Get your gear prepared for fall striped bass fishing

Pete Hesson holding his winning flounder worth $100,000. Submitted photos

Summer season is coming to an end, but the fishing will continue well into the fall and beginning of winter. If the water temperatures hold and are mild this year we will fish all winter.

If you haven’t already, get that gear ready for fall striped bass fishing. You need better gear to handle the big fish unlike the little fish of summer. Most of the fish we catch in the summer are a good meal for the big fall fish. Check your line and make sure it is up to par, fall is a good time to respool your reels.

Now we wait and see if the striped bass come close to the beach, or if we have to take a boat to Jersey to catch. The latter the past several years has been the case.

Flounder picking up

Flounder fishing has been picking up offshore, evidence of that was seen during the Flounder Pounder Open. There were many fish caught, but due to the size required to place or win, not many fish were brought to the scales. However, anglers caught a respectable amount of keepers that would make the average angler happy.

Inland bay flounder action has been slow compared to previous years, with the usual amount of throwbacks, just about all that you catch. The Lewes canal has seen some decent action for most of the summer. With the summer season coming to a close there will be less competiton on the water to fish.

Flounder, triggers, trout (weakfish), sea bass, short striped bass, bluefish, oyster crackers, croakers, sea robins are all hitting at the Delaware Bay reef and wreck sites. Skates and sharks are always a catch as well, to the point they are expected. Top and bottom rigs with enough weight to hold bottom and squid, clam, fishbites, or bona fide baits are working well.

Bona fide is a new bait by Fortescue Bait Company that is squid that is infused with different “flavors” such as bloodworms, shedder crab, grass shrimp and clam. There are a few other flavors as well. I have found it to be another good bait to use.

Kingfish, snapper blues

The surf has been slow but kingfish and summer snapper blues are hitting. The kingfish are even hitting mullet rigs intended for the bluefish. Some sand perch, weakfish, short bass, blowfish (northern puffers), burrfish, and pompano have also been random catches on top and bottom rigs with squid, clam, fishbites, or bona fide baits. There are always skates and sharks to be caught, even some baby hammerheads. Keep the sharks in the water and release them immediately.

Slot striped bass season is still in full swing for the Delaware Bay and her tributaries with some decent fish making it to the table. They are the best eating size in my opinion. You aren’t eating an older breeder sized fish, and the potential for contaminants is much lower. Delaware does have a consumption advisory for striped bass.

War on the Shore

Speaking of the fall and the surf, War On The Shore is Oct, 13 in Cape Henlopen State Park. This one-day tournament has the potential of a $10,000 first prize if 300 anglers sign up for the event. You can search War On The Shore on Eventbrite and get registered.

The T-shirts are only available to the anglers participating. You can also go to Delaware Surf Fishing and get the details on the website.

Offshore fishing has been good for tuna, tilefish, billfish, and mahi. Hit up the Delaware and Ocean City charters to get out there before that season ends. Weekdays are better than weekends for less traffic out on the water.

Flounder Pounder Open

The Flounder Pounder Open 2018 was a great success this year. This year there were five days to fish and anglers could choose three of those five days. The scales were busy each day with anglers competing for space on the leaderboard and a daily calcutta that was added this year. The real excitement came on the fourth day.

Mike Frank with his second place flounder that was first for a couple of days, took home $50,000.

The daily calcutta is anyone’s for the taking and it was a full on race Saturday that added some excitement to the scales, but the real excitement came just before the scales closed.

The anglers bringing fish to the scales were going head to head for the daily calcutta. There were “ooohs and aaahs” from the crowd every time a fish was weighed. Sometimes a fish was in the money, bounced off another angler, and other times it didn’t make the cut. The scales were crowded.

Pete Hesson and his crew team Yahoos came to the scales. I looked over and signaled Pete from across the stage, I was near the computers. “What do you have?” Pete just looks at me with an ear to ear grin, and nods. Just from that look, I knew he wasn’t worried about going for the calcutta, he had a contender for the board. I jumped up on the back of the stage and ran over.

Me … “Dude what you got? How did you boys do?”

Pete … ” We got a nice fish, and a cooler full of them.”

Me … “Let me take a peek?” (I Know He Won’t)

Pete .. “No one is seeing this until it hits the stage, there are too many people trying to see. Just get that camera ready.”

Me … “Haaahaaahaa I hear ya, just tell me one thing, is it gonna top double digits?”

Pete … I get that big smile, and sly look … “We didn’t weigh it yet, that is bad luck. Get that camera ready, you are gonna like this. I’m gonna need some shots of it too.”

Me … “You got it.”

Flounder were donated by anglers to the Food Bank of Delaware.

There were a few guys behind them in line that are trying to place for the calcutta, Al let them slide ahead. “We can wait, we have plenty of time.” The excitement was building around the scales, the crowd knew something was in that cooler, they just don’t know what and Pete wasn’t talking. The whole crew was excited, you could see it in their eyes. Finally with minutes to the scale closing, they pushed the cooler to the stage.

Pete opened that cooler, it was full of some quality fish. He reached under the seven fish on top and pulled out a big flounder. I knew right away this will make the top five fish, but where would remain to be seen. The weights and measurements were all over the place. Long skinny fish or shorter fat fish all weighing about the same. This fish was not too skinny, and she had some length.

Chuck put the flounder on the measuring table and we could see right away she was 29 inches, a contender for sure. Not just a qualifier for the board, now she was possibly going to take first place. The lead fish was 27 inches, this beast is a full 2 inches longer with about the same girth.

The crowd was going crazy, a Delaware team has brought a big fish to the scales. Team Stalker was in the lead, a crew out of Jersey. Mike Frank and his boys are very cool and stand up guys and they were nervously waiting to see where this fish would land on the board.

Chuck put the fish on the scale. The numbers jumped up fast … 4 .. 6 .. 10 .. then dropped to 9.9 and rest at 9.8. The crowd went nuts. We had a new $100,000 leader. They didn’t break double digits, but the Yahoos brought a winning fish to the scales and of course they took the top calcutta slot for the day. Now we had to wait and see on Sunday if anyone would bring in a 10 pound fish or better. There were still plenty of chances to make the leaderboard.

Sunday rolled around and it was tough out there, not many fish came to the scales and it was a race to see who would top the calcutta for the day. No one was knocked off the leaderboards.

Team Yahoos would come out on top as this year’s $100,000 winners. Congratulations boys, couldn’t think of a better crew to deserve this win you boys can fish!

Draken Harald Hårfagre

The Draken Harald Hårfagre docked in Lewes. Submitted photo/Rich King

So this is something you don’t see every day, the viking ship Draken Harald Hårfagre The world’s largest viking ship, pulled into Lewes last evening and docked at the town docks.

The Draken Harald Hårfagre is the world’s largest modern fully functional viking ship, all the way from Norway. She is on a tour of the east coast which started in Connecticut and will end in South Carolina. The story about this ship is fascinating. She was built with traditional material, based on patterns and designs found in excavations.

One of the crew told me they were a day or so early on their way to Ocean City, Maryland, so they decided to stop in Lewes.

The Draken Harald Hårfagre heading out of the Lewes canal to the Roosevelt Inlet. Submitted photo/Rich King

“That harbor you have on the way in was very nice and calm.”

He was referring to the harbor of safe refuge. You will be able to take a tour of the ship and the village they set up in Ocean City on the 22nd. Just in time for Jeep Week.

The Draken Harald Hårfagre pulled out of Lewes at 6:30 a.m. on Wednesday. Many people turned out to watch her leave the canal and head into the Delaware Bay. Everyone was waving goodbye, the crew had a fantastic time in Lewes and said they might be back.

It was a sight to see that 115-foot long viking ship sail out of the Roosevelt Inlet. She put up here sail once she cleared the outer wall, and headed to Ocean City, Md.

Several of us followed her down the coast taking pictures the entire time.

Rich King’s outdoors column runs Thursdays in the Delaware State News.

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