Early Birds & Worms: Delaware’s Downstate Trout - The Fisherman

Early Birds & Worms: Delaware’s Downstate Trout

Newton-Pond
Hopeful anglers work the shallow end of Newton Pond near Greenwood.

Delaware’s 2022 freshwater trout season gets an earlier start date than most neighboring states.

I caught my first Delaware trout back in the early 1950s before the state began stocking trout. Sunny Crowell and I would ride our bikes from Claymont down Darley Road to Naaman’s Road to Beaver Valley, where we would fish Beaver Run down to the Brandywine River.

Our first stop was the dam on Beaver Run and my first cast placed a Dare Devil spoon right at the base of the waterfall, where a trout surprised the heck out of me. The fish put up a much better fight than the smallmouth bass, sunfish and rock bass we normally caught as it flared its gills and twisted its body and shook its head. Somehow, I managed to land the fish and thus began my career as a Delaware trout fisherman.

That was a long time ago and since then the State of Delaware has gone a long way to make trout fishing a staple of the Delaware outdoor experience. Today they stock two ponds in Kent and Sussex counties as well several streams in New Castle County. The two downstate ponds are stocked in late February and open on the first Saturday in March. The one thing you can count on for opening day is big crowds and cold weather.

HACKLE
This trout was caught out of Wilson Run on a good old garden hackle.

Just Like Old Times

I have fished Newton Pond on several opening days and, for the most part, I find it a difficult place to catch a trout. It was a borrow pit and is pretty deep in the middle and it seems that is where the trout want to congregate. There is a very nice fishing pier for us old folks that provides access to the deep part of the pond without having to perch on the steep banks. There is parking adjacent to the pier and on the dirt road that runs alongside the pond.

Kayaks and canoes can launch from a small ramp at the far end of the pond. They will be able to fish the deeper waters in the middle of the pond by simply paddling out and dropping a line straight down.

The vast majority of the anglers will fish from the side of the pond along the steep banks. They can park their cars or trucks and walk down the bank and set up shop. Fishing has been going on so long here that people have worn out flat spots where you can stand with less effort than on the steeper bank.

DE LICENSE & STAMP
Delaware does have a general fishing license plus a trout stamp. The trout stamp pays for the trout stocking program. Delaware residents pay $8.50 for the general license and non-residents pay $20.00. The resident trout stamp is $2.10 for those between 12 and 16 and $4.20 for those aged 16 to 64. Non-residents pay $6.29 for a Delaware trout stamp.

Anglers may now possess their Delaware fishing license and trout stamp in either digital or paper form when fishing in Delaware waters. To purchase a Delaware fishing license or trout stamp, go to de.gov/DigitalDNREC

As for lures and baits, expect to see everything from worms to flies. I stick with my favorite, a shad dart with a yellow twister tail from Berkley Gulp. Rooster Tails are quite common, as is a single hook baited with the aforementioned worm, grub, corn, Gulp or Fish Bites.

The Tidbury Pond in Kent County is more like the average Delaware Pond and, in my opinion, much easier to fish. It is considerably smaller than Newton’s Pond and has a gradual sloping bank that is easier to stand and fish from. There is quite a large parking lot here, but it fills up quickly as anglers begin arriving well before starting time at 7 a.m. From what I have observed, I think a few may spend the night bundled up at their favorite fishing spot.

The same lures and baits that worked at Newton Pond will work at Tidbury. As for tackle, I use a light Shakespeare rod and reel with 12-pound test monofilament line. It is light enough to cast my shad dart, yet heavy enough to get the fish back to me without having it tangle with the hundred other lines in the nearby water.

First State Rundown

There will be additional stockings after opening day to keep the ponds producing trout for Delaware anglers. The day of these events are listed in the 2022 Delaware Fishing Guide. The streams in New Castle County will be stocked with trout during the last week of March. Opening day will be the first Saturday of April and it too will be cold. I have seen it snow on opening day, of course, that was many years ago.

White Clay Creek in Newark is the epicenter for Delaware trout fishing. It is close to a major population center. It is a big body of water and it gets more fish than any other stream. In addition, it has a fly-fishing only area in its northern section. The biggest problem here is parking. Space is limited along Creek Road and if you try to invent a new space, the Newark police will be more than happy to give you a ticket or tow your car. This can be the real shoulder to shoulder trout fishing you see every year in the newspaper on Sunday after opening day.

FLYFISH
Fly fishermen can score at Newton Pond.

There are six other stocked streams in New Castle County and while they do see a good number of people on opening day, the crowds thin out soon thereafter. My personal favorite is Wilson Run in Brandywine State Park. It is a beautiful setting and there is plenty of parking. The one problem for those of us who may be a bit long in the tooth and short on wind is the walk back up to the parking lot from the creek; it is all uphill and the hill is very steep. Last year I had to take the walk in short segments, but I made it without a call to 911.

The best location is under the bridge where the road into the park crosses the creek. The fish gather there and if you hit it right, you can catch your six-fish limit in six casts. This is where I took my two sons on opening day. One year, for whatever reason, the fish were in there thick but wouldn’t bite. I was using my shad dart and yellow twister tail and I let it lay on the bottom. When I couldn’t see it, I set the hook and lifted a trout out of the water; it was a highly unsporting technique taught to me by my dearly departed friend and former New Jersey Fisherman Editor Russ Wilson. When my son Ric figured out what I was doing, he was highly embarrassed.

On another opening day, when the fish were more cooperative, Ric was fishing on one side of the creek and Roger and I were on the other. Ric caught six trout on six casts the asked me what he should do next. I said he probably should stop fishing since there was a game warden standing right behind him. Every year there is a fishing derby for children with special needs and senior citizens at Wilson Run. The state stocks 12- to 13-inch rainbows and some trophy trout just before the event. The exact date will be published in the Delaware Fishing Guide.

They have just about made it impossible to fish Beaver Run. When I was there last year, there were boulders placed in locations where I used to park and the very few places left open were already filled. If you can get there, the same spot where I caught my first trout is still a good place to begin. Then move downstream to the big rock across the road and fish that deep hole. If I were still young and nimble, well at least young, I might consider riding a bike back to Beaver Run. At least I wouldn’t have to worry about parking.

The other four creeks are small and narrow but do hold trout that can be caught under less crowded conditions. Christina Creek runs through Newark and can be fished from Rittenhouse Park or from the area below the bridge on Elkton Road.

Red Clay Creek has an interesting history. It was heavily polluted by the NVF plant and for years was unsuitable for trout stocking. Cleanup efforts finally proved successful and trout are now stocked there. The creek is short and does get four stockings so it could be a productive location.

Mill Creek and Pike Creek run through some developments and have access problems due to property rights. You need to scout out locations that are open to the public along these waterways before opening day.

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