Pros and cons of new surf fishing reservation system

By Rich King
Posted 6/1/23

Has everyone been enjoying the fall weather this summer season? If it gets any colder, the striped bass are going to run back south. All complaints aside, the water temperatures have been holding …

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Pros and cons of new surf fishing reservation system


Has everyone been enjoying the fall weather this summer season? If it gets any colder, the striped bass are going to run back south. All complaints aside, the water temperatures have been holding nicely for a spring season. The spring into summer fishing has been great for many anglers.

Delmarva has a nice variety of fishing options, fresh and salt, but the weather not so much. You should always fish bad weather, whether you like it or not. There are more fish and less anglers. Weather thins the crowd and increases your chances. It also allows you to fish the more popular areas with less of a crowd. If that occurs on a weekend in the summer season, it is a bonus for an angler who can only fish weekends, unless you don’t have a reservation.

The surf fishing this past week and the weekend was great for many anglers Friday and Saturday with bluefish up and down the beaches, until the weather hit Sunday. Then the beaches were devoid of vehicles. The fair weather folks don’t hit the beaches during storms on weekends, so it’s the perfect time for anglers to hit the beach, again, if you have a reservation.

No, we did not, so we could not go surf fishing on an empty beach. Sunday by 11 a.m., maybe 18 trucks were on Herring Point Beach. People can cancel reservations but they won’t get that $4 returned. Then you would have to keep checking the system to see if you could get one, meanwhile fish are blitzing. Anyway, the point is, maybe we need a better system. A gate with limits would solve all these problems. One in, one out when full.

In the past two weekends, surf anglers who want to actually fish could not go out onto a deserted beach to do so. Epic fail. It’s an economic impact fail, too. A bait shop owner I know said, “We didn’t see much business on the storm days. If the beaches had been open to anglers, we would have sold more gear and bait. We don’t sell a lot anyway to the anglers just out there faking it on weekends but every little bit these days helps.”

Fake fishing is not the positive economic impact people think, at least not for bait shops. With actively fishing being a rule, one would think it would be a gold mine right? It’s not.

Knowing we didn’t have access to the beach Sunday, we were up at Bowers watching the Buccaneer Bash and fishing the Murderkill River inlet. Catfish and oyster crackers for the morning on DS Custom Tackle Pompano rigs and Fishbites blue crab for bait. The pompano rigs have coastlock swivels on the bottom for line twist which are great for fish like cats and crackers. It was fun and when you can’t fish at one spot, anglers will find an alternative. Bowers Beach and the other bay beach towns are a good surf fishing alternative.

Many anglers who did go out this weekend with reservations said Saturday was nice out there, not a crowded weekend with too much traffic and craziness. It was more like a typical weekend day, so there is the positive in that. All of the chest thumping of people saying they were going anyway seemed to be just that.

The other positive is the fact walk-on anglers have more room. I’m now working on my old surf cart. I figure I will drive it out at 5:30 a.m. like usual, drop it where I want to fish with the crew, set up and take the truck back to the nearest parking lot before 8 a.m. Then we can fish for the day and maybe work our way back toward the parking lot or walk back at 3:30 p.m. and pick up the truck to drive on at 4 p.m. Anglers always find a way to actually fish. Wait till you see the fat tire bike with rod holders. Parks has me spending all kinds of money.

My friend’s uncle’s cousin’s grandfather once got a ticket for fishing out of the back of his truck on a bridge. This was in the ‘70s when people had a sensible sense of humor. There was a “no fishing from bridge” sign, but not a “no parking” sign. So by all that is logical, he set up in the back of the truck and fished from the back of the truck. The judge threw it out of court, while he was laughing. Four weeks later, you couldn’t park on the bridge. We always find a way.

Weakfish have been showing up in larger schools with bigger fish. That was some recent action around the Indian River Inlet and the Delaware Bay beaches. The tide runners, as they are known from the days of the past. I need to go catch a four-pound weakie. I just want to have one for a meal. It has been a long time and I grew up eating them constantly. They are delicious fish. As I say that it is good to see them coming back, let the big breeders go so we can see more. It gets better each year. Keep that trend going.
Migratory striped bass are still in the area but mostly north by now. The slow rise in water temperatures this spring has helped keep fish in the area. There is no reason to move north if the food isn’t moving and the water conditions are optimal.

Black drum action is mostly in the Delaware Bay now. The coral beds areas by boat and the bay beaches will produce the occasional drum. It’s always good to put out a line for the larger fish. You have to pick through a lot of skates, dogfish, rays and sharks, but you never know.

Sharks are starting to show up more and more. There are a lot of people posting pictures of small sharks, calling them dogfish. Those are all mostly sandbar sharks and an illegal picture.

There is an easy way to tell the difference between dogfish and sharks. Even though a dogfish is a shark, its eye is cat-eye shaped. Sharks’ eyes are round, like a doll’s eye. That is the quick way to tell when you are landing one. There are other tell-tale signs of the differences. DNREC has a decent guide now for sharks. There is another guide by a guy in Florida I use that is amazing. Sander’s Shark Identification Guide walks you through the steps of identifying sharks.

To identify prohibited species in Delaware, it is essentially all the sharks with a dorsal ridge. Before you start shark fishing, educate yourself on the species allowed and handling techniques.
Flounder has been picking up as the waters warm up around the Cape Henlopen fishing pier and area waterways. Jigging the surf in cuts along the ledge has been successful.

The beach replenishment projects are over in Rehoboth, so Cape has been better fishing. As a surf angler, I can’t stand beach replenishment, I understand the need for property protection, I just don’t have to like it. Calling it beach nourishment is an abomination.

The small summer fish are here and more are showing up each week. Broadkill Store reported some croaker the other day caught at Broadkill Beach. The bay beaches are seeing decent action this spring thanks to these mild temperatures. The wind can stop any day now. That would be helpful. There are huge pompano in the OBX still, so it will be nice to see those bigger ones up here this summer in numbers.

There are a lot of options and crazy weather, so get out and fish for everything.

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