A few boats are looking for other species.

The charter and head boats are still out for tautog and black sea bass. That has been the same, good action one day and not so much the next. The Morning Star out of Ocean City is catching some decent sized porgy, a fish that back in the day was abundant and just isn’t anymore. SO goes the fishery as it changes every decade it seems. We have some changes coming up in 2020 for bluefish.

Ben Smith and his crew surf fished last week and landed a couple of migratory striped bass.

The MAFAMC has ruled that bluefish creel limits will need to be reduced due to over fishing, but bluefish is not being over fished. If you ever follow fishery management it is one fickle beast to understand. The MAFMC is reducing bluefish to a 3-fish bag limit for private anglers and shore-based fishermen, and a five-fish bag limit for for-hire fishermen. This is the recreational sector only, for now. The next fish on the reduction hit list could be croaker and spot. I went to a joint meeting with Maryland and Delaware recently. There were three citizens there — three. If you want better fishing access and creel limits you need to pay attention and get involved. If you can’t make meetings then write letters. You can follow the schedules of meetings and such on Delaware Surf Fishing’s website; We keep up with all of this as much as we can and keep the public informed.

Spiny dogfish has been the main catch at the beaches … photo from Ben Smith

Freshwater anglers are starting to see some decent crappie action in Maryland and Delaware waters. Yellow perch will start up soon enough and white perch is definitely on the menu. Bloodworms have been the bait of choice or minnows. You can use the float and jog technique and that works good if you can’t find bait.

Red Fox we saw at the beach recently at 3Rs.

Hunters are doing well with deer. I am hearing a lot of shots near my woods in the evenings just before shooting time is over. The butchers seem rather busy as well.

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