Surf Fishing the Other Side of the Atlantic Puddle
The fishing this week has been slow in some areas and hot in others. The surf has been slow in the afternoons, the bite stops after the incoming tide in most areas. Many people have been surf fishing, but not catching compared to the frequency we experienced last year. The water is no where near as warm as last year either, it has averaged seventy three degrees all week. I have yet to see a pompano show up and last year they were here very early. This is not to say the fishing is bad, just different.
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Many surf anglers I know are noticing the bite is down compared to last year. Spot, kingfish, croaker, skate, short stripers, flounder, smooth dogfish, cownose rays, and many sharks have been caught in the surf. Top and bottom rigs with Fishbites, bloodworms, clam, or squid are producing. Chunking spot is working for the larger creatures, and remember to keep prohibited sharks in the water. Removing a prohibited shark from the water is illegal in Delaware. I receive many pictures each week of prohibited shark species beached. Sand tiger, dusky, and sandbar sharks are the most commonly caught from the beach, if you do not know the species, let it go immediately. Bluefish have been far and few between in the surf. One day they are here, and the next, nothing. Schools are moving along the beaches just out of casting range. When they do move in, the bite is hot and heavy for a little while then shuts down. Many small flounder are just behind the first wave feeding on sand fleas. You can dig these up easily enough for bait, and give them a whirl. We receive many pictures of kids fishing the surf with their first catches, and it is exciting to see the next generation taking an interest in the outdoors. Something that seems to be lacking these days, get your kids out there and hit the water, they will enjoy themselves. Turn off the video games and hide the cell phones, school is around the corner, and they will have great stories for their friends. Crabbing is still not that great, but if you put in the time, you will be rewarded with a decent catch. Clamming has been good, and the jellyfish are still actively stinging.
The Indian River Inlet is still being dredged and many of the locals feel it is already changing the fishing. The fact that the water is now moving faster through the inlet since the pylons were removed from the old bridge is not helping either. Many anglers have told me it is much harder to get a lure in the same areas out front, than they were accustomed to in the past. We will have to change up techniques and relearn the currents is the general opinion. The fishing has been rather good at the inlet this week. Bluefish were heavy on the incoming tide in the evenings, and many a shorty striped bass were caught. A few keeper striped bass were also pulled from the rock piles and rails. Flounder have been heavy,but many have come up just short of the regulation sizes (17 inches). I fished the rocks the other day along Bubble Gum beach with my buddy Ron, and he was catching lots of small sea bass, croaker, and spot. I was casting a spoon for three hours. I didn’t catch a thing, but was just happy to wet a line and go through the motions. Sometimes just being out there is all one needs to relax and decompress. It was a great day on the wall, followed by an excellent lunch at Delaware Distilling Company on Ron. Every time I take someone fishing we always end up going for food afterwards, bonus. We saw a lot of short flounder caught in boats and from the rocks. It was very windy and tossing a two ounce spoon into the high winds was a task. I was happy to call it quits after a few hours. I took Ron on a tour of the north side of the inlet and showed him a few things for the next time he visits the rail. The inlet can be a fickle place to fish, she likes to eat gear for breakfast. You have to go there prepared to lose a certain amount of gear. Everyone has this issue, even the most experience old salts will tell you this.
Massey’s Landing fishing has been decent this week, but even that slowed down. Flounder, puffers, spot, croaker, black drum (puppy), pigfish, tautog, skates, and cownose rays have been caught. Many friends were there this week fishing the pier and rails. Watching the antics at the boat ramp is always a bonus, you never know what you will encounter. Definitely great entertainment while waiting for a fish to bite. Yesterday a boat spooled Ron, and I am sure they are wondering why their engine is not running as well today. He and his buddy Arthur were catching croaker, spot and a rather large puppy drum hit by Ron. We are going to have to dub him the Drum King this week, and make him a T shirt. Arthur is eighty one years young and still fishing like a kid, enjoying the croaker and spot action. These are good eating fish as long as you catch enough for a meal, otherwise you are using fishbites to catch fishbites. Bloodworms and clam were the choice baits yesterday. Gulp on speck rigs is working well for flounder as well as minnows. Fishing the ditch is always an interesting time, you never know when fish are going to pass through to either of the bays, and what sort of follies will occur at the boat ramp. If you want to see pure comedy, go down to any state boat ramp on a busy weekend during an incoming storm, holiday weekends are also a real treat. Bring a lawn chair and some lunch, you will be there a while. Sometimes we hold up cards with numbers like judges at the Olympics. The water temperature yesterday on the incoming tide was seventy six degrees at the surface near the pier. The wildlife seen at Massey’s Landing is always a bonus, this winter we even had a seal hanging around there for a week.
The back bays or inland bays have been producing fish of all sorts, just not in great numbers. The flounder have been moving out to deeper waters in the ocean, but some are still around. Croaker, spot, sea bass, oyster crackers, and kingfish have been everywhere. A few stargazers have been caught, don’t touch them between the eyes it could be a shocking experience. Skates and cownose rays are all over the bays, and few big sharks have also been caught. Mostly sandbars and a few sand tigers, and a lot of smooth dogfish. Speaking of sand tiger sharks, last year DSF fished for Delaware State University tagging sharks for their research project. Recently they asked people to keep an eye out for the tags we used. Apparently the tags will fill with air and pop loose, allowing them to be collected. If you see any of these on the beaches or in the marshes collect them. Please note where you found the tag, and return them to the school. There is a one hundred dollar reward for any returned tags. I believe I will have to do some serious beach combing this week. We had a blast last year tagging these sharks, and even managed to catch two tiger sharks from the surf. That was when the water was eighty degrees. There are still jellyfish in the back bays, so be careful when you are in the water. If you are walking in the shallows wear foot protection, old sneakers with a hole cut above the toe work very well. The hole keeps the mud from sucking your shoes off your feet and makes it easier to walk. I see a lot of glass and debris that can cut a foot real fast, not a way to end the day. Just be careful when you are clamming or wading the back bays.
The boats out front in the canyons, hotdog, and hambone areas have been doing well with yellow fin tuna, big eye, skipjacks, and white marlin. Tom Minio and Sandy Lowes banged up on a bunch of tile fish last week on the Katydid. Many out front this weekend were even treated to a few whale sightings while they were there. Several of my buddies are doing well on the troll or the chunk, just depends on how they want to fish. The colors for their spreads on the troll are something they share with me, but ask to keep that to myself. I can respect that wish and always will. We alsokeep the locations of personal favorite fish hotspots, honey holes, and exact spots out of reports. A rough idea of what area is good and the baits should be all an angler needs to enjoy a day on the water. Spot burning is a big taboo in any area when it comes to fishing. We only talk about public places and give rough locations on the water. When Beach Plum Island blew up this spring for striped bass, DSF tried to keep that fact on the down low, but once the cat was out of the bag. I had to put up a report just to get some peace and quiet. I spent hours on the phone and online, confirming reports because of the original source of the spot burn. I took all of the heat for this happening, and still do to this day, even though I only confirmed what was already known. Our waters here have become much smaller since the availability of information is so easily obtained these days. Especially when someone runs into a bait shop, bragging, and blurts out the information. The shop owner is of course going to tell his customers what is going on, post it on their Facebook page, and selling bait is part of the business as well as information.
A month or so ago Jon Bell and Richie Owens contacted me via the Delaware Surf Fishing Facebook page asking for a guide to catch fish in Delaware. Normally this is a basic request, until they told me about their plan to catch a fish in all fifty states, and they were traveling here from England. I was intrigued and definitely wanted to help them with this adventure, fishing on the other side of the Atlantic puddle. Scott Jost helped me make arrangements for them to stay at the Beacon Motel in Lewes (thanks Maggie), and the boys met me on Saturday. I tried to tell them to visit on a week day, however they had a strict schedule. I wanted to take them to so many different places, but due to their time frame I decided the Lewes area would be best for options. We all know what traveling around this area is like on a weekend in August, insane would be a good description. Surf fishing in cape Henlopen State park and the pier if necessary, as well as Roosevelt Inlet was on the agenda. The mission of Fish The Fifty is to catch one fish in all fifty states. I figured easy enough, no worries, they were not picky about the fish they caught as long as it was one. So it was hit the surf for an easy catch of spot, croaker, or kingfish, or so I thought. The boys didn’t arrive until 3 p.m. and the bite in the surf shut down roughly at noon. I was packed to the gills with bait, loaded the boys up in the truck, and drove them onto the beach. At this point I was a little stressed we would not fulfill their need for one fish. After two hours I would have paid money for a skate. Scott showed up around five and threw out more lines and bait. Still nothing, and once the tide changed, we hoped for better luck on the incoming. Eventually a rod bounced and the boys had a spot, I relaxed. The goal of their trip, aside from catching one fish in each state, was also an excuse to see America. I knew I could have put them on a charter and taken them out for large sharks, or easier catches in the Delaware bay. I wanted them to experience the best part of this area, toes in sand, and chillaxin at the beach. Surf fishing is as much fun as it is relaxing. After hearing about the last two trips they were on, I decided to just stay at the beach, and tough it out for a hopeful catch. The boys settled into the sand just fine and loved the laid back atmosphere. After the spot was caught, they hit a small dogfish, and a horseshoe crab. They completely freaked when they saw that prehistoric looking creature. They had not seen one before and only read about them. We talked about all kinds of features that Delaware has to offer all day, and the country itself. After we hit a restaurant for dinner (guess which one), I took them to 3R’s beach in Delaware Seashore State Park for a little night fishing from the surf. I had some friends down there set up for sharks, and they were excited about that possibility. The only thing caught in the short time we were there was a small dogfish by Jon. However the Perseid Meteor shower was starting that night and the boys were treated to a killer light show. All in all it was a great day for these boys from England in the surf in Delaware, mission accomplished. They kept telling us … “This is the life” when we were on the beach that night watching shooting stars and listening to the waves crash. My world was made even smaller that day when they told me of their plans for Connecticut this coming weekend. They will be trout fishing the Farmington River and staying at the Riverton Inn, five miles from my family’s cabin in the mountains. I promised to try and make it up there for that, or at the very least have my brother take them to the lake. It was a pleasure meeting Jon and Richie, showing them what little we had time for in Delaware, and they promised to try and get back during striped bass season, so we can do some fishing again soon.
A quick rundown for anything I forgot to mention. The fishing has been normal for the summer, just slower than last year. A few cool catches have popped up here and there. The northern Delaware bay beaches have been great to fish. I was at Bowers Beach the other day for their First Thursday celebration. I took a tour of the Maritime museum (cool place), and then checked the surf. There were a lot of people fishing, catching large spot and croaker. Then I checked out JP’s Wharf on the Murderkill river. Oh yeah, that reminds me, the Fish the Fifty boys were intrigued with some of the names of areas around here, like Slaughter Beach. Let’s just say that was an interesting conversation, especially when we brought up Intercourse, PA. Anyway, Broadkill Beach and Beach Plum Island have seen decent catches of spot, croaker, kingfish, trout (weakfish), and small flounder. The best baits have been Fishbites, clams, and bloodworms. Flounder have been heavy out front at site 10 and the old grounds. Many a doormat, or what qualifies for a doormat these days has been caught. Jim Levell won the Flounder Pounder tournament with a 7 lb. 10 oz. flounder on Saturday. Congratulations Jim! That was a nice looking fish, and probably a large dinner. Bill Fox owner of the Black Pearl Designated Driver Service met me on the beach at 3R’s on Wednesday for a little surf fishing in the Admiral Loco, the largest beach buggy in Delaware. It was a blast to fish from the back of that beast, and people were coming from a mile down the beach to take pictures. I am constantly receiving complaints about people who do not fish on the beach and just pretend, the posers as they are called. I tell people to try and meet their neighbors, ask them if they need help actually fishing, instead of just cutting their lines and leaving more junk to snag in the water. The other day I received one complaint that actually made me feel sad for the person who sent it to DSF. He basically said after watching a bunch of drunken beach goers dance in their trucks all day with loud music, that he was never coming back to Delaware in the summer. I felt really bad for him, he was outraged that no one (rangers) were stopping these people, and the fact his children had to watch this spectacle of debauchery. I honestly was embarrassed when I heard about his experience. I hear about this (pose fishing) on a daily basis, but his description took the cake, and I was upset his vacation had been ruined. The only thing I could do was apologize to him, I am not in charge. We need more enforcement on the beaches, if you want to fake it, that is fine, but if you want to party, go to a bar. The other day I received a photo from Laurie Milnes, and she wanted to know what they had caught. On my phone it looked like a skate, and I sent that answer to her, not thinking much about the picture. My phone screen is spider webbed from dropping it, so pictures are a bit hard to see. She answered back and sent another picture, “with teeth like this?!?” Now my screen has more cracks because I dropped it, again. She and her crew caught an angel shark, I have seen pictures, and heard of a few caught here and there, but not recently. I immediately sent the picture to my buddy Alex Stevens, his response was too colorful for this article, he was excited, and confirmed it was an angel shark. I had several other folks confirm this as well. So Laurie Milnes has the catch of the week, an angel shark at site 9, using a four ounce jig flounder fishing. Until next week …