The temperatures are quickly dropping on land and at sea with the water temps dropping steadily this past week. Fall is definitely here and maybe this year we will actually have a season. We are now in the transition period for fishing when the warm water and colder water fish are out there at the same time. This happens every year, but you just never know how long it will last. Eventually we will see nothing but cold-water species, and everyone is looking forward to some striped bass fishing for the fall run.
Read Cape Gazette's Visitors' Guide to
Hopefully we see more fish than we did during last year's fall run. Granted the Delaware State Striped Bass record was broken, but there were not huge schools of fish close to shore. What our share of the run will be remains to be seen, and that is something that can only be guessed at best. The frequency of stranger catches this year close to shore were cusk eels and stargazers. We saw a lot of these eels this summer. Drum and striped bass are a dime a dozen when it comes to what fish are out there, and they are supposed to be here. I love to catch them as much as anyone, but producing the more unique species from land is just as exhilarating, especially if you are trying to fill a lifelong fishing list. I know a few people who try to catch as many different fish as they can to add to their list. Now that’s a challenge in and of itself, and you can’t always target the rarer catches; they just kind of happen. Just like records and weird catches, it is usually someone who does not fish areas daily. Like the mahi caught at the Indian River Inlet last year: That young man was from North Carolina and it was his first time fishing there. One fish that is supposed to be here but that we are not seeing in large sizes close to shore are bluefish. A lot of little ones are popping up everywhere, but not the larger specimens in the usual places. The bigger ones are mostly off shore or out front and you need a boat to find them. Several have been caught at Indian River Inlet, but not in the same numbers everyone is used to seeing. Fishing: You just never know, and that’s half the fun.
So what’s out there right now? Just about everything. Flounder have still been hot at the Old Grounds, and Massey's Ditch has produced some nice keepers. Jigging with bucktails and gulp swim mullets (white or chartreuse) or live spot have been the best bait. The Indian River Inlet has seen its share of keeper flounder as well. Black Drum are still hot at Massey's Landing and the Inlet, but that will shut down soon. Clam, sand fleas and bloodworms have worked well as the choice baits. Tautog are being caught, but unfortunately that season does not start until the 29th of September. The summer season was hot at the outer and inner walls. Massey's Landing has just started seeing small tautog at the rail and the pier. The larger bluefish are starting to pop up at the outer walls and wrecks in the Delaware Bay. Some smaller snappers are being caught in the surf. Mullet has been the choice bait, and the mullet are still everywhere in the back bays. A few nice redfish (drum) have been caught in the surf at Cape Henlopen and even Dewey Beach and the Indian River Inlet. Clam and mullet have been the best baits. Mullet rigs or cut chunks on 4/0 hooks with fish finders are working just as well. People are excited to see them finally make an appearance in larger sizes, and we saw several small ones in the past month. Last year they were all over the place and this year not so much. Don't forget that we don’t have a season for summer flounder this year like we did last year. Hopefully we will see them stick around for a while, depending on the water temperatures. They will move off shore to the deeper waters, and last year we saw keeper sizes until mid-December, but the season was closed. There have been a lot of nice sea bass being caught recently off shore, and many smaller ones are being caught at the rock walls of the inlets and back bays. I have seen some huge croakers caught mostly on bloodworms and Fishbites. By the way, once the water gets cool enough (below 65 degrees), Fishbites will no longer work as effectively. So switching up to real bloodworms will probably produce better results. Pompano are still popping up here and there in the surf, mostly on Fishbites and bloodworms.
The offshore action has still been hot for yellowfin tuna and some big eyes. False albacore are out there, and banded rudder fish as well. Mahi are still around and the charters have been doing well, including private anglers. Going to the canyons can make for along day of fishing, but once you get the bite it is worth the trip. I’ve had a few trips I could have made this past month but other obligations kept me on land. You leave anywhere from ten p.m. to midnight, ride all night and then chunk for tuna. Once the sun comes up the boys will start on the troll. If they limit out, a little shark fishing or more trolling may be in order. Then it is that long boatride home, and the fuller the boat is, the less one cares how long the ride lasts. Coming back from an overnight trip with the skunk on board does not make for a pleasant trip. There are always a few places to check on the way back to port. Fishing a few wrecks or structure for the inshore species is never a bad idea. You can also salvage a day by hitting other spots such as the outer walls. This week has been great for triggers, bluefish, and shorty striped bass in those areas. I am hoping I can get out there soon before the bite turns off. Granted fishing is part of this job, but so much more is involved behind the scenes. When it comes to work, running any company is like fishing; you have to put in the time. I try to get out as much as possible to gather information and wet a line. Who am I kidding? I fish somewhere every day! Fishing is an addiction that can only be cured by more fishing.
This past week I did a little surf fishing, hitting some small blues and kingfish. I dropped by the Cape Henlopen pier and caught my share of croaker, dogfish and a few spike trout here and there. My favorite thing to do is to hit the back bays in a boat or from a few favorite private places on land and catch shorty striped bass. You can get into a school and catch all day long, casting and retrieving until your arm feels like Jell-O. That is a lot of fun, and makes for a great day, especially with my little four-foot graphite rod. One of my favorite things I have yet to do this year is get into a school of bluefish with a hookless lure and see how many you can "catch" on the retrieve. I think last year my record was seven on one retrieve. The blues bite the lure, hold onto it, and then spit it out when they realize it is not food. Then seconds later another one will bite the lure. It is just one of those things I do when I want to have fun messing around while I am fishing. When blues are boiling the water, anyone can catch and snag a fish – that’s the easy part. Trying to get one in without a hook on the lure is the real challenge, and I have yet to land a blue on a hookless lure. They just don't want to let go of that little spoon or plug until the last second. Try this sometime with your friends. It’s a lot of fun to see who can hit the most on the retrieve. Soon we may see some larger blues in the surf and back bays. Up north (Massachusetts) they are hammering up to nine-pounders from the surf. We have a storm headed this way for Sunday and Monday; a possible Nor'easter. That could push some fish this way and even if it dissipates before it gets here, the wave action will be interesting. I will keep everyone updated on storms here and on the Delaware Surf Fishing Facebook page. Coastal flooding is always possible with these storms even when they are offshore with heavy winds and wave action. Keep that in mind if you fish the point in Cape Henlopen or any of the Delaware Bay beaches, you could quickly run out of dry real estate. The beaches in Delaware Seashore State Park and Fenwick Island still have that upper tide pool at high tides. Do not drive into or try to cross this area when it is still wet, you could sink to the frame in an instant.
The full moon has caused higher tides and the winds have been strong. The water is still rather stirred up, and makes for tougher fishing. You can barely see eight inches into the water in the back bays and Massey's Landing. By the way, the green can (buoy) is now in the middle of the ditch right in front of the boat ramps, so be careful, especially at night. It has moved almost thirty yards, and just today (Tuesday) it moved another thirty yards. I still don't understand why we can't have some solar powered lights on those cans, it would make navigating at night so much easier. The higher tides and heavy winds probably moved the buoy. Last year it moved to the other side of the ditch towards the Indian River Bay; I think that was during heavy winds and a king tide. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I hate fishing in the wind. I can take any weather condition, but wind is just annoying. Especially that cold, biting, goes-through-your-clothes-to-your-bones wind. When it is whipping I always go to out-of-the-way areas where I know it won’t be as bad. The fishing may not be as good there, but at least I am comfortable and can enjoy the day on the water. I have fished in some nasty weather only because I know it would push fish in our direction. North east heavy winds are some of the best and worst. Great for more catching, horrible for the nasty weather. I watched a guy last year fish in near gale-force winds. Everyone in the parking lot was watching him catch, and no one wanted to get into that mess. Water was breaking over the wall and just drenching the entire area. Either that was pure dedication to fishing or he was just plain crazy. The fact he was catching made all the difference. Sometimes to really get into the fish you have to sacrifice a lot of comfort. He looked like one of the guys on Deadliest Catch, wrapped up in tons of wet water gear and having a blast. I think some of us were watching him like a NASCAR race, waiting for the next curve Mother Nature was going to throw. We will see what kind of curve (if any) she throws at us on Sunday or Monday. If the fishing is great we can credit the storm, if it is horrible we can blame the storm. It’s a win win!