Bluefish, striped, bass, and flounder in Delaware’s surf

striped bas, DSF, Beach Plum Island, Delaware surf fishing,
Ray Hibbs with a 41 inch striped bass

Yesterday morning I was setting up to help a buddy of mine install replacement windows.  Then the phone stats blowing up.  I was sent a picture of Ray Hibbbs holding the 41 inch striped bass he caught in the surf at Beach Plum Island.  The next series of pictures and texts were driving me nuts.  DSF in the surf … “More fish, and do we post the pictures?”   Me …. “AWESOME!! and no!  Give it til the end of the day so you kids can have some space”.  The boys and girls were in a blitz on the beach, the fish were hitting left and right.  I didn’t want them to get crowded fast, that is a small beach.   The boys sent more pictures and it was driving me crazy.  Of all the days to go back to work, I pick the first day of the spring run.  I showed the picture to my buddy, and he looked at me and said … ” We will be done in 2 hours”.  We were finished in a hour and fifteen minutes.  I jetted to the office, grabbed my gear, and headed to the beach.  The word was already out by now as well. I was getting Facebook messages and texts asking confirmation.  I knew we would have a lot of company.  That is fine with me, at least the beach would be full of hard core anglers, and not posers.

bluefish in delaware, DSF, Beach Plum Island
Rich King with a 22 inch Bluefish from the surf

When I arrived at 1:30 p.m. the bite had been off for a couple of hours.  The boys had a few knockdowns before I made it there. I said hello to the crew … Ray Hibbs of Long Neck Outfitters, Kristen Kemper,  Tim Gola, his son TJ, and Lincoln the black lab puppy.  Joel Neidlinger, Mike McClure, Scott Jost, and Keith would be dropping by later I also met Chris, a mate on the Katydid.  We had the beach to ourselves for the most part.  There were a few guys out there still, and when I arrived there were trucks coming off the beach.  We want to fish, or work, not answer the phone all day.  Beach Plum Island is a public park, and when it comes to fishing in this small community there are no secret spots.  We do make it a point to not spot burn the bays, rivers, and places like that, but public areas are fair game.  I finished talking to everyone and set up to fish.  I brought the crew four quarts of clam and fresh bunker.  I set up above them on the north side, hoping the cut I would be working would produce.  I had fresh bunker on a 7/0 gammi hook on a three foot leader, with a fish finder and a four ounce frog tongue sinker.  We had a lot of lines out, I didn’t want mine walking down the beach.  Normally I get all set up, break out the cameras, and start taking pictures waiting for a fish.  I never bothered getting the camera out, I wanted to just relax on the beach, and see what would happen.  We had more friends coming, and I was catching up with everyone I have not seen in a while.  You know … just running my mouth, chatting away, and cutting up with friends.  Until ….

striped bass, DSF, Delaware Bay, Delaware River, Beach Plum Island, delaware surf fishing
Rich King with a 34 inch striped bass from the surf

My rod bounced with a serious bend from a hit.  Everyone is pointing, and I am running.  This always happens when you have your back turned getting a drink from the cooler.  I checked the line, nothing was there, and reeled in to check my bait.  The bunker chunk was just fine, so instead of rebaiting I cast it out again.  Normally I would change to fresh bait but this was in the water for all of 5 minutes.  I wasn’t walking too far away this time, there were fish out there.  The rod tapped again 5 minutes later, just a few light taps.  I checked the line, didn’t feel anything and then tightened it up.  As soon as I pulled the weight to reset everything … WHAM!! I was hit hard and fast.  Definitely not a skate, probably a striper but not a large one like the crew was hitting earlier.  I got the fish to the surf and knew immediately it was a bluefish.  I was shocked and all smiles at the same time.  no one expected that to happen, a black drum would have been more likely.  I gave the bluefish to Kristen, who immediately bled it out and gutted the fish.  Dinner would be good tonight on the beach.  A round of high fives was in order and of course a picture.  The beauty of this was … for once I wasn’t taking the pictures, but the subject of them.  lately I hardly have had time to fish, running DSF is a full time job.  For all the nay-saying about me never catching, I just have to have the time to fish.  Also it is called fishing for a reason, you just never know if you will or will not catch.  Little did I know my day would be called catching, not fishing.

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summer flounder, DSF, Beach Plum Island, delaware surf fishing, bunker chunkin
Rich King with a 23.5 inch flounder from the surf

So after a few “yehaas” and “giddy ups”, I retied my leader, since the hook popped off in the blues mouth from those sharp teeth.  First cast the leader snapped off and my bait went flying, the leader was nicked.  I decided if there were blues in the surf I would just switch to a metal leader.  No sense in fighting fish with sharp teeth and mono-filament line.  I cast out another chunk of bunker, and waited.  Not long after, the rod gets hit hard again, bends to the ground, and flies out of the sand spike.  I forgot my OTW sand spike, which would have prevented that from happening.  While Iam reeling, the striped bass is tail walking the water in front of us, everyone is just watching this scene with jaws dropped.  My adrenaline is now pumped, second fish in 20 minutes.  I caught a 34 inch striped bass, the largest I have ever gotten from the surf, not the largest I have ever caught.  Another round of pictures, high fives, yeehaas and giddy ups.  I had to sit down for a bit, the excitement can drain you fast.  I wasn’t catching up with the crews numbers for the day, but I was increasing the variety.  One bluefish and one striped bass in the box.  I am a serious advocate of catch and release, but I also like to eat fish.  I only keep one striped bass every year, and this was the one.  The bluefish will be eaten and used for crab bait.

After resting for a bit, I rebaited with another bunker chunk, no reason to switch baits up now.  Most of the crew was using clam.  I cast out another chunk in the same spot, and proceeded to wait.  At this point the jokes and smack talking were crazy.  The crew was having a lot of fun razzing each other.  The biggest tease was getting someone to look for birds that were not there.  They had moved to the front of the point at Cape Henlopen.  Once in a while a few gannets would drop out in front of us and feed.  A few of the boys had clam all over them from mis-casts.  We had a lot of fun with those jokes.  Dirty minds and fishing can make for interesting conversations.   Jimmy looked at all of us and said .. “I bet Rich’s rod goes nuts again, he is catching all of the fish”.  Honestly I was surprised I caught a bluefish, and was still trying to get over that fact.  Everyone started up with the jokes, and then my rod bounced, I should have taken that bet.  Tap, tap, tap.  I grabbed the surf rod, and just started to lightly reel.  The fish had some head shake for a minute, but it felt different.  Then it felt like an anchor, I have a skate was the general consensus.  Something the crew had been hitting all  day.  The tiger or zebra skates are cool looking with the markings, but still Delaware’s State fish.  All of a sudden the fish surfaced, and to our surprise it was a flounder.  A really nice looking thick 23.5 inch flounder.  I had just hit a trifecta in the surf.  The joke for the rest of the day … what was I going to catch next next, a drum or a trout (weakfish).  That was it for me for the rest of the evening.  I rebaited, cast out, and relaxed.  I was honestly tired from the excitement.  We took a group shot with our catches, and Tim held up a shoe for his catch of the day.  The posted jokes about the filet of sole on the DSF Facebook page for that picture are hysterical.  Yesterday was an excellent day of surf fishing, glad I blew off work, or did I?  See you in the surf, at the rail, on the jetty, plopped on a pier, or drifting the bays.  The spring run has sprung.

Fish On!!

Rich King

On a side note … Ranger Keith Betts asked me to post this a week ago.  Beach Plum Island has limits for drive on access.  When you drive on the beach the farthest you can go to the left is about 30 feet.  There is a PVC pipe in the ground denoting the boundary. When you drive to the right farther down the beach there are two sets of pipes.  The first set is the farthest a vehicle can drive.  The second set is the farthest a person can walk.  The rest of the beach to the rock wall of the Roosevelt Inlet is off limits to the public and is part of the preserve.  Just a heads up from the folks that protect our parks, and they hope to have some better markers up soon.

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