Memorial day weekend surf fishing in Delaware

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David Eastburn of the Delaware Air national Guard wishing everyone a Happy Memorial Day weekend. Take the time to honor the men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice serving this country.

Thank you!!  … To all the men and women whom have and do make the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.  I know many of you follow this site so please stay safe and come home soon.  Everyone, please remember and respect why you have this day to sit in the sand and BBQ.

The winds have finally died down, the beginning of this weekend was brutal winds, spitting rain, and chilly temperatures.  That did not deter many from fishing, and keeper striped bass were pulled from the Indian River Inlet.  There were a lot of people on the rail.  According to a few friends there were also a few people poaching striped bass.  The typical poach as I like to call it, four guys are fishing, but only one is catching, so he keeps all of his fish, and if caught says they all belong to someone else in the group.  That is still poaching and yo are doing it wrong!  It happens all of the time, and I am surprised there wasn’t an authority presence there with so many people on the rail.  The beaches are always covered, the inlet can become a free for all at times.  Regardless some big cows were pulled from the rail and rocks.  Depending on who I talked with either a few fish were pulled or over fifty.  Swim shads and bucktails have been the ticket.  Shad were thick in there the other night as well, being pulled two at a time on speck rigs or shad darts.  A few nice trout or weakfish have been caught around the area  as well.  The surf has produced large striped bass but mostly in the early morning hours just before sunrise until around 8 a.m. then the bite would stop.  I have been catching croaker like crazy on the Delaware Bay beaches.  Dogfish and skate have been prevalent in the surf with puffers, kingfish, flounder, and spotted hake in the mix.  We have a lot of pictures sent in by people on the DSF Facebook page, feel free to keep sending pictures and updates.  I love seeing people catch fish.  Fishing is a way of life, catching is a bonus.  If you are not on Facebook then you might want to stay away from the black hole of social media drama that can occur from haters and cowards that have to hide behind a keyboard.  Granted it is freedom of speech, but only if the party involved gets to defend themselves from lies and innuendo, people are quick to judge when uninformed of the truth.  The DSF page does not abide haters and the like, it is set up for fishing and so you folks may interact with one another in a drama free zone.  You can also email pictures to the contact address on this page at the top right corner.

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Cheyenne Peet with a croaker she caught in the surf.

Yesterday I spent the day surf fishing with Cheyenne Peet and Zach Kuhns on Broadkill Beach.  Surf Fishing Class for junior Pro Staff was in session so to speak.  I had all the bait they could handle, and we were geared to the teeth.  I set them up with top and bottom rigs for croaker and one rig for any striped bass or large fish that may be in the area.  Zach had the first hit with a nice sized dogfish.  We were using bunker chunks for the big rigs, and squid on the smaller rigs.  I had surf clam as well but wanted to save that for some night fishing.  A guy fishing farther down the beach told us he was hammering small croakers on chicken.  I knew squid would work better, so we put out two more rods with top and bottom rigs.  Once in a while I would run up to the house to check my computer for updates.  I also wanted to leave them alone with all that gear in the water to see how they handled themselves.  They did great, were baiting,  and casting  just fine all on their own.  honestly I made up excuses to leave them there for fifteen minutes just for the purpose of seeing how they would do on their own.  I could watch them to see how they were doing, and I had my best gear in the water.  I showed the kids how to make their own rigs with a few simple knots.  One of the things they have been learning.  A brief knot tying session on the beach was in order.  Thankfully the wind was not bad, it was easy to make rigs on site.  Cheyenne and Zach both said I hope I remember how to do this later, and I assured them they will get the hang of knot tying.  Honestly there are only a few you really need.  They were both a little nervous about casting, but they have gotten much better since our last outing.  I need to get them in gear more suited to their size, my rods are all eleven feet, they really need to start on nine footers, but did very well with the gear on hand.  They know how to fish, but with boat rods that are easy to cast, and they are not afraid to try.  Casting a surf rod is a lot different than flea flicking lures with a 6 foot rod.  I put Zach on the broomstick beast of a surf rod this time and Cheyenne on the new fast action. They both cast like champs yesterday, and I was proud of them.  Someone once questioned how do you teach an acquired skill? (Really?)  That is simple, give the student the time to practice and the environment to learn, and they will acquire the skills on their own.  Practice makes perfect.  Probably the same way most people learn an acquired skil … time and patience.  No one is born with an acquired knowledge to fish or do anything for that matter, most are lucky they know how to breathe.  Every skill takes time to learn, Cheyenne and Zach are very fast learners, already have a good knowledge of fishing, and pay attention.  I have a lot of fun fishing with them and teaching.  Bantering is also an acquired skill, and they have that down in spades.  They know all too well that fishing is a way of life, and catching is a bonus.  Yesterday they were teasing me when are you going to fish, so I tossed out a line and immediately caught a croaker.  Challenge met, accepted, and conquered.

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Zach Kuhns with a croaker he caught in the surf
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The tide was dropping fast yesterday and the kids were hammering away at croaker.  Well, compared to the rest of the beaches near us, and the reports that were coming from other beaches.  We were the entertainment yesterday for a whole group of people.  I guess when you look back at it there were three people in DSF shirts on a beach, and the only ones catching consistently.  I can see where that would make for good entertainment.  They managed to catch nine croakers and put four keepers in the box.  An angler down the beach from us hit a nice twenty four inch weakfish and she was thick.  The tide was still dropping, and by four O’clock we were fishing in ten inches of water.  The tide was still going out, and was the lowest I have ever seen at Broadkill Beach.  All of the sand bars were exposed and a few I didn’t know existed.  The kids were exploring the jetty and finding all kinds of things including some trash we took off the beach.  Friends were posting pictures to Facebook of boats stuck all over the inland bays and Delaware Bay.  Tim Gola was stuck in the channel at Bower’s Beach on a charter boat.  They did not move until the tide came back in a few hours later, the captain has mad skills, and getting stuck was not his doing, he was in the channel marked for navigation.  That is an area that has needed dredging for years, and it keeps getting put off by the Army Corp of Engineers.  If our waterways qualified as commercial waterways the dredging would happen.   Unfortunately the powers that be are not concerned with recreational boating areas.  Even though many have pointed out that is where a lot of the tourism dollars originate.  I keep saying this and will say it again.  Oyster farming will help alleviate some of these silting issues by helping clean the waters, and recreate a commercial venture that once existed in the inland bays.  If the amount of effort and energy to stop these farms were switched to fixing the waterways, then maybe these issues could be resolved.  If the waterways fill in any worse you can say goodbye to recreational boating.  Constantly getting stuck in sand and mud will destroy a boat motor, people will get fed up, and go elsewhere … bye bye tourist dollars and we will all be plucking chickens for a living.  Woodland beach was so low yesterday you could walk to the end of the pier, and the original ferry pier was fully exposed.  The Delaware bay beaches need to have sand replenished by dredging the bay bottom.  Delaware has serious waterway issues and they need to be addressed and fixed.  Massey’s Landing is horrible, I can not imagine what that was like yesterday.  The boat that was stuck at Pot Nets Bayside was comical to say the least, however I doubt it was for the owner.

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This is a horseshoe crab we caught yesterday that had a live coral growing on its back with some mussels. it looked like a live mobile coral reef

It was a beautiful sunrise this morning, who am I kidding they are gorgeous every morning over the water.  There are horseshoe crabs on all of the beaches, I spent an hour flipping them over and taking them to the water’s edge.  Many were already eaten by local wildlife … birds, foxes, or raccoons.  The Delaware bay beaches more than anywhere else will harbor huge numbers of horseshoe crabs, these are the spawning areas.  Many of these that were stranded will not make it back to the water.  If you have the time please flip them over or carry them to the water’s edge.  Do not pick them up by the tail, grab them on the side of the shell, they can not hurt you, despite how freakishly prehistoric they may look.  The horseshoe crab festival was in Milton, DE this weekend, and that is a great place to learn about these creatures.  The Delaware Center for the Inland bays does a lot of work with the horseshoe counts during spawning season.  The eggs are an important part of the Red Knots diet, a migratory bird that stops here in Delaware, the halfway point for a very long journey.  If you catch one in the surf or the bays while fishing, be careful removing hooks and gear, then safely return them to the water.  There are areas along the Delaware Bay that have been filled in with rock walls to control flooding from tides, like Port Mahon.  The horseshoe crabs get stuck in these walls and die.  They can not lay eggs on a rock wall, another reason to bring the bay beaches back up to par, less sand in the bay creates more room for water to recede from flooding.  It would be nice if the bird societies that fight for beach closure for many birds would take a stand for the horseshoe crab.  After all it is an important food source for many shorebirds they like to look at and take pictures.  I would think they would want to see more birds, and work on the real issues that inhibit their feathered friends.  There are many issues that need to be fixed in our waterways, and starting at the route of the problem would be a smart thing to do, I honestly think that it all boils down to dredging the bays and rebuilding all of the beaches,  Not just the ones the tourists use so we can make money.  This would alleviate many problems at one time.  Just my two cents on that.  Have a great day and until next time …

Fish On!!

Rich King

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