Large ‘gator’ bluefish currently running the coast

By Rich King
Posted 4/24/24

Spring fishing has sprung off really well. Gator-sized bluefish — the spring blues — showed up recently in several places running the tides as they head north. There are bluefish showing …

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Large ‘gator’ bluefish currently running the coast


Spring fishing has sprung off really well. Gator-sized bluefish — the spring blues — showed up recently in several places running the tides as they head north. There are bluefish showing up at LBI in New Jersey but still gators south of us in OBX. How long these fish decide to run the coast is a great question no one can answer. Get out your spoons, sting silvers, plugs, SP minnows or mullet rigs. They are eating everything in their path as usual.

Modified mullet rigs from DS Custom Tackle use less bait. Thanks to that keeper hook, the mullet stay on the shaft with the hook at the rear of the fish where it belongs. Bluefish hit from behind. Holding the mullet in place so the hook is in the strike zone is key. Use the 4/0 hook that comes with the rig instead of the 2/0 hook. These gators can crush smaller hooks. The black nickel hooks are stronger, too. When the gator blues are running the surf fish closer to shore than normal, you want to catch on the inside of the school not the far side. There’s nothing like dragging a big fish through a hungry, angry school of fish. Usually, your line gets cut quick.

If you are throwing lures for bluefish, shiny anything works well. Gator spoons are my favorite. They are heavy and easy to cast. The treble hook takes the brunt of a bluefish hit and when they fight over the lure the spoon takes that action. Wire leaders or heavy mono leaders are recommended. Do not use shiny swivels or components. Those become targets for schooling bluefish competing for food. A teaser hook on a leader ahead of a spoon can trigger a bite as well. Doubling up on two bruiser gators will wear out your arms.
Again, try to fish the inside of the school, cast along the beach over a few cuts. Look for a school and throw to the inside edge. Bluefish are fast, hungry, curious predators. They will fight over a lure in another fish’s mouth while you are hooked up. That can cut line as well, hence the leaders.

If you need a heavy bucktail, check out Lead Pot in Dagsboro. Chris Kramer has a variety of bucktails and jigs that are working well right now.

Braid fishing line gets banged up in these conditions, too, so pay attention for frayed areas and remove line as needed. Big fish flopping around can fray or bruise your braid line. If you haven’t switched up to new line for the gators and big fish, make sure the line is good. Old line can snap, and you don’t want to lose that shiny new spoon or plug, not to mention the fish. Honestly the fish doesn’t want to swim around with all that new jewelry and line in tow. New line isn’t just to land the fish.

Black drum are hitting clams, sand fleas and sand flea Fishbites formula. The Delaware Bay (both sides) and Assateague have seen decent action. Drum rigs or any good surf rig with a 6/0 hook or greater is perfect for black drum. Putting fresh clam on a hook is not a lot of fun. Use gauze or the stretchy line to tie it on. Some use old pantyhose pieces. The fish don’t seem to care. My angler buddies in Florida catch black drum on pompano rigs as bycatch. Use long top and bottom rigs with bullet floats, 1/0 circle hooks, and 30-pound monofilament line. Apparently, fish can’t read the little signs on the hooks. Keep an eye on the charter boats, they are now booking for Delaware Bay coral bed trips for black drum.

A few migratory striped bass and bluefish have been picked up by drum anglers. Kingfish have been caught as well in the surf.

Flounder are even hitting along the surf. It’s an active surf fishing spring. Put in the time for the best action. Find a good spot away from any crowds. Fish may be curious predators but they can spook pretty easily. The summer crowds aren’t here yet and weekdays the beaches are nearly empty all day. You have your choices of places to fish for now.

The flounder fishing around the Lewes canal has picked up a bit and the inland bays. More anglers mean more fish are being caught. It’s a direct ratio, which will soon be overwhelmed with more boats than anglers. Right now it is less crowded in fishing areas but that is changing fast now that the word is out on the bluefish.

The Cape Henlopen Fishing Pier is open but some sections are closed, and the last 50 feet at the end. The harbor bottom isn’t as filled in as last year. Kayak or wade fishing would be good this spring. There is a lot of good clamming right now and the bluefish are showing up on the incoming tide.

Flounder action will pick up soon enough if not already. The pier tackle shop opens May 1. They have an amazing snack food section, too, for your snack needs while trying to get a bite. The Backyard in Milton fills the “sammi” fridge. I make it a point to go to the park hungry.

Tautog fishing has been better for boat anglers than the inlet anglers for keeper ratios.

Freshwater fishing is picking up as the waters warm up. Despite these recent temperature drops, things have been waking up early and fast outside. I’m not a fan of mowing the grass already, but OK. The pollening round one has been brutal. Watch the ticks, they are out in full force.

Check your property for anything that collects water. I have a zillion five-gallon buckets. Mosquitoes are annoying and the more areas you have that collect water, the more skeeters ya get. An empty beer can will hold enough water to breed too many skeeters.

The water table out here is up and the vernal pools are really full of life.

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