Striped bass catching is picking up

Adam May with a striped bass from the surf. (Submitted photos)

Jason Schuster with a northern puffer fish from the surf during the Chillaware Island Spring Surf Fishing Tournament.

We saw a lot of short striped bass in the surf at the Chillaware Island Spring Surf Fishing Tournament, but not many keeper bass. Only one was landed on the beach at 3Rs. Not for lack of trying either, there was a buffet of food out there for any fish to dine on. Clams has been the ticket for bait this spring. Bloodworms work well too, but clam has been landing the larger bass.

Short bass were hitting every cast on Monday at Cape Henlopen using clam. Lures weren’t picking up a thing, the fish are hungry and will hit bait much more than lures. They don’t have to put in much work to hit big a chunk of clam. They have to chase a lure, but if you can slow down your retrieve you can get them to hit. That can be a tough thing in the surf with heavy waves and strong currents.

There have been numerous bass caught up north on the Delaware River on the Port Penn side for Delaware and the Pennsville side for Jersey. Stay below Reedy Point if you are trying to catch a keeper for the table. Spawn rules are still in effect. A lot of these bass are still full of eggs — it would be a good idea to let them go, but it is up to the angler what they want to do with their fish, not the internet. Bunker chunks have been the best bait, and some have hit bloodworms.

Banging the drum …

Black drum fishing has really picked up this past week. Anglers from Fenwick Island to Slaughter Beach are seeing decent catches. The surf has really picked up for the smaller sized drum. Assateague for the most part has quieted down a bit, but some are still being caught. Clam is the key for big drum, but sand fleas are also working and can be dug up in the surf. Which explains why they are close to the beach. I watched a buddy of mine catch a few of them yesterday in a matter of an hour.

The coral beds in the Delaware Bay are producing as well. You just need a lot of clams and you can do pretty well. The smaller ones in the surf up to the 30-inch range are my favorite for the table. The much bigger behemoths I prefer to let go so they can make more drum. Many tend to be full of worms and I think the meat is less appealing.

I prefer them when they still have stripes or just as they lose them, after that I like to let them go so they can spawn. Check out area charters for a drum trip at night — it is a lot of fun. If you are on the surf in the late evening into the night sometimes you can hear them as well. Not as well as you can hear them in a boat but if the surf is calm you might catch one “drumming”.

Bluefish not like last year

Bluefish in the surf at the flats at the Cape Henlopen Fishing Pier.

This time last year we were slamming bluefish like it was going out of style. This year has been much different thanks to water temperatures. As soon as it looks like we are going to warm up Mother Nature takes a turn and cools down again. The fog that moved in last night really put a damper on the temperature. We figured last weekend the blues would come out during the Chillaware Island Spring Surf Fishing Tournament. They didn’t.

This weekend we have another heat wave warmup with summer-like temperatures so maybe the beaches will see more action. There has been some great fishing if you put in the time, and zero competition on the weekdays. That is really the best time to fish. If you don’t have a lot of lines in the water the fish have few options for biting a bait.

This week the beaches have been vacant. We are literally the only ones out on the beach aside from the occasional angler that drops by and sets up for a few hours and that is rare. This will

Drum from the surf in Cape Henlopen State Park.

change as the summer season kicks in to full gear, but even in the dead of summer the weekdays are the best days.

The Cape Henlopen pier flats has seen the best bluefish action. The best way to get in on that is be there when it happens on the incoming tides or wait for Lighthouse View Bait and Tackle to post it on Facebook. If you are a report chaser they have the best ones as far as Facebook pages for bait shops. Very accurate and honest reports and after all they are right at the pier in the thick of the action.

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

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