Summer Fishing Soon to Collide with Fall Fishing

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Photo by Tammy Gantz … the mysterious redfish of Rehoboth bay

It is still summer, but not for long, and we are already seeing the foreshadow of fall.  Hot days and cool nights are the “norm” this time of year.  We are in a small heat wave right now and it doesn’t cool off as much at night, but last week it was down right chilly.  The fishing has been off the hook, pun intended.  This is the time of year the warm waters bring in all kinds of odd catches from the Gulf Stream.  The variety of fish is increasing daily and some of the catches have been bizarre, such as the Swallow tail bass caught this past weekend.  There are gag and snowy groupers showing up, pompano are now in the surf, random catches but there.  There is a weird-looking red fish schooling in the Rehoboth bay, we have been trying to catch a specimen to identify it, people keep sending in pictures of it in the water or descriptions.  Hopefully we will be able to answer that soon, it is long with  whitish ends, is the best description I have received.  Most likely it is a polychaete worm and not a fish.  These worms can swim rather fast and when observed from above would look like a fish swimming.  I was talking to Dan today at Dan’s Tackle Box and he said some guys up north have found lady fish while netting mullet.  We are seeing a variety of odd fish and more and more of the normal fish, but not always in the normal places.

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Small northern puffer caught by Bo Rogers while crabbing … photo by Hunter Rogers

Some of the off shore guys are still finding Mahi as close as the old grounds and even closer.  Wahoo are being trolled up much closer than normal.  Spanish mackerel are showing up close to shore.  We just need a few tuna or marlin to show up in the surf and that would be icing on the cake.  The off shore action has been hot when the boats get into the action.  Rose Bellies, tilefish, tuna, wahoo, and some oddities have been decent catches.  In some cases the offshore action is nearly inshore action, depending on your definition of inshore vs. offshore.  The old grounds has seen a variety of species this year, and the flounder action has been crazy the past week.  If you want to get on a boat to check that action out go to our business directory for a charter.  Anyone wondering what those huge fish are that are jumping near the Delaware Bay, most likely they are sturgeon.  Up north on the Delaware River that is called poor man’s whale watching.  It is definitely possible there are other fish jumping, but most likely these are sturgeon.

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Al Weismiller with a 19 inch flounder from the surf caught on a mullet rig.

Flounder has been great, but many aren’t too happy about the proposed reductions for next year.  If you think about it we need these reductions. I don’t know how many times I have heard, “We had to catch over 100 fish just to get a few keepers and even they were small.”  We will have to wait and see how the state of Delaware handles these proposed reductions.  I don’t even want to guess what will happen, but for people who can flounder fish daily I think four fish per day is a bit much in the grand scheme of things.   I know the charter folks are going to hate the idea of a reduction, but in the long run we will have more fish and better fishing.  People really need to start thinking about the future of the fishery and not just their yearly bottom line.  If the fish are all gone one day there won’t be a bottom line to worry about.  Just a reminder, but people need to start going to DNREC meetings and paying attention to the fishery management.  Get involved, otherwise you can only complain after the fact and that helps no one.  We will always post when meetings will occur on the website.  Would be nice to see some new faces at these meetings.  The recreational community needs to get organized so we have representation at these meetings.

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Four Spot flounder caught by Jeff Weaver. These only get to about 16 inches and have protruding or bug eyes, with four distinct eye spots on the side.

Anyway, the flounder have been hot at the old grounds, site 10, and the surrounding reef sites.  Any bottom with structure is holding fish, but in some cases you have to be on top of that structure to catch flounder.  Just anchoring up in some areas will not do it, you have to keep the boat on top of the structure.  Anglers are using gulp, minnows and squid strips on drift rigs.  Cut bait strips of croaker on bucktails or jig heads works great.  Live spot work very well, if you can catch some.  The inland bays flounder fishing is okay, but not great and lots of small fish are being caught.  Spot catches are increasing in the tidal canals and streams as well as the surf.  Atlantic Croaker are abundant everywhere, if you can’t get into them, you have not left the dock and in some cases you don’t have to anyway.  Lewes Canal is full of them and a lot of northern puffers have been showing up at the Lewes town docks.  That has been a popular spot for people to fish since the Henlopen pier is still closed.  Masseys Landing is seeing croaker, small sea bass, gag groupers, oyster crackers, spot, and flounder.  Diamond State Tackle top and bottom rigs with Fishbites, clam, or squid have been the best baits for all of the fishing piers.   Holts Landing State Park pier is seeing summer flounder, croaker, and spot but only during high tides and decent crabbing.  Milford fishing pier is seeing catfish and white perch.  Cedar creek fishing pier is seeing croaker, puppy drum, white perch, and some spike trout.

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croaker, cedar creek marina
Miss Wolhar with a nice croaker at Cedar Creek fishing pier.

Broadkill Beach hasn’t seen much action except small dogfish, random bluefish, and a few croaker here and there.  The upper bay beaches are seeing small weakies or spike trout, croaker, and white perch in the creeks and inlets of rivers, puppy drum, and the obligatory skates, dogfish, rays and sharks.  Crabs are starting to move around more into tidal creeks.  We are seeing a lot of them in the inland bays, nice to see them bounce back after the bluefish Armageddon this spring.  Running trot lines has been the best way to fill a basket.  Crab pots are working well so long as they don’t get poached.  Even hitting a crabbing pier like Rosedale Beach and using lines with chicken necks is producing.   The surf is starting to pick up with kingfish, bluefish, flounder, short striped bass, spot, croaker, some random redfish and the usual skates, dogs, rays, and sharks.  Catching has been better in the early mornings and late evenings.  This weeks incoming tide during the morning to afternoon should help with day fishing.  Mullet rigs or chunks on top and bottom rigs, fishbites, clam, and bloodworms have been the best baits.  remember to keep a casting rod loaded with a good lure for passing schools of fish, or cast across the cuts to see what you can pull from those areas.


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Cob mullet and regular sized mullet … photo from Jim Haug

Mullet numbers are increasing and the cob mullet are starting to get bigger and thicker.  Good bait to catch, brine, vacuum seal,  and then freeze to store for fall fishing or spring next year.  Using a cast net is the best way to catch your own mullet for catching bluefish, red drum, and kingfish in the surf.  Fresh mullet is in most bait shops, just call ahead to make sure they are stocked.  You can look up area shops in our bait shop business directory listing.  Peanut bunker are all over the inland bays.  You definitely need a cast net to catch those.  They make great bait but are difficult to keep alive for a long period unless you have a live well. If you do catch a load of them keep them cold or they will get mushy fast and never stay on a hook.  A silver rattle trap is a great lure to mimic peanut bunker.  Also there are bunker schools running the beaches, make sure you are set up to cast a spoon, bucktail, or plug into the school.  Let it drop beneath the bait school, you never know what is following them, you might be surprised.  The minnows running the Indian River inlet wall are getting crushed by bluefish, short striped bass, flounder, croaker and shad.  Silver spoons are a good mimic for those bait fish, or catch a few and put them on a hook.


USGS temperature survey,masseys landing, delaware, sussex county, water quality in Delaware
USGS temperature chart for the pat week of Masseys Landing

The rain the past few days has been a little annoying down here, but not as bad as the flooding up north in Dover yesterday.  We have clear skies for the weekend with a slight chance of rain Saturday night and Sunday during the day, but should not be a big deal.  Temperatures are averaging seventy-four degrees in the surf and the lower Delaware bay is averaging seventy-five degrees and the Delaware River is still in the eighties near Delaware City well above the C&D canal.  That area is seeing lots of croaker, some white perch, short stripers and catfish.  Low tide will be early mornings at the Indian River Inlet (8 AM Saturday), you will be able to fish the incoming tide all morning and the outgoing tide in the afternoon.  I prefer that four to five-hour window for the tide transition from incoming to outgoing.  The inland bays are fluctuating from seventy-six at high tide to eighty degrees at low tide in Masseys Ditch.  The summer may be winding down, but soon the fall fish will run into the summer fish and September should be a fun month of fishing, but we will have to wait and see what happens.  People are already speculating on the striped bass fall run, will it happen and for how long, that remains to be seen.  Hurricane Danny is our first for the year and is headed for Puerto Rico.  We have a lot of warm water closer to shore this summer, hopefully that doesn’t encourage more hurricanes closer to our shores.  Have a great weekend!

Fish On!!

Rich King




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