Mullet are finally making a showing

August 12, 2021

Typical summer fishing abides for the surf anglers and in area waterways. There are spot, kingfish, croaker, weakfish, short striped bass, flounder, and the occasional bluefish. The water temperatures dropped a little during the last cool-off, which helped pick up the fish bite a little. The Cape Henlopen fishing pier is still hot for spot on most days. The big news now is the mullet are finally making a showing around the flats at the pier and the Inland Bays. Maybe that will help increase the bluefish bite, but we will see. Use the DS Custom Tackle modified mullet rigs to ensure you use less bait and get more hookups. By keeping the mullet on the entire rig shaft, the hook stays near the tail where the bluefish strike the most, from behind.

The offshore anglers are doing well on sea bass and flounder, and the ribbon fish are still being a nuisance. These are good to eat, so many are starting to keep them and even target ribbon fish, also known as cutlass fish. The offshore flounder action has really picked up for many of the charters. 

Slot striped bass action around the Delaware Bay, Lewes-Rehoboth Canal and tributaries is decent. The canal is considered a tributary for the Delaware Bay, but only from the Freeman Highway Bridge to the Roosevelt Inlet. Wish it was the entire canal so we could keep fish from that one spot. Next to that old ___ where that slough runs out of  _____ by the old ___  . Yeah, sorry, you will have to figure that out yourself. One thing we never do is mention spots for boats; they get mugged relentlessly. Beaches and inlets are given locations I do mention specifically. Land-based fishing at public places isn't a secret. How to fish some of them can be tricky is all.  

The Roosevelt Inlet has seen decent flounder action. Indian River inlet has plenty of short striped bass and some keepers still that are resident bass. The sheepshead have started hitting much more. There are occasional triggers being caught at the inlet. More so on the wrecks, reefs and walls in the Delaware Bay. 

Bull red drum are at Assateague, and some smaller redfish (red drum) have been caught around the Inland Bays. You can't keep the bulls, but they are a lot of fun to catch. Kingfish heads make great bait for those in the surf. If you know how to fish for red drum, you can find them tailing around the Inland Bays. If you really know how to fish for them, then you know where to look around the Inland Bays. (I need a wink emoji.)  

The tuna, billfish and tilefish action have been great offshore. Boats heading offshore are doing well on the good-weather days. Call your local captains for trips. 

The White Marlin Open ended with a record-setting catch at the beginning of the tournament and ended with a white marlin topping that catch on the last day. The real winners of the WMO in my book are the crew of the Fishbone. They immediately stopped fishing to go pluck the crew of the Knot Stressin' out of the ocean when their boat sank. Granted, anytime you’re at sea you help someone in distress; it’s an unwritten code of the open water.

It is a rare thing these days to see competitors help one another. We saw it in the Olympics. We saw it in the White Marlin Open. Millions on the line for prize money, thousands paid to compete and this crew drops, stops and rescues a competitor. That is class, and karma will reward them in the future. An example that many should learn and lead with in all competitions. Thank you, gentlemen and ladies, you did better than well that day. You’re the real winners of the 2021 White Marlin Open. Both crews did end up fishing again and brought fish to the scales. 

Bloodworms have been difficult to get for the stores. Anglers are resorting to Fishbites bloodworms, which work just as well; they’re the absolute best alternative bait you can find. The sand flea, shrimp and crab formulas work well too. But the bloodworm formulas are the best; even the chartreuse-colored ones are fine. It only takes a small piece of Fishbites to attract and catch fish. If you use too long a piece, the fish will chew on the long end and you see a strike but nothing gets hooked. We use a small piece cut the length of the width of the strip, a small square. Despite "worm" in the name, you don't bait a hook like you would with an actual worm.  The back of the packages have hooking instructions. The two formulas, long-lasting and fast-acting, work different. They live up to their names. The fast-acting dissolves fast and doesn't have gauze in it. The long-lasting has gauze, so just pull or cut that off. On a good day you can catch multiple fish on the same piece of long-lasting Fishbites.

Flounder fishing in the surf is easy if you know where to cast and how to jig. Most folks’ problem is they don't cast correctly, not only how but where.  

Many anglers message us and ask … I’m doing everything I have read for catching flounder in the surf, so why am I not catching?

I usually respond … How many John Skinner videos did you watch? The response is usually, all of them.

That man can catch fish, and his techniques work here. You’re just casting wrong. Jigging for flounder is the easiest way to catch flounder in surf. You have to put in some work; it isn’t like setting bait and waiting. Bucktails with Gulp are preferred, but any jig head with soft plastics will work. The heavier 2- to 4-ounce jigs stay in place on the bottom better. Just bounce it along the bottom and “jig.” 

Color is usually angler preference, but at times the fish are selective as well. Pink, white, and chartreuse Gulp are the favorites. Water clarity is important to color selection, as well as day or night conditions. Brighter colors during the day, darker colors at night for both jig and soft plastic. Murky water is better with the brighter colors, but they will work in the clearer, nearly tropical water we see in the summer.

When Zach Farmer posted his flounder pictures to our Facebook Group page, people went wild. There probably isn’t a bucktail in town now, or Gulp. Farmer said, “No one around us was catching anything with bait, so we broke out the bucktails and jigged.”

In order to get good “presentation” for a flounder in the Delaware surf, choose one of two ways to go about it. Either you find a good cut and jig the cut on all sides, casting straight out, or you have to cast along the beach. If you were at Assateague, I would fish the troughs between sand bars like this too, much like New Jersey beaches. Delaware has a unique surf zone.

Casting straight out really only works on cuts or run-outs in Delaware. You can catch just casting straight out, but this works better.

The flounder are mostly right along the edge of that ledge of sand under the first breaking wave, ambushing crabs that are stirred up, or the small fish feeding on the critters that make easy prey. I’ve caught butter fish trying to scoop up sand fleas. Spot are in there, too, feeding with all the small summer fish. Flounder can eat much larger fish than you think. That mouth stretches really wide. If you need to find the ledge, wade into the water. When you sink up to your knees in soft sand and stones or it just drops off, that is where you want to fish. That ledge is what pushes the wave up into the curl to drop. It is the spot or trough area between the last two waves. Many other predatory fish hunt in this area, and bluefish and striped bass will hit jigs as well.

Casting along the beach is much easier on a weekday. If you have a crew taking up a lot of space you can do this on the weekend. If you are skilled at casting, it is much like flipping or flicking for freshwater bass under trees. A low, side cast works the best; you don’t want to arc over lines. The set surf rod lines are farther out and up, and you want to be in between the two waves just in front of you. That area is the trough, the low-water spot between waves.

Stand in the wash and cast at a 30-degree angle or so along the beach. This allows you to jig along that ledge and gives a longer presentation. Don’t get me wrong; casting straight out works too, but it is less work to cast along the beach, and better odds of a strike.

Flounder will also hit your mullet rigs when you are checking bait. This happens a lot and surprises many a surf angler when reeling in to check their gear and bait. A flounder will hammer the mullet as it is pulled through that ledge area or a cut.

I’m not saying drop a mullet rig in that spot. But if you fancy using bait and want to hold onto your rod, it isn’t a bad idea. The rig will move around a lot from current and get pummeled by the breaking waves. Keeping it in that trough area is tough. You have to reel in and recast a lot.

I tried this one day for grins and giggles because I was bored; we weren’t catching. When fish aren’t biting and no one is catching, try something else. Even something as weird as this – drifting the wave.

We weren’t catching much one day about 11 years ago or so, and I didn’t have any jigs with me or soft plastics. But I had about three dozen mummichogs we used the day before on an Inland Bays flounder trip.

I got to thinking, how do I keep these dead minnows moving like they are alive? “Drifting” them along that ledge, like in the boat. Saltwater will kill a mummichog in under a minute or so. Their cells can’t perform osmoregulation fast enough, and the saltwater kills them. I made up a 4-foot leader with a 1-ounce egg sinker. Tied this onto my swivel. Then I put a regular bobber on the line above the swivel. The looks and comments were hilarious – “Hey, man, are you using a bobber in the ocean?!?”

Yeah, maybe – watch this.

I cast the rig into the first trough behind the breaking wave. The idea was to use the bobber to “drift” the wave trough’s current, keeping the minnow on the bottom with the egg sinker. This would allow the minnow to move and the bobber would act as the boat. The egg sinker would also allow the flounder to hit and not feel any resistance, which tends to turn off that strike when drifting on a boat.

Everyone was laughing until the bobber danced and pulled under in less than a minute on the second attempt, for a 20-inch keeper flounder on the beach. Then I heard, “Holy $*&^! … Hey, man, make me one of those!”

Sorry, I only have the one bobber.

I caught several flounder until I ran out of minnows. Would I do this today? Sure, if I had minnows and I was as bored as I was that day, but jigging is just much easier.

See you in the sandbox.

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