1st State Summer Surf: Surfcasting The Delaware Coast - The Fisherman

1st State Summer Surf: Surfcasting The Delaware Coast

“We are beginning to see some pompano in the Delaware surf,” the author reported in June, noting how these smaller summer visitors like sand fleas.

With roughly 30 miles of ocean coastline to explore, here’s what to bring.

When it comes to the Delaware coast, summer surf fishing is quite different than what we have in the spring and fall.  Those big stripers and blues that so excited us then have moved north and won’t be back until fall or early winter, so we have to be content to set our sights a bit lower when the weather turns hot.

While the big fish may be gone, the big crowds have arrived.  I find the beaches begin to get crowded around 10 a.m. and start to thin out around 4 p.m.  There are some advantages to staying around and watching the summer crowds.  But if you consider surf fishing a solidary sport, then like me you will probably rather watch the sun rise, and then return to see it set.

With bloodworms often hard to find during the summer months, packages of Berkley Gulp or FishBites are an ideal substitute for summer surfcasting along the Delaware bayshore and ocean coast.

Flavor Of The Day

I bait up with Fishbites in whatever flavor seems to be appropriate, which is usually sand flea and bloodworm.   For those who insist on the real thing, bloodworms are sold in most tackle shops as are sand fleas.  You can’t dig bloodworms locally, but you can dig sand fleas.  Back in the day I would have my two sons dig them for me, but today I don’t think that Ric (age 52) and Roger (age 48) would enjoy the job as much as they did back then.  You can buy a special sand flea rake that is easy to use and will keep you in sand fleas for the day.

My target species will be croaker, whiting (kings, sea mullet, roundheads) and spot.  Not too exciting right?  Well, I grew up catching these fish and I still love to not only catch them but to fry them up for dinner.  My rigs are nothing fancy.  Just top-bottom with small circle hooks and a sinker.  I will use a tongue sinker on one rig that I cast out and put in an OTW sand spike.  The second rig gets a bank sinker because I hold this rod and slowly crank it to shore.  As I do so, I try to keep in mind where the rig is because if I catch a fish, I can move the stationary rig to that position.

There is one predator that hunts in the surf during the summer and that is the summer flounder.  Granted, it is a long shot that you will catch a 17-1/2-inch keeper, but what else do you have to do?  If you want to give it a try, use a white bucktail with a Gulp! Twistertail and work it right in the wash.  I cast just beyond the breakers and let the surf carry the bucktail along like a confused baitfish.  You have to keep in contact with the lure by reeling in most of the slack as the bucktail is washed towards the beach.  In most cases the lure will go either up or down the beach so you must be aware of other anglers on either side of you.

The author works a bucktail for summer flounder in the surf while donned in wide-brim hat and Fieldsheer shirt to protect against the sun’s harmful UV rays.

You don’t need your Hatteras Heaver for summer surf fishing.  I use a Tsunami Airwave 10-foot, 2-inch rod that is rated for 15- to 30-pound line and 2- to 4-ounce sinkers.  My reel is a Tsunami SALTX 6000 filled with 30-pound braid and a ratio of 4.9:1.  For casting lures and bucktails I have a Tsunami Forged heavy 7-foot rod rated for braid up to 40 pounds and lures to 4 ounces.  The reel on that rod is a Tsunami EVICT 4000.  I filled mine with 20-pound braid and it handles big plugs, bucktails and metal lures just fine.

All of my outfits that carry braided line have fluorocarbon shock leaders.  Most of my surf reels have at least 30-pound and most have 40-pound leaders.  I use an Albright knot while my son Ric goes with the slim beauty.  Both knots pass through the guides without a problem and both stand up to wear.  However, they should be checked and replaced on a regular basis as constant casting will wear them out.  As far as tying my rigs to the shock leader, I have been using the clinch knot for many years.

I use Tactical Angler clips at the end of my shock leaders to connect them to my rigs.  These clips go on and off with ease and work just as well with rigs and with lures.

Lay Of The Land

While Delaware has a small coastline there are ample areas to surf fish.  Beginning in Broadkill Beach you will find plenty of space along the coast of Delaware Bay.  This is a great place to fish in the summer as the species you are after show up here in good numbers. From Route 1 take Route 16 east until it ends in Broadkill Beach.  Turn right at the Broadkill Store and follow that road to the State Park.  You will drive on to the parking area and either park your vehicle and walk on the beach, or drive on if you have a Surf Fishing Vehicle Tag.  The beach is a bit narrow so don’t take up a lot of room.  As with all Delaware drive-on beaches you must back on towards the water so your tag is visible to a park ranger driving past. There is a drop-off not far from the beach and often it is where the fish are feeding.  Otherwise, you will have to make a long cast and work your rig back to the beach until you find the feeding station.

Cape Henlopen State Park is the next surf fishing area.  It has access to both the Delaware Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.  The Bay access is on either side of the fishing pier and is strictly a walk-on access.  As you enter the park and pay your fee you will see signs directing you to the Fishing Pier.  Park in the lot and walk towards the pier then follow the path on either side of the pier to the beach.

Drive-on access is on either side of Herring Point.  There is a large parking area there where you can air down and an air station where you can refill your tires on the way out.  Be careful when fishing on the northside of Herring Point.  There are some old pilings that are under water on high tides that will eat rigs.

“Walk-on fisherman need to travel light,” the author noted, adding “All you need can fit in a 5-gallon bucket, and the bucket will do just fine as a seat.

You may also access the beach south of Herring Point from Gordons Pond.  This requires driving through Rehoboth and finding your way to Gordons Pond and is better left to those who are already in Rehoboth.

Delaware Seashore State Park runs from Dewey Beach to Indian River Inlet then down to 3Rs Road.  That is about 7 or more miles of surf fishing access.  There are four drive-on access points for Surf Fishing Vehicle Permitted vehicles and even more access walk-on access points.

From north to south, you can drive or walk-on at Key Box Road, Conquest Road, Faithful Steward Road or 3Rs Crossing.  In addition, you may walk-on at Tower Bay and Indian River Inlet.  During the summer many people fish Indian River Inlet for tog and sheepshead.  For the most part they use sand fleas or crabs and fish right in the rocks all day long.

Fenwick Island has three crossings for surf fishing vehicles.  The first is York Beach Crossing, the second is Middle Beach Crossing and the last is South Beach Crossing.  I like to fish the York Beach Crossing because it is away from the condos and homes that have been built in Fenwick Island.  For the most part, you will only have to share the beach with other surf fishermen.

Walk-on surf fishing is best done from the big parking lot at South Beach crossing.  You should plan to be there early as this is an extremely popular location for day use swimmers and family beach goers.

Delaware does require a general fishing license to fish in the state.  This license covers fresh and saltwater plus crabbing and clamming.  The cost for those between 16 and 64 is $8.50 for Delaware residents and $20 for non-residents.  Residents between 12 and 15 must have a young-angler trout stamp at a cost of $2.10.  All license money is accounted for and must be spent on fishing related projects.  I know this is true because I am on the advisory council that is in charge of the money and have been since the license became law.    Go to dnrec.delaware.gov/fish-wildlife/licenses                     

E. Burnley

All Delaware state parks have an entrance fee.  Those along the ocean and Delaware Bay charge $5 per day for Delaware Residents and $10 per day for non-residents.  The surf fishing vehicle pass costs $90 for residents and $180 for non-residents.  There is an off-peak permit that costs $70 for residents and $140 for non-residents.  This permit allows you to access the beach during the week, but not on weekends when you must have the full permit plus a reservation that costs an additional $4.  There are additional discounts for senior citizens both residents and non-residents.

I wear Fieldsheer shirts and lots of SPS 30 sunscreen to protect myself from the sun.  I had skin cancer removed from my face last fall so I am now a believer in skin protection.

Catch ‘em up!



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