Time To Hit The Suds For Rat Wrangling

Short Striped Bass Are Thick In The Surf And Easy To Catch

The fall fishing is upon us, fish are on the move, and one of our favorite activities is what we call rat wrangling. Short striped bass known as rats to some surf anglers are thick in the surf right now feeding. Up north migratory bass are thick on sand eel and bunker schools as they move south.
Down here in Delaware, sand fleas, mullet and rainfish are what the striped bass are feeding on, so you know the color for this time of year, white. The infamous white swim shad is your best bet, or any soft plastic on a bucktail or jig head. Other colors will work when the fish are schooled up and in a feeding frenzy, but white seems to out fish them all. These days I just park the truck and walk the beaches following fish up and down the beaches. They will move with the tide.

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Surf Bullets made by Ocean Arsenal Lures

There are white swim shads Tsunami has already packaged up or you can use some of the other brands. Many of us just use a pure white swim shad body and put it in a jig head since the bluefish are still hammering plastics and destroying gear. Curly tail soft plastics or paddle tails work great too, but again, bluefish. The yellow eyed devils will wear out your soft plastics and your wallet. Up north in the creeks and rivers the soft plastics last longer since the bluefish are not up that far.
When the blues start hitting, that is when the white and red bucktail or the white surf bullet is your best friend.

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Fred Ellison catching shorts at Masseys Landing in the ditch off the pier.
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The striped bass are still schooled up and moving around the inland bays, creeks and rivers. Swim shads and bucktails are the preferred lures. You can tie up two bucktails in tandem to increase your hook ups and catch two at a time. That will wear you out with a couple of decent sized short bass. The fish are averaging twenty inches with the occasional keeper. They are fat from feeding and pulling hard, great fight on light gear. A fish every cast, once you find the schools.

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Short striped bass caught in the inland bays by Chris Driscoll

If you are using a boat to find the bass once you do stay away from the school and cast to the fish. If you run up on the fish, the schools will spook, split up, and regroup farther away. I have seen people do this over and over and wonder why they aren’t catching. Spooked fish flee they don’t feed. Fish along the marsh banks where the water is draining from the grass on an outgoing tide. The fish will also feed along the banks looking for bait fish, grass shrimp, and fiddler crabs. “Some days I don’t even bother leaving the dock they are all over the place in these back water bays and creeks.”

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Andrew Hansen catching short bass in the wash at high tide.

There are a multitude of places to fish for striped bass in our waters this time of year.

Indian River Inlet … Fish the rocks with lures or use sand fleas, night or day, but night time is the best time. The action under the lights at the coast guard station is hot at night. usually on the incoming tide is better. Traditionally, the south side beach is better on the outgoing tide, the north side is better on the incoming tide. That can change, but usually is a good rule of thumb.

The beaches … Just fish close and cast across cuts, the bass are in closer than you think feeding on sand fleas and bait fish. In the heavy wash we have with these storm surges you can see the bass move through the suds. Put out a rod with a bunker head or chunk on it for bigger bass, cast lures for the small bass, use sand fleas or mullet if soaking bait.

Inland Bays … Fish the mud banks along the grasses. Look for rips and sand bars fish the edges in the deeper water against the current. Fish the structure of piers and rocky bank areas. During the day the fish will be a little deeper in cleaner water. Cast towards the sand bar ledges not from them. If you walk the sand bars at low tide fish along the edges.

Lewes Canal … Fish the structures along the canal, the piers are good for action, especial any of the small rips they create on the moving tide. The Lewes coast guard station lights can get hot, but you need a boat. Canary creek is great action when the tide is up around the bridge. Roosevelt Inlet is decent action when the water is moving, preferably an incoming tide.

Up North in the creeks and rivers … Fish the structure around bridges. During the day in the shadows of the bridges. These fish are hungry and feeding heavy this time of year. The lower water temperatures trigger them to put on the feed bag. In the evenings you can find schools of bass along the Delaware beaches feeding on bait fish and crabs, especially when the tide is up.

Pay attention to what your neighbors are using for lures, if they aren’t hooking up, use something else. Change up colors, or techniques with bucktails when retrieving your lure. Fast retrieve, slow retrieve, jig more, jig less, make it dance or maybe just bounce a little on the retrieve. The fish will let you know which they prefer. You can fish with the crowds, but these striped bass schools are everywhere, sometimes the biggest fish are the furthest away, lurking behind the younger fish.

Fish On!
Rich King

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