Cloudy with a chance of fish
Welcome back to summer, gang! Well, it doesn’t feel like summer just yet, and we are okay with that. It has been a mild spring to say the least and that has helped keep the fishing and outdoors fun interesting.
When it isn’t raining or blowing a gale, we have experienced some great spring fishing. It certainly is making up for the winter doldrums!
The mild weather is keeping the water temperatures in the low sixties and that is perfect for the striped bass and bluefish. This year we are seeing a bit of a run in the surf for striped bass. Anglers have caught some migratory bass in the surf. There are plenty of short bass or rats in the surf. There has been good migratory bass action on the upper Delaware Bay and river areas. Bunker chunks have been the preferred bait, but some have been caught on mullet rigs.
Time to tune up
If you haven’t tuned up your gear from last year, make sure you check lines and inspect rods and reels. Go through your gear. Mullet rigs are working right now and surf rigs with heavy line or wire leaders for bluefish. Top and bottom rigs for the smaller fish, northern puffer, short bass, flounder, and sand perch. The flounder action is okay in the surf if you jig the cuts, spoons, or metals for bluefish. Get that gear tuned and cleaned up and check your hooks for rust. If they are dull replace them or sharpen. Don’t buy cheap gear, use quality gear with good components. If you take care of your rigs they will last for years.
Look for DS Custom Tackle’s new Modified Mullet rig, there is a holder hook on the shaft to keep the mullet in place. The float doesn’t move around and “hammer” your bait into the hook either. Catch more fish while using and losing less bait.
Here there everywhere
The Indian River inlet has been great for bluefish action when and if the fish move into the inlet. There are blues scattered around the inland bays. Short bass around the inlet, and the occasional keeper striped bass at the surrounding beaches.
Pot Nets Anglers and Masseys Ditch anglers are catching the occasional bluefish. Flounder action is slow around the inland bays. The best action has been the Lewes Canal for keeper fish.
The bluefish finally made an appearance, just like the last few years. For a while we were wondering if they would show up near the surf at all this year. They are not as plentiful but the action has been decent, but random. They are showing up at the Cape Henlopen fishing pier almost daily on the incoming tide, but that action is not at the same tide time each day, it is random. Some days they don’t show up. We will see how far offshore they are once the black sea bass anglers get off shore and fish. There are still blues in North Carolina so we may see more for a few weeks, or not.
The action has been epic at times when the fish are hitting, the crowds not so much. Best advice is fish away from the crowds and you will still catch fish, they (the fish, not the crowds…) tend to move around. Granted they will sit in one area for a few hours on the tides, but they do move. The south side of the Indian River Inlet has been packed daily with anglers busting blues from the beach. Ocean City Inlet has some serious action as well as the Indian River Inlet. Night time fishing has been great, if the fish are moving. Daytime has been just as good on the incoming tides at the beaches and inlets. The inland bays and tidal creeks are holding a lot of bluefish now as well down here in Sussex County. The “May The Fish Be With You” surf fishing tournament saw a good amount of bluefish caught.
The Cape Henlopen fishing pier is seeing decent bluefish action at random times of the day. You have to be there when it happens. A nice sized weakfish were caught nearby the pier at a private pier. That is a rare catch these days. Everyone would like to see the trout come back. This one caught gives you hopes.
One thing about catching these bluefish - and all bluefish, but especially these skinny spring gators. They are feeding heavy, and food competition is a real deal when they are this hungry. Anglers are getting lines cut a lot and losing fish and gear. These fish will follow a caught fish and try to rip whatever is in that fish’s mouth out for food. They are fighting for that food, competition is fierce. If you aren’t using steel leaders you will lose gear. If you are using shiny leaders and swivels they will hit those and you will lose gear. It barely takes a tap of a bluefish tooth to cut a line and they will bite anything that attracts them when they are feeding this heavy. If you are fishing a school, fish the side of the school closest to you from the beach, so you don’t have to drag a catch through a school of angry hungry fish with razor-sharp teeth. The surf is easy, fish close to the beach, not very far out, just past the first breaker.
You can take advantage of the food competition, but if you are fishing with friends, or people who are cool with this if you ask them first. We do this all of the time. When someone in your crew hooks up, cast near the fish they are retrieving, without interfering with their line and retrieve. Nine times out of ten there are fish following that caught fish, trying to get the food (your buddy’s lure). If you cast a plug, spoon, or bucktail near that fish, the others following will hit your rig. Hold on too, that is one seriously hard hit, and a whole lot of fun!
Striped bass action has been great in the Delaware River up near Port Penn and Augustine area. Boats are having the best luck, but some anglers are hitting keepers from the banks. Bunker chunks have been the go to bait. Big bass like bunker heads. They usually cherry pick the bluefish schools for food, and the only part the blues don’t eat are the heads. The bass love to gobble those up from below. Big bass (cows) are lazy, until you hook one up then it is fifty pounds of angry fish. I am talking the big fish not the average keeper. There have been a few keeper bass caught off the Delaware beaches and Assateague Island beaches. Anglers are using clam, bunker chunks, ad mullet for bass, up river they are using bunker chunks.
Black drum action is still hot and heavy at Broadkill beach and other Delaware Bay beaches, but only when the fish are there for about two hours. The boats are fishing the bay and catching. One thing: These big fish, like striped bass, need to be handled correctly if you are going to release them. Holding a 30 plus pound fish by the gill plate can kill it.
Surf fishing is producing its share of skates and dogfish. There are northern puffers out there as well. Everyone is throwing big bait for blues and striped bass. You can use top and bottom rigs for the little fish but the blues when they move in will destroy your gear. Keep a spoon at the ready on a good casting rod for that action too. I love catching big blues on three ounce silver gator spoons. The action is fun and the hit is nasty when they grab that spoon.
Flounder action in the Lewes Canal and inland bays is really picking up. Anglers are using pink Gulp, minnows or silversides. Drifting rigs along the bottom has been the best. You can also catch them in the surf jigging the cuts, and rip currents areas. Even Broadkill River and Canary Creek in the Lewes area are seeing some nice catches. Not surprising since those waterways are all connected at the Roosevelt Inlet.
Crabbing is picking up with trot lines, soaking pots, or hand lining form piers and boats. The pot poachers of Pot Nets are in full force too! Don’t let your pots soak too long. Usually a left-behind buoy and float with no pot is from a boat hitting the line, but not always. Make sure you have your turtle guards - the diamondback terrapins are plentiful this year.
Freshwater fishing has been great in all the ponds and waterways. Nothing like a day of pond hopping and worm dangling. The fly fishing has been a lot of fun. There will be a fly fishing tournament in September at the beach in Cape Henlopen. That will be a lot of fun.
Keep it clean
Beach cleanups meet every Sunday at 9 a.m. and then switch to Tuesdays. We did these all winter long. This weekend is Fenwick Island State Park. We clean the beach for a couple of hours, then head to Iron Hill Brewery for food they provide to the cleanup crew. Soon that schedule will switch to Tuesdays.