Summertime fishing is fine

July 7, 2022

Summer fishing is in full swing. I’m just waiting for pompano to show up and the other summer freaks and we should be good to go into the fall. Now we avoid the hotter days to fish the cool nights and mornings. 

Cobia catches are picking up, but a large one was lost at the Cape Henlopen fishing pier. You should never fish a pier or bridge without ta proper net. If you don’t have one, make friends with the guy who does. It’s actually better to have your own net; now you are the guy everyone wants to be friends with.

Tautog season started, and the walls and breakers are producing in the Delaware Bay. Sheepshead are hitting and triggers are around. There’s a lot of variety to target or at least fill the box. The inlets are slow for keepers but are holding some fish. Slot striped bass season is producing some quality fish in the Delaware Bay and tributaries. They are thick with good meat for the table. You can sandflea for them or use small swim shads and bucktails. 

Charters and head boats are going out for a variety of catches - you can pick and choose. Weekdays are much better if you can manage those days because the weekends are very crowded, even on the water. 

There are some nice state unicorns around too; the weakfish catches are larger when you find them. That is a hard target. There are a lot of the “spike” trout (little ones) in the surf and waterways. 

Flounder anglers offshore are catching a lot of ribbonfish for the box. Those are good fish to eat, just annoying to clean. I’m terrible at fileting fish so I just pay the guys at the tables. Otherwise, I lop off the head, clean them out and bake, which we love doing with pompano at the beach.

The Cape Henlopen fishing pier has been off and on heavy for spot action and decent flounder. That area is fun to fish but you just never know what you’ll get. The fly fishing is great around the flats in the evenings on an incoming tide. You can’t always choose your tides, but you can choose your conditions, and one of my favorites is night surf fishing. 

The cool nights and hot days are perfect for overnight surf fishing trips. That time of year is here. Fishing is tougher in the summer, the crowds being the main issue. At night though, there is hardly a soul on the beaches. You drive out, set up, and fish until the sun comes up, or the morning crowds appear. So long as you are actively fishing you can drive out and surf fish all night long. You can’t set up a tent or camp out; you have to actively fish. 

The crowds are less of an issue on the weekdays, but in the late summer even some of the weekdays get real busy. Just like the weekends, the best times during late summer weekdays are mornings and late evening. At this time of year, stretching that late evening into an all-nighter into an early morning trip is perfect. The weather is usually dead calm, with a little breeze. If there is a full moon you can see your shadow all night. On a new moon it is pitch dark out. 

There are plenty of fish to catch at night, including all the small summer suspects. We usually have a croaker and kingfish contest. Top and bottom rigs with squid pieces will tear up small fish at night. So will Fishbites and bloodworms. There are so many baby dogfish - the parents pup at night in the surf; the babies are hungry. The big sharks like hammerhead pup in the surf too at night as do other sharks. So yeah, there are a lot of sharks near the beach at night, a lot. Don’t swim, it’s not like “Jaws,” but it’s kind of like “Jaws.”

If you get into a school of fish, you are bailing them one after another. We usually use short rods with a one- or two- ounce weight on the rigs. The smaller fish are right in the back edge of the waves, feeding, especially on those dead calm nights. Yes, they too are avoiding the sharks and larger predators. This is why we put out large baits for big fish at night. 

Do not shine your headlamp on the water. That will scare off the fish you are targeting. Yes, light will also attract fish, but in an area usually devoid of light, sudden illumination scares them off. We take the solar yard spot lights and shine them on the surf “upstream” from us on night trips. Light does attract fish, but better to do it farther away from your current fishing area. Now you have two alternatives for fishing, and one is attracting fish, and sharks. 

One of the bonuses of night surf fishing is the scenery. The summer night sky has a few different meteor showers occurring and you will see at least one during the entire night, even more if you just stare at the sky. If you get really lucky, you will see one that lights up the entire beach; that was a wild sight many years ago. 

Tending a surf rod at night, if you are not holding onto it to feel a strike, is tricky. It is hard to watch your rod tip in the dark but there are a few tricks. Bells on the rod tips are an original trick, but they make a lot of noise with wave action and annoy you eventually. There are these little clip-on glow lights but they are a one-time use product I dislike. 

It’s fine for offshore, but on land you have plenty of options. The solar yard spotlights are perfect. Put one in front of your surf rod set up and point it up at the tip of the rod. This illuminates the entire set up without shining light on the water or your eyes. I have one I mount to the sand spike that shoots light right up the rod, you can see the tip as plain as day. 

The excess light also illuminates your fishing area. One small solar light can illuminate the entire bait and cooler area. For most of the night you will keep these off and let nature be your light.

Fires are allowed as cook fires in a metal container. We cook food and eat all night long. Cook what you catch and eat fish while you fish. 

The kids love the overnighters. They can chase ghost crabs with flashlights, and much like sand fleas, ghost crabs supply you with a great bait source. All fish will eat a ghost crab. Just make sure little Timmy didn’t name that ghost crab you are about to jam onto a hook. 

This is a fun family trip for sure. One thing you will need to keep in mind. The dew at night and ocean mist settles on everything. Keep your vehicle closed and cover anything you don’t want wet. We have learned to use as little as possible on overnight trips. It can get pretty wet by dawn. Then the sun dries you out and you go home. 

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