Delaware River Fishing and Clean Water

DockTalk365 New Jersey

Sunset Delaware River

Sunset on the Delaware River with Craig Durand

I first noticed Craig Durand after he posted a picture of his super cool garage doors with maps of the Lower Delaware River System. Then I noticed his commitment to keeping our waters clean. And finally, I saw that this guy knows how to catch big largemouth bass on the Delaware River. All that equals a must interview. Here is what Craig had to say. He has a great perspective on fishing and the environment.

I would like to start with something unique about you in that you are very outspoken about the need to keep our waters clean. Why is this so important to you and such a passion?

Our waters, especially the Delaware River, have made great progress in cleaning up over the last few decades. The passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972 was the spring board to the recovery of our waters. While they are improving, there is a long way to go, and I believe we all have a responsibility in taking part in the continued recovery of the Delaware. Industry, public utilities, farmers and even the individual citizen are part of the solution.

I’m a graduate of Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences. I majored in Environmental Science with a focus on Water Resources. I’m also a fisherman. Being an environmental scientist and a fisherman I notice the positive ecological results of improved policies and practices.

The next biggest area for improvement is stormwater runoff quality. Awareness, education and community action will be critical for successfully improving stormwater runoff. I’m excited to see so many people, especially the younger generation interested in kayaking and eco activities. I’m passionate about raising their awareness and harnessing their energy to improve the stream, creek, wetland or pond in their neighborhood. The Partnership for the Delaware Estuary is doing some amazing things for the Delaware River and worth a visit for those interested in helping.

Delaware River Largemouth Bass

Delaware River Largemouth Caught by Craig Durand

How long have you been fishing the lower Delaware River?

I grew up along the North Branch of the Rancocas and became interested in fishing at a very young age. My brothers and I would walk to Mill Dam spillway in Mt. Holly and fish for hours. We would fish for everything – yellow perch, channel cats, shad, crappie, pickerel, bass.

I started fishing the Lower Delaware about 30 years ago. I was working at an environmental consulting firm and a couple of my colleagues were serious fisherman. I worked with a notable NJ Federation bass angler named Rich Schneidereit. I also worked with Pete Gluszek. Pete went on to fish professionally and started Bass University.

These guys were really into the Delaware and got me hooked. Pete and I still find time to fun fish and talk about the river. Recently we have been working on introducing some environmental topics to his growing Bass University followers.

What do you like about fishing this fishery?

The thing I enjoy the most about fishing the Lower Delaware is that it is ever changing and challenging. The huge tides, massive migrations of fish, shad, herring, stripers, and its improving environmental conditions are intriguing.

Tidal waters can be really tough. What are your strategies to managing tides on the Delaware?

You are right about that. The largemouth bass use the tide to their advantage. They position themselves on current breaks formed by structure or weed beds. These current breaks continuously change by the minute with the tide cycle. Lure placement is critical.

As the tide falls the fish tend to concentrate on obvious breaks. A high, rising tide can be tough. Bass will spread out and explore some interesting and unusual places. Slack high and low are good for having lunch, no matter what time it is. I plan my trips based on tide conditions and will run long distances to avoid slack tide conditions.

Fishing Maps on Garage Doors

Craig Has The Coolest Garage Doors Ever!

I know electronics are important to you and believe that you got a new unit for your boat this year. What is that unit?

I recently installed a Garmin 1040 up front on my boat and run a Lowrance Elite at the console. While on the Delaware, I mostly use my electronics to identify weed edges and hard objects like tree snags, old barges etc. Also, the identification of schools of bait plays a major role in finding quality bass. The tide charts features on these models are also reliable and fun to use.

What are your favorite baits for fishing the Lower Delaware?

I’ve noticed over the years that a lot of fisherman have their favorite baits on the river. I keep it simple and vary it based on the predominate food source I think the bass are targeting. For instance if I’m up a tributary and I think they are targeting crayfish in snags and rocks, I’ll throw compact jig and crawl combinations. Weedbed bites call for a good spinnerbait, chatterbait or lipless crankbait. A relatively short finesse worm in a dark or natural color is hard to beat as well.

Keys to success with any of the baits is trying to match the food the bass are pursuing as well as good lure placement on the current breaks and tiny eddies formed by rolling tides.

How do bass on the Delaware react as the cool weather of spring turns into the hot days of summer?

The river can get really warm. Main river locations with good flow and weedbed cover tend to hold the summer bass. Also, some of the tributaries offer cooler water temps and can attract big populations far up the creeks. Most important is the bait. The bass will be where the bait is. As the saying goes, find your dinner’s dinner.

In 2014, Michael Iaconelli won a Bassmaster Elite on the Delaware with 20 fish that weighed 47 pounds and 14 ounces. Did this slightly over 2 pound average over 4 days surprise you?

Those results were not surprising. The Elite was held in the dead of summer and the bass can get a little finicky to say the least.

Iaconelli made it look easy, but I imagine he covered a lot of water and worked hard to put together a decent limit each day. If that tournament was held in the spring or early fall we would have seen a bigger average.

I enjoyed watching the pros trying to break down the river and its tributaries. Interesting to see that a lot of limits and top finishes came out of the Rancocas. I wish we had the bass live camera coverage on the boats that BASS is now using to cover the events.

What are the biggest mistakes that you see other anglers make when fishing the Delaware?

Many anglers who visit the Delaware run to spots they heard hold fish. A natural impulse I suppose. My suggestion is to find bait and revisit spots frequently throughout the tide cycle. Don’t stay put on a slack tide.

Choppy Delaware River Walt Whitman Bridge

Choppy Morning at the Walt Whitman Bridge

With Philadelphia in the backdrop, how busy does the waterway get during the summer boating months? What are safety aspects that anglers should be aware of when on the water?

The Lower Delaware can be an interesting and active place. International ships, tug boats, dredging vessels etc. When the summer hits you can then add in the pleasure boats, sail boats and jet skis. It’s a big place though and can handle the traffic pretty well.

Because of all that activity, boat traffic is certainly a safety concern. The rollers thrown off by tugs and barges can send you flying if you don’t pay attention while running. Also, the river can congregate some large floating objects like logs especially after a rain event. Carry an extra prop!

Thank you Craig for being so committed to keeping our waters clean and sharing your tricks for catching big bass out of the Lower Delaware River. Check out Craig on Twitter to keep up with his fishing and work.

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