Kevin Baldwin with a bluefish from the surf on Saturday.
Memorial Day Weekend has come and gone, I hope everyone took the time to remember why we celebrate this holiday by honoring those that made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom, and their families. 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 start their summer vacations. Despite the crowds summer brings here, everyone had a good time fishing this weekend. A few days 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 with out a vehicle in sight and do a little surf fishing. Just you and nature all alone for the evening. I know it drives some people nuts the beaches get so crowded during the weekends, I highly recommend you get out there on a weekday it is much less crowded, especially in the morning. If you want to deal with less crowds on the beaches in the summer get out there very early in the morning, and fish until about ten, then leave and find something else to do until that evening and go back at six. The crowds clear out around five and there is much more space on the beach. The same happens on the waterways and bays.
Croaker from Port Mahon caught by Dave Okonewski
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 would show up in force and work the fish and anglers would work the schools. Boats were stacking up by the entrance to the inlet. The rocks were covered with anglers fishing. On Saturday we watched this scene from Coin Beach. Amazingly enough we were practically alone on the beach with more than 50 yards to the next vehicle on the beach. I met the Baldwins down there for a little surf fishing. They were catching bluefish in the morning and dogfish. After the tide changed it was skates, dogs, and cow nose rays for the rest of the day. A few people on the beach farther north caught some small dusky sharks. Keep in mind 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 shallow or 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.
Mike Smith caught some blue claw crabs this weekend
Flounder fishing has been decent for the Inland Bays, Masseys Landing, and Roosevelt Inlet. Some are starting to be 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 it still a great area to catch flounder. There have been some large “doormats” caught the past few days. 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 bloodwomrs 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, the 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 is only a matter of time. Spot are showing up everywhere about medium in size and blood worms or fishbites work well. Black drum are still on the coral beds and the Broadkill area, just not int he surf as readily. A few redfish or red drum were caught over the weekend at Roosevelt inlet and the Cape Henlopen area. 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 Delware Bay Beaches. The bluefin and yellowfin tuna bite has been picking up at the canyons. Friends were out the other day and hooked up on three nice tuna, almost had a big mako shark to the boat, and released 2 blue sharks. Several boats come in on Sunday and Monday to the back bay marinas and Masseys Landing, and flying flags . I’m looking forward to some nice dinners this week. The sea bass bite has been excellent at the deeper wrecks and the Lewes fleets have been doing well out there.
Nick pictured with his Pop pop, caught this 21″ flounder on Sunday in Rehoboth Bay
Everyone wants to catch a big striped bass and unfortunately that has been few and far between. A lot of shorts have been caught in the surf, inland bays, Indian river inlet, and Masseys landing. A few keepers have been caught in the surf and surrounding areas. Unfortunately the striped bass populations are down and 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 as of late 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 less, we will not see favorable numbers. This is not a doom and gloom prediction this is just the facts based on the available science. Why are there less fish? We (anglers) killed them all, sorry but that is the hard reality. Practice catch and release and we will see more fish numbers in our ocean stocks, and that goes for all fish out there not just striped bass. Keep what you need, not what you are allowed, when it comes to creel limits. I saw striped bass selling for eighteen dollars a pound the other day, that should be a good indication of the stock numbers.
pygmy sperm whale
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 them back to the sea. A few sturgeon have been caught in the Delaware bay in bunker nets. They were quickly released, but is good to see them still here and we are hoping those numbers increase. Maybe some day their numbers will increase in the Delaware bay. You just never know what you will see in our waters. On Sunday James Blackstock and his family set up to surf fish conquest beach. Just as they were getting settled 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 the whale unfortunately 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 ever encounter any stranded sea mammal you can text MERR at 302 228 5029 and if in the parks contact the rangers’ dispatch at 302 729 4580. Keep an eye out for our sea creatures, anglers are usually one of the best sources when it comes to what is happening out there.
Crabbing is starting to show some better signs of life. Catches have been increasing and sizes as well. There have been more females in some areas than others. The crab pots in some of the marinas of the Indian river bay and Rehoboth bay keep getting poached. This happens all of the time but this year 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 have a schedule announced for that soon. See you in the sandbox this weekend.
***** This was written last night it iwll appear in Thursday’s Beach Paper, since then the temperature outside has plummeted, and it feels amazing. The east winds may push some fish this way over night. This morning a few keepers were caught at 3Rs surf fishing beach and many dogfish on bunker chunks.