Thoughts on fishery management as spring gets rolling

By Rich King
Posted 4/6/23

Spring is rolling in nice and slow with some hot days back into the cooler afternoons. I will take a slow roll out of spring over the quickness to the summer heat. Wednesday was a nice reminder of …

You must be a member to read this story.

Join our family of readers for as little as $5 per month and support local, unbiased journalism.

Already a member? Log in to continue.   Otherwise, follow the link below to join.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Thoughts on fishery management as spring gets rolling


Spring is rolling in nice and slow with some hot days back into the cooler afternoons. I will take a slow roll out of spring over the quickness to the summer heat. Wednesday was a nice reminder of summer coming. The fish are arriving as well, some are already here and more are coming.

White perch are still the hot catch, on bloodworms or grass shrimp. The shad are coming hot up north on the Delaware. Trout fishing was fun for opening day. It’s good for the kids to get an early day each year. That is a great idea. It allows the kids a better chance of fishing without as much pressure (competition) and to enjoy the sport.

The black drum are starting up south of us in Chincoteague and Assateague. That slow random action that started last week has increased. Also there are more anglers fishing, so that helps increase the catch numbers. Sand fleas and Fishbites Sand Flea Fast Acting have been the choice of baits.

The Delaware Bay is seeing some drum along the beaches. You are going to need to put in some time. I would use blue crab, clam or sand fleas for bait. You can dig for fleas now, too. If you dig deep at low tide in cuts, it is much easier to find fleas this time of year. It’s hard to use a blue crab for bait because they are delicious to eat, but that is kind of why they are good bait. If you do use a blue crab for bait, make sure it is a legal blue crab.

Migratory striped bass are in the Delaware Bay. Not big enough schools that the recreational boats are chasing them, but the commercial anglers are filling quotas. Before you start up on that old dead horse, these commercial anglers in Delaware have it tough. They get small quotas they fill up really fast. These quotas for Delaware are usually less than 1% of the coastwide allowed catch. Meanwhile they take all the heat about depleting the stocks — not true in Delaware. In fact, the opposite is true. I can take 20 decent anglers and top a commercial angler’s limit in no time. It just takes X amount of days to hit their same weight limit (quota), but the difference is we don’t have to stop. When we could keep two fish (striped bass) per angler it could be done in days. See the one thing most do not know is the limit for fish is a trip limit, not a daily bag limit. You can take a few trips a day and limit out if you’re really good.

So before you pound on the commercial anglers in Delaware this year, at the end of the day (year’s quota) they get less access to fish amounts than recreational anglers. They are not the problem, at least not here in Delaware. Fishery management is a fickle monster to understand. We probably kill more in catch and release than they caught, too.

Look at sea bass: Taking them out of deep water and releasing them, you may as well just send them down on a hook for a bigger fish. Most of those fish do not live after being yanked off the bottom. The whole needle bladder deal barely works, too. Captain Wes Townsend, who happens to be on TFFAC, has the right idea. Change the size limit and then have anglers keep their catch and call it a day. There is no need to pick through soon-to-be-dead fish. This would increase the size of the fishery eventually instead of killing off more fish to get the right size. Commercial anglers have a smaller size limit, make that the same. Wes has the right idea.

Blue crabs are showing up in pots slowly around the inland bays, especially these warmer days in the shallower waters. I usually wait until the first molt or so to flush out that winter mud. Some like that “flavor.” Yeah, no thanks. I clean my crabs which also drives some people nuts. I’m not eating the filtered mess out of our waters either. You can do a lot more with a cleaned crab than just steam it, too. Pan seared in garlic and white wine with mushrooms and shallots is divine. Omelets are good, too. I have way too many chickens and therefore an abundance of eggs.

I heard about some five-pound weakies up the Delaware Bay. The state unicorn is getting bigger? I would love to put one of those on a plate. I miss eating trout. I know, I know, throw them back to increase the stocks, but they taste like fish candy. Anyway, it will be nice to see how well the weakies do this summer and then the speckled.

The ground is warming up more and more. The toads and skinks are all over my newly tilled gardens, keeping the bugs off my peas and bean plants. Everything in the garden is about to pop. I planted some stuff really early.

When the soft plastics start moving around on land, it is always a good sign to get out fishing. There are bugs bouncing off my windshield in the evening now. The peepers are out along the lower creek areas in full force. Don’t wait around to wonder when it is going to happen. Get out and fish. There is action out there.

Boaters around the inland bays be aware, if you haven’t been down in Sussex County in a while, the sand bars are larger and the channels are filling back in as usual. It should be an interesting summer. Boat safe and smart. Get a tow boat membership so you don’t spend a lot of money and time stuck on a sand bar. Those boys just love pulling the same people off the same sand bars every day.

Members and subscribers make this story possible.
You can help support non-partisan, community journalism.