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Fishing predictions for 2016

Cape Gazette of Lewes, Delaware

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Jan. 1 is a great day for football, pork, black-eyed peas and paying the great state of Delaware for your new fishing license, surf-fishing permit and boat registration. With big rock-fish still around and tog fishing still good, chances are you will be going fishing in January and perhaps even February. If so, you must renew your fishing license and boat registration. Those of us who surf fish from our vehicles will also need a new surf-fishing permit.

All of these are available online, but when I checked the boat registration site it said available soon. This was Dec. 28, so maybe they will have it up and running by Jan. 1. If not, there is a list of retailers in Sussex County on the Fish and Wildlife page. Surf-fishing permits are available on the State Parks page.

Fishing report

So now that you have paid the state that which is due, you might be wondering where the fish are. They are right here in Lewes.

On Monday, one or two big rockfish were caught from the surf at Cape Henlopen State Park on cut bunker. The weather was pretty nasty, but those who braved the conditions did find some success.

This holiday weekend may be fishable from the beach with northwest winds at 10 to 20 knots, but I would not recommend the rips where an incoming current beating against that wind will set up some pretty impressive standing waves. Boaters should be able to troll along the beachfront without encountering too much trouble.

Tog fishing was pretty good last Sunday with the Rehoboth Star out of Indian River reporting a boat limit of tog to 14 pounds. With the weather finally acting its age, tog fishing should improve as the water temperatures fall. Charter and head boats will be sailing from Lewes and Indian River for those of us who like a little comfort when fishing in cold weather.

Sea bass season closes today, so if you didn't fill your freezer by now you will have to wait until spring. Overall, I thought the season was successful with good numbers of keepers caught beyond the 20-Fathom Line. The Del-Jersey-Land Reef produced plenty of fat sea bass, and with the addition of another ship, fishing should be even better in 2016.

2016 predictions

I have been giving my predictions for the coming year for a long time and you would think after being so wrong for so long I would stop, but where's the fun in that? I will continue to plunge ahead so my readers can once again enjoy my foolish folly.


I am pretty sure we are going to see some changes in the summer flounder regulations for 2016, and none of us are going to like them. After a great year in 2015 with a 16-inch minimum size and four-fish bag limit, I expect to see the size limit jump to 18 inches if we wish to have the four-fish bag and no closed season. A population survey in late 2015 indicated the situation was not a dire as previously thought, so we could dodge the bullet in 2016, but I wouldn't count on that.


The unprecedented spring run of big blues is unlikely to repeat in 2016.1 say this because it had never happened before, so it is unlikely to happen again. I do expect to see plenty of big blues farther offshore and loads of smaller ones in the back bays and along the surf.

My hope is all those blues that were born close to the beach last year will stick to that area in 2016.1 know there were tons of young of the year blues last fall harassing tiny baitfish in the Lewes and Rehoboth Canal, Broadkill River and at Indian River Inlet.


The fall run of rockfish has pretty much discounted the cry of some anglers who believed the species was on the verge of collapse. While Delaware has not received the full benefit of these fish, New Jersey had a banner year due to the fish arriving when the weather allowed anglers to get out after them. I hope to see Delaware fishermen connecting to some of these big stripers in January if we get any decent fishing weather.

The young-of-the-year numbers in the Chesapeake Bay were very good in 2015, and combined with the dominate year class in 2011 we should have a steady supply of rockfish for many years to come.

It is very difficult to catch any fish with your boat tied to the dock or sitting on a trailer. It is almost impossible to catch them sitting in your La-Z-Boy. It looks like another good year, so get out and wet a line.

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 Salt Water Sportsman, Field and Stream, Outdoor Life and the Fisherman Magazine. He and his wife Barbara live near Milton, Delaware. Err can be reached at

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Original Publication Date: January 1, 2016

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