Fish are showing up early this year

May 20, 2021

Welcome back to another fun, crazy and packed summer!  The fishing has been decent for his time of year.  By decent, I mean fishing usually stinks in Delaware.  It still does - but that doesn’t mean you can’t catch any.  You just have to target what is running and use the current baits.   That usually works, but again - this is why we call it fishing. 

Luckily for all of you, while we have been waiting all winter for fish to show up, everything seems to have shown up early this year. There’s a laundry list of fish anglers can target. 

Striped bass

Let’s start with the coveted migratory striped bass.  The run has been typical for Delaware, with a few keeper migratory bass caught along the Delaware beaches.  The short striped bass cation (rats) has been on fire most days along the beaches. By typical Delaware striped bass run, I mean it is practically nonexistent like you see in Jersey and even Assateague at times.  We don’t see the surf blitzes.  Anglers putting in the time this year picked up some migratory bass surf fishing.  Put in the time, like Bo the Garbage Man says, a 36-hour chunk soak, Anise optional.

You have to be there and be in that spot.  That’s the luck of fishing, not just timing. While everyone is always going for striped bass in early spring, usually after weeks of white perch fishing, a lot of other fish showed up early.  Even shad made it up the Delaware River early this year.  

What’s hitting shore

The big black drum are still hitting around the coral beds and the Delaware bay beaches.  Action has been slower than recent years. Try clams or sand fleas on drum rigs with fish finders for the surf.  

The gator bluefish are not coming like years past, and everyone needs to calm down.  It’s been wild to watch anglers blitz reports of one bluefish, hoping for hundreds of gator bluefish.  We are back to the days before the great blitz of 2017.   A few gators would hit our coast, get caught and then that would be it for the action.  Maybe a school would run the Lewes canal and that would get some excitement rolling, then the fish all moved offshore.  Another telling clue of that action being gone is the amount of small fish that have shown up early and in numbers.  When the great blitz hit you couldn’t buy a small fish bite for months.  

This past weekend spot showed up in the surf and the Cape Henlopen Fishing Pier.  That alone is telling of the near shore predator action. Now that isn’t to say don’t be ready for bluefish in the surf.  The schools of fish that are here are the smaller bluefish, which are fun to catch and good to eat.  We have a new creel limit this year on bluefish.  Only three fish per angler per day.   Keep a spoon at the ready on a good casting rod for the surf.  Many have been caught mixed in with the striped bass and shad surf fishing south side of the Indian River inlet.  

Solid hookup

Northern kingfish action has turned on with the recent warm up . The fish showed up a couple weeks ago, earlier than usual.  Northern kingfish migrate off the coast, not along the coast.  Guess they got hungry and hit the beach!  Bloodworms or sand fleas will work as the best baits.  Fishbites bloodworms will work as well, the fastacting (red package) will dissolve faster, but both are working.  Even in the cooler water the regular blue package Fishbites bloodworms is working fine.

DS Custom Tackle top and bottom rigs are solid hookups!  They’re great, locally made gear, available in my favorite tackle shops, including the following:  Dan’s Tackle Box, 

Icehouse Bait and Tackle, Fenwick Tackle, Lighthouse View Bait & Tackle, The Broadkill Store, Tiderunners Bait (Lewes) and Treading Water Bait and Tackle (Milford).  

“We are also in several shops in Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland, and New Jersey,” said Lighthouse View Bait & Tackle owner David Okonewski. “It has been a busy winter for our gear makers and summer is looking to be exceptionally busy.”   

Summer flounder

Summer flounder are in the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal, Cape Henlopen Fishing Pier, Inland Bays and around the Delaware Bay, more and more. That action also started early and is picking up. The cold snap slowed down all the action but the recent warm up has put the fish back on the feed bag.  Jigging with gulp or drifting minnows will produce.  

The sand perch, spot, weakfish and northern puffers are all hitting on bloodworms, sand fleas, Fishbites on top and bottom rigs or any small hook rigs.  The puffers were the first early arrivals with the kingfish,  

The sand perch and spot just got here.  I’m betting at this point we see croaker soon enough.  Then the southern kingfish, followed by pompano.   The taxman is even early.

David Moore landed a large sand tiger shark off Assateague a couple days ago.  Half of a striped bass was found on a beach and it was definitely not eaten by a seal.  That was a shark.  Summer rays are also here, early.  

Sea bass season opened with a bang for all the head boats and charters. Tautog has been decent action for the boats too.   There are a variety of fish offshore now to catch.  That action will also just increase as the water warms and the summer approaches. 

I think many of you will find the beginning of this season a lot of fun.  You have many more options to fish for than you have seen this early in years past. Check out Delaware Surf Fishing’s website and social media sites for up to date fishing reports and fun for the area waters.   

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