Read The Beach Find More Fish

People starting surf fishing just need to learn to read the beach.

The most intimidating thing about surf fishing, besides realizing you are standing on the edge of the Atlantic ocean, trying to not look like and idiot, is catching fish.
Finding fish is the second hardest part of surf fishing, especially in Delaware. We have a unique shore break, unlike New Jersey and Assateague. The waves break close to shore and stir up food for fish. The fish feed close. Unlike the other states’ beaches that have more defined troughs and sand bars (structure) with a much flatter and wider surf area. Just like it looks on a Delaware beach during a storm or with heavy wind. Just like today That wide wash is more like the other states.

north beach, indian river inlet, charles w cullen bridge, delawaresurf fishing, learn to read a beach
Low tide at the inlet the other day. You can see the structure left behind by the last storm surge waves.

In Delaware the fish are mostly close to shore. When you walk into the surf and suddenly drop off that small sand ledge, that’s where the fish feed. After storms it is the area you sink up to your knees in shells, sand, and rocks. Stirred sand is a buffet for fish.
Since our waves normally break close to shore, creating small subtle structure, finding a cut is the key to finding fish. Cuts are the area where the water left by the incoming waves drains back into the sea. You can see these cuts when they produce a plume of sand shaped like a mushroom as the water drains out. The stirred up sand creates that pattern.
Another easy way to find these cuts is look at the beach’s profile. When the beaches are under normal conditions. The edge of the beach looks scalloped, Those dips or drops between the humps of sand are the cut, the sand hump is the sand bar. These are small here, but we have some that are really defined. You will have to find those on your own.
The weak spot in the waves is also a good indicator of a cut or structure. The wave loses momentum due to the draining water and doesn’t totally break. Sometimes structure indicators are very subtle due to calm surf. Four inches in height difference of a sand bar or the scallop edge is structure.

GPS your spots. Back in the day we would hang lures on the fences to mark spots, or remember dune profiles, and phone poles.

north beach, indian river inlet, charles w cullen bridge, delawaresurf fishing, learn to read a beach
This is a cut and sand bars at the Cape Henlopen Fishing Pier beach. It is small but is a great example of how a cut works.

You learn to find this structure, however subtle, by reading the waves, beach, and currents. Rip currents are one of our favorites for Delaware. These really carve up the cut area of the beach where they form and create moving structure. Stirring up food and usually hold fish. Just don’t wade in rip currents and you don’t need to anyway.
Casting out to fish a cut is simple. Drop a line on each side and out in front of the cut. If there are fish you will catch and know where to concentrate surf fishing. At high tide you will be surf fishing that swale area you would see at low tide in front of you left after a storm. Cuts and rip currents have stronger currents be prepared to use more weight to hold in faster water. The more exaggerated cuts will be stirred up more and your weight will sink in the sand. Check your line often or you will play hell trying to break free your weight. In Florida surf anglers call the cuts, run outs.

north beach, indian river inlet, charles w cullen bridge, delawaresurf fishing, learn to read a beach
Casting to a cut lets you find fish around the cut’s structure.

If you are casting lures, cast across the cuts. Starting just above the top of a cut on the far side. This puts your lure in play for more fish. Casting straight out makes less of a window for a bite, but a rip current pushes water and food out far. Casting out along large rip currents is a good place to look for fish.
Casting along the beach allows more exposure to fish and you can pull across a couple of cuts. Just hard to do on crowded weekends. That’s why we fish Tuesdays to Thursdays in summer. Casting about thirty degrees along the beach is the best to hit a few cuts.

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north beach, indian river inlet, charles w cullen bridge, delawaresurf fishing, learn to read a beach
Low tide today at the inlet beach wash is still wide and structure is covered.

If you can get out after storms you can find these cuts easier and mark them on your phone’s GPS. This makes it easier to find the good cuts when the conditions are subtle. The cuts rarely move or change location. However the cuts will change in structure or shape as the tide shifts. You can mark them and be sure to find them again in the dark. This is key if you decide to go out before sunrise, or walk and cast at night.

north beach, indian river inlet, charles w cullen bridge, delawaresurf fishing, learn to read a beach
High tide today at the inlet north beach and you can see the wide wash on top of that structure.

Learn to read a beach it will help you find more fish or at least fish in the areas that will hold fish. Keep an eye, or ear out for rip current warnings they are great for surf fishing. If you use the Deldot traffic cam (web cam) on the north tower of the Indian River inlet you can watch the cuts work from above. Not to mention check surf conditions. The Rehoboth Beach web cams are good for that as well, there are some nice cuts in Rehoboth.
Structure created by storms will remain for a couple of weeks most of the time. That all depends on the frequency of storms surges and wind.

Fish move.
You don’t have to always move around surf fishing looking for new cuts. Sometimes sitting still is best and just takes time for fish to drop by. Pay attention tot he water all the time. You never know what you will see, it’s a big pond.
While surf fishing we all pay attention to our neighbors catching. If you really pay attention, you can see fish move down the beach. Best example were the drum in spring a few years ago at beach plum and the gator blue fish runs. Anglers lined up, watching rods get nailed like dominos, watching and waiting for yours to get hit next.

The gator run one year we watched unattended lines get nailed and cut again like dominoes. Except we only noticed, and would get ready with spoons and start casting. While casting once in a while a line would blow by you in the wind, wafting like a spider line. Cut by a gator bluefish while the oblivious owner is busy playing cornhole. That was entertaining during that huge bluefish run for a couple years. Sucked for the fish though, wearing all that gear until it rusts off or they tangle up and die.

Anyway …. learn to read a b\each .. hope this helped.


Fish On!
Rich King

north beach, indian river inlet, charles w cullen bridge, delawaresurf fishing, learn to read a beach, rehoboth beach web cam
You can see the swale or tide pool the lifeguard stands are in right now June 11th, 2021 8:45 PM …. . the cut is farther down.
Wide surf wash at 8:45 PM on June 11, 2021

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