The Delaware River Blog

Fishing on the Delaware River

The Delaware River has always been a favorite spot for fisherwomen and fishermen. It offers a wide range of fishing openings from boaters, to fly fishing and shoreline anglers. The river stretches 330 miles from the entry of the Delaware Bay, all the way to the fork in Hancock, NY. Many people from across the country try their fishing skills on the Delaware River in the hopes of catching “A Keeper” which fish stories are made from. Some of the state’s records have been caught from The Delaware River, due to the sheer size of this impressive river. The Upper Delaware River structure is the finest natural trout fishery in the eastern part of the United States.

You can catch a variety of fish in the river’s waters from walleye, rainbow trout, American shad, striped bass, muskie with their razor sharp teeth, small mouth bass, pickerel, catfish, northern pike, carp and river herring. Great fishing spots abound. Of course, the key is bait, technique and a little patience, but as long as you have a combination of these three elements, you can rest assured that you’re in for a good time: Even when you fail to catch anything, this is a beautiful river and it’s a privilege to fish from its banks. Among popular fish are the striped bass, also known as stripers, which can be caught in the tidal parts of the Delaware River, but current reports declare them to be found as far north as Callicoon, NY. At this point the Delaware River is an arm’s length across to good old Pennsylvania.

If you would like to try lining a bait fish to grab hold of stripers, make certain that you come up with at least a 15 lb test as well as a very strong hook if you don’t want it flattened out! They commonly can be found where American shad dwell, as American shad are their main food resource. Stripers will eat virtually anything. They are the goats of the river! They particularly enjoy river eels, which can be 5 to 7 inches in length. Currently, there is a native population of Striped Bass which spawn and stay all year round. Striped bass only spawn when the warmth of the water is around 60°. (April 1st to May 31st of each calendar year is spawning season and it is prohibited to go fishing for striped bass in The Delaware River during this period.)

“Shad Fishing at Gloucester on the Delaware River,” by Thomas Eakins. Oil on canvas. Courtesy of the Ball State University Art Museum. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Another great fish to catch are muskies. Muskies are found in slack water areas. Look for them on the downstream edge of islands, beneath shoals and specifically downstream of rocky points as well as bars which prevent current flow. Eddies are additionally formed beneath river bends and next to riffs; these are great areas to find muskies. Certain specialized tackle is required to catch a muskie. The majority of muskie fishermen opt for a medium-heavy casting rod along with a level wind reel. They often spool their reels with thirty-pound test, low-stretch line and should be ready to go with this setup. Don’t overlook the use of a superior steel leader to safeguard your line from a muskie’s razor pointed teeth. This seems to be the perfect stage to make available some of the biggest lures in your fishing tackle box. Spinners, crank baits, and surface lures are all useful selections, but a certain muskie lure identified as “jerkbait” is more than likely to be the best type of lure to land a muskie. These can be found in most tackle stores as well as bait shops along the river.

American shad is one of the most abundant species in The Delaware River and is keenly fished. Most of the fishing action happens during late April through to mid June, while the American shad migrate all the way upstream to spawn. These fish are commonly caught of 4 to 6 pounds in weight, sporadically in magnificent sizes. American shads are hunted by boaters and anglers. These American shad fanatics often concentrate their efforts near Lackawaxen, Sparrowbush, Barryville, Port Jervis, as well as Narrowsburg. The greatest opportunities to land a big fish seem to be at dawn and dusk. Many shad anglers use shad darts, but fly fishing has become more popular and is also successful.

Although trout inhabit the central stem of the Delaware River, the main trout water lies in the 27-mile core section at Hancock to Callicoon, along with the two upper stems. The West Branch is generally the most fished section, followed by the East Branch. These waters hold a lot of rainbow and brown trout. Brown trout dominate in both the East and West Branches. Rainbow trout are more often found in the East Branch to the confluence together with the central river at Hancock, and southward on the core part of the Delaware River. Drought conditions can force a water area to decline or change, creating thermal strain and acutely affecting cold water species. Keeping discharge levels consistent is vital to the fisheries and have been a consistent problem.

Fishing in the Delaware River (Photo credit: slgckgc)

Smallmouth bass can be found all over the Delaware River, but fine fishing is available in the upper part just south of Callicoon where the water temperatures tend to be higher. Smallmouths are not usually very big, but are still fun to catch because they fight well.

There are opportunities for all types of fishing on The Delaware River whether you’re on the bank, wading in the water or in a boat. If you are looking for an absorbing experience, and have some fishing skills, or are willing to learn these from seasoned anglers, try fishing The Delaware River. But make sure you keep safe.