Summer season is off to a strong start

May 29, 2014
Osprey carrying off its catch of the day.

Memorial Day Weekend has come and gone, I hope everyone took the time to remember why we celebrate this holiday by honoring those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.

The summer season is upon us and we had a nice reminder of that this weekend with hot temperatures and tons of traffic. The gnats and flies made an appearance in full force when the winds subsided. Trucks stuck in the sand, cars trying to drive on the beach, boats so thick at the inlet you could walk across without getting your feet wet. You could definitely tell everyone was glad to be at the beach and to start their summer vacations.

Despite the crowds, everyone had a good time fishing. Before the holiday weekend started I went to the beach a few times after work. It is nice to sit on a beach all by yourself, without a vehicle in sight, and do a little surf fishing. Just you and nature all alone for the evening. I know that the crowded beaches on the weekends drive some people nuts, so I highly recommend you get out there on a weekday, especially in the morning, when it’s less crowded. Go out, fish until about ten, then leave and find something else to do until that evening. Then go back at six. The crowds clear out around five and there is much more space on the beach. The same goes for the waterways and bays.

Fish are biting

The fishing before the weekend was not too bad. Bluefish were showing up in the early morning and late afternoons during high tide, mostly on bunker chunks and mullet rigs. Every day around the afternoon tide change bluefish and shad would swarm around the Indian River Inlet. The birds show up in force and work the fish while the anglers work the schools. Boats were stacked up by the entrance to the inlet, and the rocks were covered with anglers. On Saturday we watched this scene from Coin Beach. Amazingly enough we were practically alone with more than 50 yards to the next vehicle. I met the Baldwins down there for a little surf fishing. They were catching bluefish and dogfish in the morning. After the tide changed it was skates, dogs, and cownose rays for the rest of the day. A few people on the beach farther north caught some small dusky sharks. Keep in mind that protected sharks (dusky, sandbar, and sand tiger) are not to be removed from Delaware's tidal waters. You need to either cut the line or remove the hook in the water. We watched the osprey feed on bunker and small bluefish all afternoon. These birds are my favorite fish finders. If they are circling high, then the fish are deep, and if they are low the fish are close to the surface. They were certainly outfishing the surf anglers on Saturday! We spent a good ten hours in the surf and had a great time.

Flouder decent, weakfish here

Flounder fishing has been decent for the Inland Bays, Massey’s Landing, and Roosevelt Inlet. Some are being caught near the usual spots in the ocean. Minnows have been the better bait, though chartreuse gulp has been working still. The Cape Henlopen fishing pier has been the hot spot the past few weeks and is still a great area to catch flounder. There have been some large "doormats" caught the past few days, and weakfish are still showing up, averaging five pounds plus. Good to see them still strong out there. I even heard of a few speckled trout caught a few days ago near Cape Henlopen. Puffer fish are heavy in the surf and showing up in Rehoboth Bay and bloodworms are the best bait for them. Fishbites bloodworms will also work. Puffers are good eating and are known as the chicken of the sea. Just be careful cleaning them; their abrasive skin can irritate your skin. Kingfish are in decent numbers in the surf on bloodworms and squid. Haven't seen any in the bays yet, but that’s only a matter of time. Spot are showing up everywhere about medium in size and bloodworms or fishbites are working well. Black drum are still on the coral beds and the Broadkill area, but not as readily in the surf. A few redfish or red drum were caught over the weekend at Roosevelt Inlet and the Cape Henlopen area. It’s nice to see them back this year. Croaker are all over the place now and as far up as Port Mahon, and they are in some decent sizes. Big Catfish are being caught in the C&D canal, waterways, and other upper Delaware Bay Beaches.

The blues and yellowfin tuna bite has been picking up at the canyons.  Friends were out the other day and hooked up on three nice tuna. They almost had a big mako shark on the boat, and they released 2 blue sharks. Several boats flying flags come in on Sunday and Monday to the back bay marinas and Massey’s Landing. The sea bass bite has been excellent at the deeper wrecks and the Lewes fleets have been doing well out there, so I'm looking forward to some nice dinners this week!

Everyone wants to catch a big striped bass and unfortunately they have been few and far between. A lot of shorts have been caught in the surf, inland bays, Indian River Inlet and Massey’s landing. A few keepers have been caught in the surf and surrounding areas, but unfortunately the striped bass populations are down. The ASMFC reports are not looking good. I know many say there is nothing wrong with the population numbers but they are dead wrong. The best spawn we had was in 2011 and after that every spawn has been subpar at best. We have our hopes that the spawn from 2011 will grow into the big breeders and help replenish the stocks. If we don't start releasing more fish and killing fewer fish we will not see favorable numbers. This is not a doom and gloom prediction – it’s just the facts based on the available science. Why are there fewer fish? We killed them all! Sorry, but that is the hard reality. Let’s all practice catch and release and we will see more fish in our ocean stocks. And that goes for all fish out there; not just striped bass. When it comes to creel limits, keep what you need, not what you’re allowed. I saw striped bass selling for eighteen dollars a pound the other day – that should be a good indication of the stock numbers.  

We have seen a lot of horseshoe crabs in the back bays and the surf. Pickering Beach is littered with spawning horseshoe crabs. A few red knots were spotted up there the other day, feeding on the crabs' eggs. If you see a stranded crab please send it back to the sea. A few sturgeon have been caught in the Delaware Bay in bunker nets. They were quickly released, but it’s good to see them still here and we are hoping their numbers increase in the Delaware Bay.

You just never know what you’ll see in our waters. On Sunday James Blackstock and his family set up to surf fish at Conquest Beach. Just as they were settling in for a long day in the sandbox, a pygmy sperm whale swam up in front of them and beached itself. They contacted me and called the parks. I contacted MERR and the rangers to let them know there was a stranded whale on the beach. At first we thought it was a pilot whale from the pictures they sent. MERR and the rangers responded quickly but unfortunately the whale rangers responded quickly but unfortunately the whale did not survive. MERR did a necropsy on the creature and then it was buried on the beach. A big thanks to the Blackstock family for reacting quickly and making the right calls.

Whales will beach themselves to avoid drowning when they are distressed. If you encounter a stranded sea mammal you can text MERR at 302-228-5029. If you’re in the parks, contact the rangers' dispatch at 302-729-4580. Keep an eye out for our sea creatures! Anglers are one of the best sources when it comes to what is happening out there.

Crabbing is starting to show some signs of life. Catches and sizes have been increasing. There have been more females in some areas than others. Sadly, the crab pots in some of the marinas of the Indian River Bay and Rehoboth Bay have been getting poached. This happens all of the time but this year it seems to be more of an issue. Clamming is not too bad but Dave ran into mostly the large chowder or chuckle head clams.

In June DSF will resume our weekly beach clean ups and we will announce a schedule soon. See you in the sandbox this weekend. Fish on!

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