Enjoying lots of fishing action without the big crowds

By Rich King
Posted 5/11/23

Summer isn’t here yet, but we are good with that because some of the summer fish are here already, and it isn’t a thousand degrees outside. For another bonus, less anglers and more fish …

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Enjoying lots of fishing action without the big crowds


Summer isn’t here yet, but we are good with that because some of the summer fish are here already, and it isn’t a thousand degrees outside. For another bonus, less anglers and more fish species make for some fun action without too much company. The crowded summer beaches haven’t happened yet, but they are busy enough. Surf fishing is possible and this time of year the actual surf anglers outnumber the non-anglers.

The new shop at the Cape Henlopen State Park Fishing Pier, Breakwater Bait and Tackle, opened last Friday. Ryan Rae and his family are the new owners along with Matt Carter at Quest Kayak. Anglers will be impressed with the new shop. It is fully geared for not just pier fishing, but for the surrounding surf fishing beaches as well. They have some new additions, including surf rod rentals and higher-end gear for sale so anglers can upgrade. Need charcoal? They’ve got it for the pavilion grills. Amy Rae, Ryan’s wife, also owns the Backyard in Milton and they are bringing in food for the shop’s snack section. How is the food? Let’s just say I spent $5 on bait and $40 on nom noms over the weekend. The Raes are great people and a welcome addition to the fishing community.

The new arrivals are some of the summer fish, and a month early. Burrfish arrived a week ago. We caught sand perch over the weekend. Small weakfish are in the surf. Spot have been caught at the Cape Henlopen fishing pier and as far up as Canary Creek.

There are kingfish at Assateague between black drum and migratory striped bass catches. The action has been random but it has been plentiful in comparison to years past. If you are setting up to surf fish this weekend, set up for everything. The striped bass action in the surf is some of the best we have seen in a long time and has been a blast. Sand fleas have been the best bait. Digging for them or using a small net is easy.

Get the big rigs set up for striped bass, drum or bluefish. They eat essentially the same baits. Last week, some folks tried everything and the only bait that worked for a striped bass at Fenwick Island was a piece of Fishbites. Earlier this week, sand fleas were producing striped bass. Clams work on most days. Everything likes blue crab, except anglers using it for bait. It is a crab, the cost won’t kill you. A buck for a female crab from a bait shop will make a few good knuckles for bait. Then set up another rod for the smaller fish. These next few weeks we will have a large variety of hungry fish along our beaches. Don’t forget the required circle hooks for targeting striped bass.

Top and bottom rigs with sand fleas and Fishbites will produce many of your smaller fish. The blue crab formula is producing, as well as bloodworms, and the sand flea formulas. With the coming bloodworm issues, you should get used to using more artificial baits. My grandfather always told me if you are going to kill something to catch something, you better be harvesting the catch. If not, learn to fish with lures, for catch and release.

Bloodworm prices increased May 8. Already this year bloodworm prices increased, now it is happening again. Expect to see bloods hit almost $24 retail mid-May in some shops. Many of you don’t know how this works, so I am going to explain the industry a wee bit:

The wholesale cost of bloodworms is now what the retail price was roughly five years ago. Many stores hardly mark them up (like $5) so they can sell them all before they die. If a store loses five bags of bloods, then they lose all the profit. Three Sussex stores already have told me they will probably stop carrying bloodworms. It isn’t worth the amount of money lost and the hassle of everyone mad about prices.

So before you hammer your favorite bait shop, know that they are not in control of those prices. They are also a business that has to make money in order to have those bloodworms in stock for you.
If $20 is too much for bloodworms, then find an alternative. Complaining the shops are gouging you is not how that works. I mean $20 to fish for the day is nothing compared to what you spend on gear, gas, ice, licenses, booze and food.

There are some big catfish lurking in the C&D canal. Those fish are getting worse in the Chesapeake and are invasive. It’s best to dispatch all you catch to help keep the numbers down. It will never drop the numbers but it could help curb the larger ones eating everything. They are good to eat, too.

Bluefish have been around off and on. The spring skinny blues showed up at the pier the other day a couple times. Then the bite didn’t happen again. Nighttime has been some good fishing for many anglers. This action is along all the beaches. From the Outer Banks to as far up as New York now, large gators are being caught along the beaches. The action is random schools not huge blitzes like years past. Striped bass are mixed in with these blues and with the black drum.

Black drum action has been good on the coral beds and along the Delaware Bay beaches. Assateague is still seeing some drum action but it has slowed down and shifted more north. Clams are the best baits. Sand fleas, too.

Striped bass limits are going to change dramatically soon (July 1). The 2022 season was rough on striped bass, according to the surveys and science. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission states: “The Commission has scheduled four public hearings on the emergency action approved on May 2, 2023 by the Atlantic Striped Bass Management Board for 2023 recreational management measures. The Board implemented a 31-inch maximum size limit for striped bass recreational fisheries, effective immediately for 180 days (through October 28, 2023). This action responds to the unprecedented magnitude of 2022 recreational harvest, which is nearly double that of 2021, and new stock rebuilding projections, which estimate the probability of the spawning stock rebuilding to its biomass target by 2029 drops from 97% under the lower 2021 fishing mortality rate to less than 15% if the higher 2022 fishing mortality rate continues each year.”

Plenty of white perch are around still for filling the cooler. It’s been a good year for white perch.

Indian River Inlet action has been mostly small tautog. Some striped bass and bluefish action is happening. It’s best to go down there to see what is happening. The beauty of the inlet is the variety of structure that holds fish. The nightmare of the inlet is the variety of structure that eats gear.

Roosevelt Inlet has been producing flounder, as well as the canal and Broadkill River in that lower area.
Crabbing has been decent and is getting better with the warming waters. That slow warm-up has been glorious for a variety of action and less bugs, though I got eaten alive by gnats the other night. I grabbed my special bug juice and they went away. The Damn Fly Meter is active already.

The other early summer arrival is chiggers. Seed ticks are out of control, too. Stay out of the woods. It has been brutal already, working on the gardens this spring. At least everything is starting to come up and grow a little better.

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