I went fishing yesterday with a buddy of mine from college, Matt Rich, whom I have not seen in twenty years. He grew up on the Eastern shore and is now residing in Los Angelos. Of course he wanted to catch striped bass and some big bluefish, and I told him unfortunately they are not here like they were back in those days and it is too early, but there are fish to be caught. He follows this site and keeps up with the fishing community in the area, so he already knew of the fishery issues. I met him on route 1 and we headed to Conquest drive on beach to a favorite spot I like to fish. We found a nice cut at the beginning of the incoming tide and set up to fish. That is when I broke out my modified mullet rigs. He looked at one and said that is a good idea since the fish will hit these baits like a freight train. Bluefish don’t hit the mullet on your rigs one at a time like a buffet line, they beat it up from all sides like a school of piranha. That is why you pull in fish heads and no fish. People always tell me “I put my hook in the tail, I ran the wire out of the back, no matter what I did I come up with a mullet head” (and no they do not mean that fashion statement of a hair cut). I put a trailer hook on my mullet rigs. I use a Duo Snap clasp and tie about six to eight inches of line on the clasp and a 2/0 circle hook. I attach the clasp to the top of the mullet rig wire loop above the float, and then put the hook in the meat just above the tail. This has increased hooking up with a fish by ten fold in some cases, and cuts down on the amount of mullet you need to use for bait. It does not always catch, but it certainly does better than just the standard hook and rig. Sometimes I pull in a half of mullet onthe rig and the other half is on the trailer hook. I have caught several fish with the same mullet on the trailer hook. The fish hits that hook first and the mullet is left alone on the rig. Sometimes I get a double hook up bonus, which proves more than one fish are hammering the bait out there. The other advantage is when you pull in half a mullet from a hit, you can just put the trailer hook into the meat opposite the rig hook and cast it back out. No need to rebait, the fish will hit what is left of that piece of mullet. It is kind of like using pieces on a top and bottom rig. Yesterday we caught six fish on the same mullet and I only needed a dozen mullet to catch over three dozen fish. Not a bad day of fishing, easy on the wallet, and the supply of mullet.
We started fishing during the incoming tide and the blues were small, around eight inches. Once the tide was coming in stronger we were catching large bluefish up to the pound and a half range. Perfect for smoking or a nice pan sear. When the cut we were fishing would get too rough with current we would move farther up the beach. One of the advantages of no one on the beach is you can follow the fish. We started using deadly dicks and four ounce bucktails and they were producing nicely as well. It was a good day on the beach. Speaking of which the beaches are starting to smooth back out and fill in a bit from the last storm damage. The waves still crash hard on the sand at the edge and the fish are right in front of you,one of the biggest blues was just behind the first breaking wave. in the trough. The blue fish have been out there thick as thieves stealing bait, you just have to be in the right spot, and that seems to be the best on the incoming tides on all of the beaches. The other bait stealers, the sea gulls, were out in force since we were the only people on the beach, we had a large audience. One of the bigger mutant looking gulls picked up a small blue we released right out of the wash, and swallowed it whole. It had the tail sticking out of its mouth and look on its face like “what?” The other birds were either waiting for scraps, or diving for the lines we would cast. Thankfully we didn’t catch any gulls, they are a chore to get off a line. That is one reason I carry an old towel or sheet in the truck so I can wrap up a bird to release them.
Over the weekend many were catching blues and some short striped bass. A few keeper striped bass were caught on clam in Cape Henlopen State Park. You just have to get the bait past the bluefish and that can be a chore in and of itself. Doing that takes skill, timing and mostly luck. Bluefish will hit just about anything once they are in a feeding frenzy. We saw a lot of that yesterday, you could feel the fish when you dragged a lure through a school. Striped bass are usually under or behind the bluefish schools mopping up the mess they leave behind for some easy meals. Getting through that frenzy takes timing and some skill. Mostly it is just constant casting into them to see if you get past the blues or stay away from them. Another good bait a friend of mine likes to use for striped bass in the surf are green crabs, and usually only during the fall run. I put that information out there last year and a few people were thinking we were crazy, but he was catching huge striped bass consistently on green crab. It makes sense considering they have been feeding on them and everything else up north, where green crabs are found. Another friend of mine is going to try and float some eels today and see how that works out, but we will have to talk about that another time. It is kind of like floating herring.
The outer, inner walls, and haystacks are starting to see more tautog, the wreck and Delaware bay site fishing have been good. Lots of sheepshead, even more of the huge ones are being caught like the recent state record breaker. Triggers and puffers are out there as well. Sand fleas have been the preferred baits, but green crabs are doing just as well. Flounder are still around but are moving out front for the most part for the winter. Temperatures keep dropping in our waters. There are monster bluefish up north in Jersey and we are hoping to see them here soon enough. Black drum are showing up in the Delaware bay at the walls and on structure. Devin the owner of A Lure bait and tackle was out front the other night in the boat. He said the fish finder lit up and he dropped some sand fleas and hit a nice twenty plus pound black drum. He also caught a nice sized porgy. He was not that far off the beaches when that happened. Speaking of drum, the red drum have been heavy at Assateague Island. David Moore of shark whisperers took second place in the annual drum tournament with a forty six inch fish. That run will not last much longer. This time last year we were seeing some redfish (puppy drum, channel bass, red drum depending on who you ask), in the surf and inland bays. Hoping that action starts up again. Striped bass are schooling up heavily in the inland bays, catching them has been fun. Mostly they are shorts, but there have been a few keepers, and they are all resident fish. The upper Delaware River is seeing some catches of rockfish as well. We caught some monster kingfish the other day in the surf on fishbites and squid. Croaker are still around but bluefish are replacing them as the hot fish to catch. Spot are still here and there on squid and fishbites. Summer fishing is soon to give way to full blown fall fishing. The lunar eclipse was really neat to watch this morning, but now I need a nap.