Reading The Beach To Surf Fish

Reading a Delaware beach to surf fish will help you find and catch more fish

 After a nor’easter or heavy wave storm surges. The beaches are all carved up and washed out, but that is actually a helpful tool for any surf angler. Especially in Delaware, it is tough to read a beach here.

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Some carved troughs soon to be swales are tens to hundreds of feet long. Extending well down a beach until the water reaches a cut and drains.

 After storms during the dead low tides you will see all of the sandbars, troughs, and cuts.  These will move a bit and fill in as the beach rebuilds. The “structure” remains, but is more subtle. You are looking at what the bottom “structure” looks like in front of you under the water at high tide.
It is more exaggerated after a storm, but that is roughly what the bottom looks like. GPS the center of the cut location. It will move a bit, but not far. The swales seen after mild storms farther up the beach’s profile also represent what is in front of you. The fish highway will be farther out after a storm, because the sand bars moved out farther.

Read The Beach Find More Fish

Delaware Fish Identification

reading the beach, delaware surf fishing, sussex county, delaware state park beaches, drive on beaches
A trough that has finished draining out of the cut it createe. Heavily exaggerated due to storm surge wave action.


All of this carved up area is what we call “structure” in the surf. Unlike storm drains and groyns (jetties), whihc are actual structures that hold fish. We rely on sand bars, troughs and cuts to find areas holding fish. It is comparable to finding shoals in a bay, except these are mild mini shoals. These features are referred to as structure. 
Bait fish, larger fish and crustaceans will explore these areas (cuts) that are small rip currents (we call the drains). The water will have a plume shape or mushroom shape of sandy water pointing towards sea. That is the cut “draining” between sand bars from the troughs.. 

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reading the beach, delaware surf fishing, sussex county, delaware state park beaches, drive on beaches
Cuts drain fast between wave sets

 
The cut is where you will find fish feeding on the unsuspecting baitfish and critters as they are washed around in these areas as the water drains.  
The cut looks like a gully and is the weaker area, where you see two waves collide with one another. The current from the draining cut weakens the wave in that spot.
This is where rip currents form. Heavy wave action constantly draining, creates larger rip currents. Always fish rip currents. Just stay out of the water near them.
As the water is pushed across the bar, the bait fish and life are stirred up and washed into the tourhgs and drain out of the cut area.   That creates a buffet for feeding fish. Which creates another buffet for larger predatory fish. The food chain.
Fish the top (front) and sides of a cut to find fish. Once you do find a bite, fish that area. Drag lures across a cut, preferably a couple cuts at a time. Water can be pushed out pretty far especially in a rip current. The “food” is being pushed out that far as well. Casting at about a thirty degree angle to the beach is really good for fishing multiple cut areas. More presentation time for a strike from feeding fish.

Fish Highway

Catching Flounder In The Delaware Surf


Surf Fishing 101 if you are just learning.

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Some swales (tide pools) are small and have multiple cuts, troughs, and drains

I labeled the picture below to give you an idea of what the bottom looks like under and behind the waves.  You have to use your imagination a little. Also never ever drive across any swales and drain areas on the beaches before checking them. Easy way to sink to the vehicle frame real fast.

 Do Not Park In Or Drive Through Swales

DO NOT Drive Through The Quick Sand

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Reading the beach at Cape Henlopen State Park after a storm these pronounced cuts are farther up on the beach.
2 Comments
  1. Darrell Ritchie says

    any word of the special fish license plates coming out? i looked online dmv de and didnt see anything

    1. Rich King says

      none yet

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