The Delaware River Blog

How I Fish The Delaware River

Having grown up along the banks of the great Delaware River, my fishing methods are probably unconventional to most people.  I like to think of myself as a pioneer or survivor of sorts and like to design my own methods for fishing and hunting because from my experiences, I know what works and what doesn’t. This is how I fish The Delaware River but you don’t have to copy me!

Now, there are people who fish for sport and trophies and those who fish for food.  My methods of fishing are not tailored to those who fish for trophies but that doesn’t mean I don’t hook monster fish by accident every now and then.  It just isn’t my goal to hook a trophy bass and instead, I try to fish for quantity and quality not size.  My methods are crude and take knowledge of survival skills. First thing I do when I fish the Delaware River is look for a willow stick that is long and thin but not too thin.  Then I snap it off right at the bottom.  I do use bamboo shoots or sturdy, pliable reeds when necessary.

I get the pole first then I get some type of string.  Usually, nylon fishing line is what I prefer.  I take the string and attach it to the end of the reed or willow shoot by cutting a little notch in the pole and tying it off.  Then I tie a floating cork of some type to the other end of the line.  It doesn’t matter what it is as long as it floats.  Sometimes, I try to use a dried out gourd that rattles to alarm me when fish are biting the bait.  Then I tie a small hook on the end of the string and find some bait.  Bait can range from insects to worms.  Sometimes, if you dig up rocks you will find worms and grubs underneath.  I usually like to use these grubs and worms for bait.  All kinds of fish will bite these types of bait but especially bass.  Bass are the moneymakers of the river.  Then I put the bait on the end of the hook and cast overhand into a quiet, slow moving part of the river.  I like to find an almost still part of the river where the water is barely rippling.  Sometimes, I try to cast right up along one of the banks where there is a tree root or some rocks where fish will be hiding.  Sometimes, I cast into the shade of an overhead branch where the water is stagnant almost and pooling against the shore.  I seem to find the biggest fish up along the shady part of the bank.

“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)

Experimenting with bait proves to be helpful to me.  I like to try different types of worms to see what types of fish I can bring in.  I’ve noticed that some of the smaller worms, not the big night crawler earthworms, but the skinny, short earthworms will bring the pan fish.  The big fat night crawlers bring the different species of bass.  I have also had luck with the giant yellow and green grasshoppers.  They usually do a pretty good job of luring in the bigger bass varieties.  Sometimes, I will use a tadpole or a small frog to catch bass.  The bass seem to strike these quite often.  I have had a lot of luck with the small toads and frogs bringing in quite large lunker bass.

I usually toss my line around tree roots with these little frogs as bait and wiggle my line back and forth and within a few minutes, I will have a massive strike and will have to fight a monster to get it to the bank.  There are also many varieties of insects that can attract walleye, like bumble bees, flies, dragonflies.  Any type of insect used as topwater bait can attract walleye.  I have a lot of luck with mayflies.  Sometimes, I like to use a minnow net to catch bait.  It is a circular net that I throw out on top of the water and pull it in.  I usually trap a few minnows in the net as I pull it in.  I, then, in turn, use these minnows on my hook to attract other, larger, fish.  Minnows are a native food for all types of bass and I find minnows one of the best baits to use when fishing for bass because all fish will bite their native prey.

In the Delaware (Photo credit: tm22)

No matter what bait you experiment with, it won’t be long before you can catch the type of fish you are after. The key to successful fishing along the Delaware River is having the patience and a comfortable spot to relax while you wait on the fish to strike your bait.  I like to find a shady spot along the bank underneath a big tree on the grass.  Sometimes, I prefer a seat on top of a flat rock in the sun with a shade tree nearby.  I look for a quiet spot with little distraction of civilization.  I prefer to be surrounded in the serene atmosphere of the wildlife, far away from the sounds of the city.  I like to make myself comfortable with all my tackle laid out around me and I usually find a forked stick to hold my pole.  I kick back and relax after throwing my line in the water and sit and wait.

Sometimes, I will take a nap, only to wake up to the sound of a fish splashing around on the end of my line. I like to find a place where I can wait patiently for the fish to eat the bait, however, sometimes this isn’t always an option.  Other times, I will have to walk around if the fish aren’t biting one spot and go to the next.  It all depends on the fish, the time of day, and the weather.  I find that most fish start really biting right before dark.  So at dusk, I can usually just sit and relax and continuously reel in fish after fish.  I also have a lot of luck right before the weather changes or a cold front blows in.  The fish can sense the weather change and will start trying to feed before it blows in.  They also bite right before a good, solid rain.  It is best to fish before the rain pours down. If you wait too long, you may miss the chance entirely.

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