Tips on prepping gear, choosing bait for spring fishing

By Rich King
Posted 4/10/24

The pollening is about to begin, we are deep in the muddening now. My new garden arrivals survived the spring frost the other day. Now it’s warm out and I am reminded just how much I despise …

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Tips on prepping gear, choosing bait for spring fishing


The pollening is about to begin, we are deep in the muddening now. My new garden arrivals survived the spring frost the other day. Now it’s warm out and I am reminded just how much I despise humidity.

The area waterways are warming up nicely. We have fish on the move above, around, in and below Delaware. It’s already looking like a rather active time for spring fishing. Black drum in the surf are the newest arrival.

Spring trout seasons everywhere are open and everyone is having a good time catching them. The kids did well on the reserved youth day. I love the fact Maryland and Delaware have these days. It’s more important than ever to get kids out in nature and teach them right. Fishing, hunting, trapping, hiking help teach kids about nature, conservation and the importance of natural resource management. I learned from my grandfather and family, but many these days do not. The more you know, the more we will be able to protect in this fast-growing urbanize-everything society. We don’t need a gas station and Dollar General on every country corner. We need grass, trees and field habitat for you to have hunting, fishing, trapping and hiking. It’s not too hard to get that point.

Make sure your gear is ready to rock and roll. Nothing like the disappointment of last year’s line snapping on a big fish. Braided line is the worst for that. Check the line for fraying and remove that length of line and some extra to be sure. I like to flip my spools each year. It takes a hot minute. One easy way is to buy a second spool for your reel. Use the current spool and spool the new spool and switch them out so new braid is on top.

To flip your line without an extra spool, take the line off by spooling it onto another spool. Then spool that back onto a different spool so the old line is on top. Then respool your original spool, and the old line is now the back spool. Now you have new line for the season, or at least most of the season. Once you hit old line, it’s time to respool with brand new line. I can make a spool of braid last two seasons or more this way. If I had time to fish more, maybe not so much. One thing I have done with my summer surf rod setups is switch everything back to monofilament. It’s better to mess up mono than expensive braid. Fifteen- to 20-pound line is perfect for the summer fish and occasional big one in the summer. Drag lands fish, learn to use your drag in the surf. Use the waves on the retrieve. Don’t fight the wave — that snaps your line. Let the water pull on the fish, with a low drag. Then use the wave to pull the fish in on the return wave.

If you are a fan of buying your own line and need it spooled up, hit up a local bait shop and ask them how much to spool your line for you. Many will do this these days. They are already dealing with people buying reels online then coming to them to spool the reel. Paying them to do the work is a great way to get a nice even spooling and still support your local shop. Honestly after shipping and the hassles involved at times, maybe just buy the rod and reel from the shop in the first place. Ask for a deal compared to an online price (within reason in comparison) with the shipping, if you buy the reel there. It doesn’t hurt to ask. Pro tip: The big companies have their own small online companies selling their equipment online, breaking their own policy. A lot of your stores are dealers and in their contracts these dealers are not allowed to sell online. The more you know. Support your local bait shop.

The black drum are much more frequent at Chincoteague and now Assateague is seeing more landings. Sand fleas are not hard to dig up, just deeper in the sand. Fishbites Sand Flea formula is being used with live sand fleas. Mullet is a good bait for black drum as well as clam. Buck’s at Assateague is open for the season and loaded for drum fishing. Delaware Bay beaches should light up any day now for drum for the spring run.

Bait is usually an angler’s preference, and the fish. Fish just eat what they feel like eating, I guess, I’ve never asked one. One day it’s clam, next day they are hitting fleas or gorging on minnows. Fish can be picky at times, for whatever reason.

Striped bass are hitting well along the Delaware River and some of the bay beaches. Bloodworms are the bait of choice in the spring. Don’t forget non-offset circle hooks are required per the ASMFC. Always target fish with the required gear. I know it is annoying but it is done to help the fishery, usually.

Speaking of fishery issues, blue catfish are being targeted heavily by the state of Maryland more and more. There are all kinds of programs popping up to help control this out-of-control population. Blue catfish get huge and eat everything and anything. Add them and some snakeheads to an area and you’re going to see some real population changes. That action has picked up as well. Snakeheads are tasty to eat — don’t let the name fool you.

White perch and crappie catches have been abundant. The trout fishing is great up on the rivers of Delaware and all over Maryland. There are many options to fish this spring, get out and explore some new areas.

Freshwater fishing is picking up more. These warm days are helping. The rain not so much. It’s great for my gardens. It’s odd that after a week and half of rain with puddles everywhere, my soil still dries out too fast. My gardens need a good drink every few days. Well water is great but at the end of the day rainwater is desired. Mostly because I don’t physically have to get involved. I’ve made a lot of hügelkultur beds. I highly recommend these to combat the sandy dry soil. Also known as lasagna gardens, you layer wood, leaves and the like with soil on top and, if done correctly, some gardens never need watering. I also compost some of my free-range yard dino eggs and their black gold. The plants have food for a whole season. Weeds are yard dino food — they eat everything.

Delaware Bay striped bass anglers, do not forget Jersey’s law about wearing your PFD. If you cross that state line in the bay, then you are in Jersey. NJ DNR: “Between November 1, 2023, and May 1, 2024, operators and passengers aboard a recreational vessel less than 26 feet, such as rowboats, canoes, kayaks, and stand-up paddleboards must wear a securely fastened United States Coast Guard-approved wearable, size-fitting personal floatation device while the vessel is underway.”

Boaters, it is spring tide season and in full swing. If the water isn’t way up, then it’s really down, almost like my mood these days. There are a lot of exposed sand bars around the inland bays. Be careful this summer. I can see them now but that’s going to change once the bacteria and algae start growing and the water gets stirred, ironically by boats. If you don’t have a tow boat membership, get one for peace of mind. It’s when you are stuck that you find out that membership could have saved you thousands from a hassle.

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