Uncovering the mystery behind black sand

By Rich King
Posted 10/14/21

We have been dealing with nor’easter conditions the past few days. The weekend was sloppy starting Saturday and the surf has yet to calm down. There are wide wash areas, and little beach at …

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Uncovering the mystery behind black sand


We have been dealing with nor’easter conditions the past few days. The weekend was sloppy starting Saturday and the surf has yet to calm down. There are wide wash areas, and little beach at high tide. The black sands of the Delaware beaches are exposed. It is thick at the Indian River Inlet, a good three inches. The bay side of the point has been the calmest place to surf fish.

Spot, small bluefish, kingfish and the usual summer fish are still here but not for long. That nor’easter really pushed around the water. As the water cools off, less and less of the summer suspects will be around, so get it in this weekend. The drum “run” that is usually one and done for Delaware is still lingering. A buddy of mine got a 50-incher in the Indian River Inlet before the storm got nautical. The one and done drum run for Delaware has been an ongoing affair this year.

Surf and pier fishing will get better as the days progress this week. The weather is calming down.

Charters and head boats will be out this weekend. It will be a good time to get out and do some of the last fair-weather fishing. Inland bay anglers are seeing more and more short bass catches. The shorts are schooling up and feeding heavier — fun to chase with ultralight gear.

Ponds are seeing decent top water evening action. Now that it has cooled off, fishing in the evening is very enjoyable. Fly anglers are doing better and getting out more. It’s hard to wear all that gear on those hot summer evenings.

I need new waders now that I think of it. I saw several sets at the expo. I need to go shopping for fall surf fishing gear.

It is also getting to that time of year I want to get another rod. One new one a year is the limit. The new Tsunami I just saw looks nice. I just have to decide what kind of fishing. That is key for selecting a rod: bait fishing, jig and casting lures, general fishing? The desired use definitely decides the type of rod. Medium fast, heavy? Do you want a broomstick or a wet noodle? Throwing 10 ounces of lures or bait? Doing a lot of casting, you want a lighter rod but one that can take the big lures, which will govern the handle’s width, too, in some cases. Ah decisions.

I can get a custom surf rod made, but I want to see if I can get what I am looking for in a local shop. Then I get to use the new rod as an excuse to get that one new reel I allow per year. Matching rod to reel is important as well.

Every coastal storm erodes the beaches, stirring and shifting the sand. The amount of sand that moves around is huge in some areas. Dark streaks or large patches of black sand collect along the beaches’ surface. It freaks people out, but it is supposed to be there. A combination of dense minerals, such as magnetite and garnet, create a purple, black or reddish sand.

Use a magnet on the black sand, the magnetite will stick. There are also very tiny diamonds in that black sand. Not typical Delaware diamonds, but real diamonds.

The black sand is heavier than the usual beige-colored sand and is always under the beige, sandy beach. Sand “layers” according to a grain’s size and weight. Storms will disrupt the layers (erosion) and that process (layering) starts all over, with the black sand exposed for a bit until the beaches recover, literally.

You will find more of the black sand on the Delaware Bay beaches and the north pocket of the Indian River Inlet. Since it is heavier, it collects in the north pocket as that area scours constantly like a bowl. The black sand is three inches thick in some deposits.

If you look at the sides of the natural dunes that are scarped, or cut off like a ledge, there are thin layers of black sand. The wind pushes that black sand around between storms and layers it in dunes at times — natural dune building.