Surf Fishing Sunday Funday in January

skate, delaware state fish, 3rs beach, delaware seashore state park, dsf, surf fishing
Scott Jost with another skate from the surf, he got the surf king award for the day

Not long ago it snowed like crazy, we had over six inches on the ground in some areas. Winds were ridiculous and creating drifts across the roads. The crews would plow a highway and it would cover back up with snow in minutes. Back roads were packed with ice, it was crazy. Three days later it rained, the snow melted, and by Sunday it was 49 degrees outside and sunny. So we went to the beach.  A few guys had their boats in garages to thaw out the gear for a Sunday trip. Scott Jost and I met at 3Rs in Delaware Seashore State Park. He visited Ice House bait and tackle in Lewes and brought, fresh frozen bunker, squid, and some shiners. Matt the owner hooked us up with a ton of bait. I was going to throw lures all day, but sitting in the sun on a balmy January day, and rod watching sounded much more appealing. Especially after the week I had storm chasing and working in the snow. We set up two rods with striper rigs, and one rod with a top and bottom rig. We were holding bottom just fine with three ounces of weight. The water was calm and the waves were rolling in steady. Two days before this there were fifteen foot waves and gale force winds. I had the top and bottom rig out hoping to catch some spotted hake, I was using squid and pieces of shiner for bait. Scott had bunker chunks on his striper rigs. The bunker was great looking for frozen bait. Usually the par for the course with frozen bunker is once it thaws it turns to mush and casting it with any force is nearly impossible. The bait will just fly off the hook, Ice House bait and tackle had the best frozen bunker I have ever seen. The bloodline in the fish was still intact, and the fish would bleed when we cut off a chunk, that never happens with frozen and sometimes even “fresh” bunker. We were all set up and proceeded to sit and wait for a rod to bounce. It was gorgeous out for January fifth, a spring like day in the sun. There were a few beach combers and one guy surf fishing farther north of us on the beach.

murderkill river, bowers beach, delaware bay, dsf, ice flow, ice jam
Ice flowing on the Murderkill River at Bowers Beach … photo by Brent Boyer

As usual with any winter day on the beach our most curious neighbors were the birds. We were surrounded with hungry sea gulls, missing the normal food they get during the influx of summer tourists. They will literally try to steal your bait while you are casting, keeping an eye on them is important or you will get robbed.  The tide was at the peak of the incoming and started out shortly after we started fishing.  I know people were catching dogfish the day before, so we at least anticipated a tug on the lines from a dog and of course a skate. We never saw a dog, but the skates did not disappoint.  Scott was the surf king for the day in the skating rink.  He was catching them on bunker, nothing seemed to be interested in the squid on the smaller rigs I was using. Once in a while I would pull in my rig with an empty top hook, but never saw anything tug the line to steal my bait. We fished for most of the afternoon, watching the clouds move up the coast behind us inland. It seemed like the sun was only out on the beach all day.  Around three O’clock the sun went behind the clouds and the temperature started to drop quickly. We packed it in said see ya later to the original angry birds, after feeding them the leftover baits.  It was rather wild watching two of the bigger mutant looking gulls fight over a piece of bunker. I had a  great day hanging on the beach, doing a little surf fishing, and just relaxing. We knew the cold front the next day would be brutal and so far it has been ridiculously cold. Hopefully this weekend we will have a repeat of last Sunday in the sandbox.

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Grey seal and a Harbor seal photo by Sharon Lynn
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The cold has hit and we have ice building up in the bays, don’t get too excited you won’t be ice skating anytime soon. It is neat to see some of the frozen areas. Small marinas in the back bays are freezing over but nothing too dangerous for boats that are still in the water. Speaking of ice there is a mile long ice “jam” in the Delaware River in Jersey, hopefully most of it will melt by the time it gets down here, but just keep that in mind if you venture into the Delaware Bay this week into the weekend.  You don’t want to hit a mini iceberg and tear up your boat.   The Fish Whisperer charters caught some tautog on Sunday at site 11, so we are still seeing some fish out there.  There are also grey and harbor seals all over the inner wall, haystacks, and outer wall.  Please be on the look out for our winter visitors, and be respectful not to disturb them when they are sun bathing on the rocks.  Once in a while you might see one on a beach.  If you see a seal in distress please contact the MERR stranding team at (302) 228 5029. The snowy owls are still here and probably feel right at home, as opposed to us residents that are none too happy with the single digit temperatures. The owls are on the beaches and among the dunes in Delaware Seashore State Park and Cape Henlopen State Park.  Please observe the rules for the beaches when you go out to bird watch.  Recently a group of people decided to just cross over the dunes in DSSP and walked right up to one of the owls.  One person apparently decided walking would be too much, and drove their suburban over the dune line.  The rangers were called and the people were fined, I heard the SUV was impounded, but have not been able to get any confirmation on that. Kudos to the folks that called the rangers to report these violations.  The people that crossed the dunes were obviously first timers, or very amateur bird watchers. The birders I know are very respectful of the areas they are visiting and use the proper gear. They know not to disturb the creatures they are observing.

assawoman bay, frozen bay, winter saltwater ice, fenwick island, bethany beach
Assawoman Bay frozen along the shoreline near Bethany Beach photo by Mark King

I have received several complaints from folks about people driving beyond the barriers on Beach Plum Island. Walking beyond the area that is restricted to human foot traffic as well. Many of these folks can be seen from Roosevelt inlet and the Lewes Yacht Club on the rock wall of the inlet. There is a set of PVC pipes that mark the area you are not allowed to drive beyond, and a second set to mark the area you are not allowed to walk beyond. I have suggested to the parks that it would be a good idea to put in wooden pylons like the ones at 3Rs beach to keep the barriers in the ground so the tide can not wash them out, and maybe put up a few signs letting people know what areas are off limits. I would hate to see unsuspecting visitors fined because they did not know what area is restricted to public access, since it is part of a nature preserve.  Just a heads up for anyone that does not know that the area has restricted access.  Hopefully we will have another nice weekend, it is supposed to rain on Saturday but temperatures will be in the upper forties a heat wave compared to this week.  I am hoping for another nice Sunday afternoon in the sand box.  The past few days I have been at the Wallops Flight Facility with other social media folks, we were invited to attend the launching of the Orbital-1 CRS mission to the International Space Station.  This has been a great experience, and I can not thank the folks at NASA enough for the invite. I will write my experience up as soon as the launch has concluded.  I have been in rooms full of rocket scientists and astronauts for the last two days and it has been a blast to say the least (pun intended). Meeting a lot of very interesting and intelligent people has been a treat for a geek like me. I hope everyone thaws out soon, and have a great weekend. Despite the cold and lack of fish, there is nothing like a day at the beach.

Fish On!!
Rich King

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