Be sure to follow current regulations when fishing

By Rich King
Posted 5/18/23

A nice mild spring has been rolling in and it has been wonderful for outdoor activities. On those few mid-80 days, I’m not a fan of needing a fan, yet. It is still nice and cool near the water. …

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Be sure to follow current regulations when fishing


A nice mild spring has been rolling in and it has been wonderful for outdoor activities. On those few mid-80 days, I’m not a fan of needing a fan, yet. It is still nice and cool near the water. The southeast winds, as usual, are the best fishing from the surf. That will be most of this weekend, just a little gusty wind.

There are a lot of fish on the catch menu in the surf and for boat anglers. You have to target large and small fish then pick through the catches you don’t want. There are small spotted hake in the surf — great striped bass bait. Kingfish are along the beaches, as well as small spot. Skates, rays and dogfish are the main catches using bait looking for large fish. Sharks have yet to show up but that shouldn’t be too long. At the rate the summer fish are showing up early and what is happening south of us, it is another any day now scenario. There are some big pompano in the OBX surf already.

The inland bays and Delaware Bay are seeing their fair share of catch varieties. There are spot up and down the bay beaches and small weakfish. There have been some nice-sized weakfish caught, upwards of eight pounds.

Fishbites formulas are working well: sand flea, blue crab, periwinkle clam, and all the crab and clam formulas work well. Sand fleas are easy to dig up in the surf and the striped bass and drum have been feeding on those as well. Bloodworms are still and will continue to be expensive. Grass shrimp are easy to catch. Bringing some shrimp for bait is a good idea or use the whole shrimp. Most people don’t like using seafood for bait, which is what it is, bait. Blue crab knuckles are gear bait or the whole crab.

Black drum are mostly up north now in the Delaware Bay on the coral beds and in Jersey. The action in the surf at Assateague and below has slowed down a bit to none. The red fish (drum) action around Chincoteague and lower is still random. Migratory striped bass action is random but still occurring south of us.

The Delaware surf has seen some nice striped bass this year compared to years past. It’s possibly one of our best years for striped bass in the surf in a long time.

Bluefish action has been slow but they are around. The skinny spring gators are still being caught but that is also random not blitz conditions. There are smaller fish here and there hitting mullet rigs and cut bait rigs.

The old saying, “You have to put in the time to catch,” has never been truer.

Flounder are being caught in the surf jigging with Gulp or Fishbites curly tails. The waterways are seeing decent action drifting minnows or soft plastics. Jigging structure around rips will produce flounder. Occasional weakfish are being caught, as well, in the waterways by anglers targeting flounder.
There are a lot of big catfish around the C&D Canal. That place is always fun for some big cat pullage. The striped bass action isn’t bad either for the resident fish.

Tautog closed May 15 and will reopen July 1. Sea bass started May 15 and is now the offshore catch with flounder in the mix for the charters. The offshore big fish action will pick up soon enough out of our marinas.

The surf tag reservation system starts this weekend. Good luck to all. I know of at least 25 people who made reservations in case they decide to go that day, or not. So you anglers should have less people in your way for once on a weekend since there are limits to the reservations.

I feel really bad for the enforcement folks. They didn’t choose the reservation system life, it chose them. Give these folks a break this year. They have to deal with a lot of new “issues” now they have yet to see coming. Coupled with being grossly understaffed, paid and overworked, they could use the public’s help. It has always been the thought by parks administration that people will follow the rules in place. In a world called perfect that happens, not in reality. The reservation limit for Sunday was already raised a hundred vehicles in just one day, early Wednesday morning when it opened.

Parks’ next challenge will be all the colorfully worded flags on the beaches and in the public state park marinas. People are going elsewhere, tired of seeing derogatory political flags in front of their children and in general. “We go to the parks to get away from the bustle of life, not have it shoved in our faces, so now we look for other options. It is a shame, these are our parks, but I’m not explaining these to my kids,” said one visitor recently.

Delaware has yet to change the striped bass size limits to comply with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (by July 1). The surrounding states are already starting to change theirs effective almost immediately. Maryland just changed theirs for multiple areas, the Bay and Atlantic coast. Check the state you are fishing and area within that state to make sure you have the current regulations.

Also make sure you are measuring your bass correctly. Striped bass or rockfish have to be measured to overall length in Delaware. Pinch the tail together and measure from the closed mouth to the end of the pinched tail. Make sure the tail is stretched out as far as possible when you pinch it together. This is a straight line measurement, so it is recommended to use a measuring board or lay the tape on the ground. Do not measure along the body of the fish, the curve will skew the actual length. DNREC will also be looking for people who have trimmed tails to make the slot length. That became an issue a couple of years ago.

A striped bass that measures 35 inches to the fork will be over 37 inches and not legal to keep in Delaware. A fish measured along the curve will be longer than actual measurement and you could be in violation. Delaware’s limit is still 28 to 35 inches. A good rule of thumb is if you are not sure, then release the fish.

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