The past few days has been great fishing if you are in the right spot at the right time. I know, we all hate that, but it is the nature of fishing. From ”you should have been here fifteen minutes ago”, to “after you left it came on hot!” We all hate to hear that, but it happens all of the time. Thursday I met up with the Reel Friends Surf Fishing club. A group of first responders that have a fun organization made up of friends and family. They were fishing Herring Beach in Cape Henlopen State Park. I dropped by, set up my gear, said my hellos to everyone, and proceeded to catch nothing. The bite was not hot.
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However friends of mine set up near them, were crushing spot and kingfish one after another. They even managed a very nice weakfish that released itself on the retrieve. After a few minutes of watching them kill it in the surf, Karl looked at me and said … “Really? I have the same gear and bait, and been here all day watching them crush the spot and croaker.” I just smiled, and he said yeah I know, right place right time. It is what it is in the surf, you may be in front of a good cut, or a decent hole filled with fish. The tide moves the food around and the fish follow. They will move like a swarm of locusts up and down the coast following currents and food. They know their environment better than we think. Learning what they know, and the difference between what we think they know is the hardest part of fishing. I had a great timechilling with the Reel Friends and always look forward to a day in the sand with that crew. Cape Henlopen has been good in the surf for kingfish, croaker, spot, flounder (small), skate, cownose rays, cusk eels, dogfish, and a few weakfish. Mostly caught on Fishbites, bloodworms, sand fleas, and squid. I heard of a few bluefish schools going past the shoreline, but farther than we could cast.
The Delaware Bay has seen decent fishing, such as the bay beaches at Broadkill and Beach Plum Island. Same catches as Cape Henlopen, but with more weakfish of larger sizes and bigger flounder. The other night friends were at Bower’s Beach hitting croaker, cownose rays, and some sharks. The best description I have yet to hear about pulling in a cownose ray was it is like a boulder with suction cups. Those creatures do love to dig into the sand and can wear you out, as David and Kara discovered and described perfectly. They have been getting into surf fishing rather heavily recently, and the stories are great to hear. With that being said, I have received many pictures of people in the surf for the first time and their adventures. It has been great to hear all their discoveries about the beaches that many of us take for granted. Interesting finds, weird looking birds, and critters they see in the surf and on the sand. Many of the kids out there have been catching fish for the first time and are just loving surf fishing. James takes a kiddie pool with him to the beach and his girls, Erin and Chloe fill it with fish by the end of the day. A beachquarium if you will, they even decorate it with shells and whatever they find. The girls have a contest to see who catches the most by the end of the day. I think that is just great, and now I know where I can find some bait for later in the day. I am kidding girls, I would not do that … well maybe. They always release the fish they collect, unless their dad decides it would be good to have a fresh fish dinner. Not a bad way to keep the fish fresh, and still be able to put them back if you do not catch enough by day’s end.
The inner and outer walls are holding tautog, trigger, trout, croaker, and flounder. The fish are closer to the walls as it is the only structure out there holding food and providing protection. The wall near the Ferry has been producing as well on the Lewes side, a few nice weakfish were pulled there the other day. Croaker seem to be larger in those areas, upwards of two pounds. The outer wall even produced a few keeper striped bass the other day. Resident bass for sure, and this year we are seeing larger catches, not just the normal shorties. The tautog bite has been great on all rock walls. Keep in mind, I mean ALL rock walls, I hope that is enough said there. Lewes beach is great for croaker, spot, and kingfish. Some of the rips and structure with fast water has produced a few bluefish. One fish many feel are just not around as much this year as in the past. I have seen little of pictures or reports of them, but they are out there. Speaking of out there, bluefin and yellow fin tuna and the mahi bite has been great at the Hambone and Hotdog. Recently my sister in law asked why are those areas named that, well because they are shaped that way. I got a blank stare telling me of course, that was a dumb question, after all fishermen are visual and we prefer the simple names. The bite has been good chunking and on the troll, I promised my buddies I would keep the color combinations to myself, they know I can’t kayak that far anyway.
The Indian River Inlet has seen great action for black puppy drum, flounder, and the occasional weakfish. Shorty striped bass are a given and the other night you could have walked on the shad near the Coast Guard station under the lights. I met a guy the other day that said he just loves to catch shad on an ultralight setup, and referred to them as Jersey tarpon. I like that description, and they are a blast to catch when they are hitting like gangbusters. Small spoons and speck rigs are the best for that action. Many of the boats have been drifting spot for flounder all over the back areas. Keep in mind the dredging has begun and there is equipment all over the place. I would love to volunteer for the job of pulling all the snagged gear off the pipes when they pull them out of the water. The north access of the jetty cap is closed at the handicap pier, and I am not certain when that will be accessible. There is a large mound of dirt covering the dredge pipe on land, so anglers can cross. Birds have been working the water frequently in the inlet, mostly in the middle. The old bridge pylons are all gone, but the barge is still there, I do not think they are finished removing all of the southern pylons, and it looks very different. The pelicans have been flying the area in small flocks as well, doing their part cleaning up on bait fish. Neat to see them in larger numbers this year working the water.
Friday after hanging with the Reel Friends I went south and met up with Alex at 3Rs beach access. We were going to fish all night in the surf, something I have not had time for yet this year. One of my favorite trips is an all nighter on the beach, listening to the waves, watching the moon rise over the ocean, and trying not to hypnotize myself staring at the light at the end of my surf rod, bouncing with the motion of the waves. You really have to pay attention to that little light, and it can become mesmerizing. The beach is beautiful at night and under an almost full moon you can see your shadow in the dark. The Charles W Cullen bridge, when lit up, looks incredible. The lights on a hazy night seem like they reach into space. It is truly a rewarding experience being able too stay out all night and take in all the sights and sounds. The sand fleas are thick in the surf, and on this particular night they molted. Soft shell sand fleas (say that three times fast) are great bait in the surf. I baited a few hooks and caught a few kingfish and croakers. Ghost crabs were scurrying all over the sand near the surfs edge, and we could see the glowing eyes of the creatures that live in the dunes. Taking advantage of a night on the beach is an experience you will carry with you forever. The fact we can do this all of the time is almost something taken for granted, and I try to go out at night as much as possible. Nature takes on a whole new aspect in the dark.
Massey’s Landing and the Inland Bays has produced fish in many areas. Redfish or puppy drum are being caught again this year at the pier. The sizes are much larger than last year with more keeper sizes, and many nice keeper flounder. Croaker, kingfish, and spot are thick in the bays as well. Clamming has been good, but crabbing has not been all that great. Many feel it is the rains and some feel it is the temperature fluctuations. On the outgoing tides the water has hit close to eighty degrees. There are jellyfish popping up everywhere, which can make clamming a bit of an extreme sport. Yesterday the surf was sixty seven degrees, and that is a big difference compared to the back bay temperatures. Drifting the bays is a great way to spend an afternoon, with friends and family. Finding a nice place to pull up on a bay beach and chill for the day grilling and fishing is always a bonus. The inland bays offer all kinds of out of the way places to relax and just take it easy. Watching fiddler crabs move through the marshes, ospreys catching their food for the day, and eagles are in many areas now. We have a lot of wildlife here and that does not include the occasional Sea Doo ripping around. You can catch all kinds of baitfish in cast nets for a day of fishing or do a little clamming. Just make sure you are in an area that is designated safe to harvest them. Watching the sunset on the back bays is always a treat. Keep in mind as the winds die down the bugs have a tendency to eat you alive.
Tuesday I met my buddy Ron “Jiggy Fins” Kyle for a little surf fishing. He needed to get back in the sandbox for some serious rest and relaxation. Sometimes the toughest times in our lives can be eased by a day in the sand fishing the surf. We geared up with bloodworms and fishbites and hit 3Rs beach access at one of my favorite spots. I wanted him to get into some serious catching. Meaning I wanted him to not have the time to sit still all day. Fishing can take your mind off of many of life’s ordeals and curve balls. When you are thick into the bite and reeling in fish after fish, you forget all of life’s little problems, if only for awhile. We had a great time and I was able to share some of other people’s adventures this past week while they were fishing. On Saturday, Ray Halfen, caught a thresher shark in the surf at 3Rs beach on fresh spot chunks. That was an interesting catch to say the least since two had been caught on the same day a hundred and fifty yards apart. The first one was caught on a top and bottom rig with squid and bloodworms. Another favorite story from this week, Matt Pry caught a keeper flounder, with his anchor. I guess we can say there is a new technique in town, why jig when you can anchor. When he was ready to leave for the day he pulled in the anchor and found a seventeen inch flounder stuck, like it had been gigged. You can’t make this stuff up, I kid you not. Today Ron and I caught kingfish, spot, and a few croaker between stories. Ron hit the first fish of the day with a spot on fishbites. I however am going to have to take the catch of the day. I pulled in my line when the rod bounced. Everything was normal until all of a sudden it felt like dead weight. I figured maybe a ray hit the fish on my rig, or I snagged some old line. The other night I dragged in two mullet rigs with a pound of weight between the two of them. Once the rig and fish cleared the waves they were floating in the air, because they were in fact snagged on fishing line. I was thinking oh cool I get more free gear. To my surprise I pulled in a rod and reel. The best part, it was an old school surf rod, with a brand new Quantum Optix 60 reel. Score!! You just never know what you are going to catch out there, and unless you put in the time, you never will.