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Vol 48 | WINTER ISSUE | Jan 1, 2023

2022 Delmarva Year in Review Chum Lines Ship to Shore How to Catch Tautog Flounder Fishing in the Surf Fishing Glossary The Galley Issue Photos
Flounder Fishing in the Surf

Article by Rich King

The surf in Delaware is a different animal than the rest of the east coast. We don't have a lot of structure like sand bars and troughs, okay, we don't have any. Our ocean beach's coastline is essentially one small drop off into a smooth, flat forever bottom. Just walk into our ocean and when you drop off that little ledge, right where the waves start to pick up. That is our main structure. A small ledge, which is the edge of the trough, along a subtle sand bar, full of very small cuts or run outs. This small ledge "sand bar" migrates back and forth with the tide changes. That's it.

The best way to describe how subtle our surf fishing structure is in Delaware. At Assateague you will see several options in a few hundred feet of beach; bars, cuts, holes, and drains for days. In Delaware you will see few options in the same amount of space, only some small cuts along a smooth sloped beach. The point is Delaware's only spot that has constant changing structure. The Point offers many options to fish in bay to beach conditions and a mix in between. The bay area of the Point is a great place to fly fishing for flounder as well.

There is other surf structure along the Delaware coast in the form of small rises and drop offs that are inches high. Which is enough for a predator like a flounder. Then you have the bay beaches which have more of a flats area structure than a beach structure. Small low profile rises and dips in the sand for hundreds of feet in many areas. We were spoiled when the storms in the spring of 2022 rearranged the beach structure for a couple months. Now the beaches are back to the normal Delaware beach profile.

If you look at the Cape Henlopen Fishing Pier flats at a dead low tide you can see small pools and raised sand areas. Most of our ocean bottom looks like that along the coast beyond the mini ledge. Knowing all of that is half the battle, fishing is the rest of that battle. You can bait and wait but that only possibly guarantees you will maybe catch something eventually, or not. Targeting specific fish is more fun, challenging, and keeps you active. Surf casting is exercise.

Now that you know what to look for along the beach for structure where are the fish? Most are swimming along that structure, feeding or hunting. Some are feeding while being hunted. There is always a bigger fish. Flounder will move along the ledge, stop at the small cuts, and visit the storm pools. We fish the ledge edges and the subtle cuts. Casting along the beach across a couple of those cuts helps increase your hook up chances. Your lure is in the fish zone more often than not when you cast along the beach not straight out. This is the best way to cast when fishing for anything along the Delaware beaches.

Jigging for flounder is the easiest way to catch "flatties" in the surf. You have to put in some work, it isn’t like bait and wait. Bucktails with Gulp are preferred, but any jig head with soft plastics will work. The new Fishbites Fight Club’s Six Inch Curly Tail Swim Grubs are killer.

Heavier four ounce jigs stay in place on the bottom better for bouncing, but I prefer a two ounce. Just bounce it along the bottom and “jig” it along. This action mimics a sand eel moving along the bottom, or any small eel like critter. Jigging in place is similar to drifting from a boat. The angler creates the action of the drift along the bottom, by jigging or popping the lure with smooth jerking motions. That motion alone can get a fish to strike. It is amazing how many different actions one can get out of a jig head or bucktail with a soft plastic.

Color is usually angler preference, but at times the fish are selective as well. Pink, white, and chartreuse are the favorites in spring and fall. White is more of a fall color, chartreuse and pink for spring.

Water clarity is important to color selection as well as day or night conditions. Brighter colors during the day, darker colors at night for both jig and soft plastic. Murky water is better with the brighter colors, but will work in the clearer nearly tropical water we see in the summer.

Most days you can never go wrong with a red and white bucktail. Adding a white soft plastic just adds to the presentation. This color scheme has been a favorite of anglers for decades. Not because it doesn't work.
The surprise flounder catches usually come from anglers checking their mullet rigs. Flounder are constantly hitting those rigs while being retrieved to check bait. This usually happens right at the ledge. You can always find the ledge without getting wet, it is under the back of the first breaking wave.

Using minnows in the surf fish is tough, mummichogs will perish quickly. But you can use an egg sinker on about three feet of leader with a wide gap hook on one end and a swivel on the other. The egg sinker keeps the line free to move for a flounder's strike. I've added a bobber to this set up. We do weird stuff when we are bored, have a truck load of gear, and not catching fish The bobber would drag the rig along the back of the wave for about thirty feet. Almost like drifting in a boat. It kept the rig in place longer and was a nice strike indicator. Yup, I was using a bobber in the ocean. Like I was fishing the pond out back at the farm.

The best advice I can give you for fishing the surf in Delaware, besides try elsewhere.

When everyone isn't catching, do what everyone else isn't. Which in Delaware is use lures and actually fish.

Don't fish on crowded weekend beach days. Our fish are so close to shore, a few swimmers will scare them off for hours. But fish will come back into the crowded town beach in the after hours to hunt the stirred up sands.

Don't cast bait a mile from our coast. The fish are close to that ledge. Ninety percent of the time anglers (men) are overcasting our surf. Ladies you catch more fish because you cast better than the men. Men walk up to the ocean edge intending to cast only about fifty feet. Something happens in the first step and the testosterone takes over. Next thing you know that rig is flying to the United Kingdom, sometimes to the singing sound of that loud head turning snap heard way down the beach, we all dread. Calm down and short cast your bait. Long cast your lures along the beach.

The fish are at your feet in the Delaware surf. We catch ten foot sharks casting bunker at night.

If you can get out after a storm at dead low tide, read the beach and remember where you saw the cuts.

At the crack of dawn, when the first light pops, everything feeds along the beach.

The best advice is to just fish and relax, it will happen, eventually. §

Coastal Fisherman Merch
CF Merch



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