Black drum, blue catfish, American shad and hickory shad are just a few of the sport anglers entertaining this week. As spring begins to roll in, the surf fishing heats up along the beaches of the Delmarva Ocean.
This week anglers enjoyed a fine set of black drums, with the occasional whiting, flounder and red drum.
Right out of college, surf fishing and freshwater trout fishing were my two passions, mostly because of my poor financial situation. At first glance, these activities may seem worlds apart. The common thread, however, is that both are relatively inexpensive – no boat is required, camping is cheap, and equipment is relatively simple.
As a bonus, I spent time in near-remote places with million-dollar views, especially at daybreak.
At the time, I was teaching history in high school, so spring break and summers were more or less open. I drove a bare Jeep and had a hitch receiver for a rod and cooler mount welded to the frame under the front bumper.
Every summer I camped and fished as much as I could – from Cape Cod to Cape Hatteras, but mostly close to home. I particularly like the relative simplicity of surf fishing, especially compared to more gear-intensive angling activities like offshore.
Serious surf anglers have many rods and deploy a fairly elaborate rod management system. I fish two to three rods ranging from 8 to 12 feet and use basic sand tips. My reel is a 5000 or 6000 size reel, not a specialty surf model. That means there’s no way I’ll be mistaken for a hardcore surf fisherman.
The way I usually rig is pretty simple: a two hook bottom rig with a surgeon’s loop (40 or 50 pound mono) for the lead and a dropper loop for each hook. Sometimes a float helps keep the bait above the bottom. I use pyramid sinkers or a 2-8 ounce hurricane sinker depending on the currents.
For bait, you can’t go wrong with cut mullet, shrimp, sand flea, and skin crab. While catching fish in the surf with lures isn’t as easy as it is in the Chesapeake Bay, casting surface lures at first and last light is a ton of fun.
I love plugs that make notes and create splashes, giving off a “struggling mullet” vibe. I launched Sebile’s, Smack-its, MirrOlures and Yo-Zuris., as well as spoons. Thrown into a cut in the bar, a deep quagmire near the beach or just beyond the breakers. I prefer to fish in clean water areas with a moving current.
The surf fishing spots along our part of the Atlantic coast are plentiful and these days crowded. Popular areas include Delaware Seashore State Park, Assateague Island (both state and national park), and the beaches off Chincoteague. Further south in Virginia, try the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge at the southern end of Sandbridge.
Several of the Chesapeake and Mid-Atlantic’s most popular sport fish are about to undergo a rarely new way of managing them. Formally called the Recreational Harvest Control (HCR) rule, this effort will set catch, size and seasonal limits for bluefish, summer flounder, black bass and scup.
This is the joint work of the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.
Managing these popular game fish presents challenges, especially given the uncertainty of recreational harvest data (I’m looking at you marine recreation information program). For these four species, the council and commission have identified five possible approaches, labeled A to E, for setting recreational measures.
Understanding the main differences between the options is not easy for most of us. To help anglers navigate the process, the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) has an online primer that also includes a decision tree that I have found very helpful in determining which option I prefer.
“HCR alternatives break this cycle of reacting to annual variability in MRIP estimates and instead look at stock status indicators (such as fishing mortality, biomass) to better inform bag tuning, size and of the season and provide more stability for the fishery,” said Michael Waine, Director of Atlantic Fisheries Policy for the ASA.
Ken Neill, who has been involved in Chesapeake fisheries management for many years, added, “We all want healthy, sustainable fish stocks… stable regulations that also maintain healthy stocks will allow anglers to have regulations that do not change every year and sometimes in a year. .”
Do you have an opinion? Drop a line to: [email protected], put “Harvest Control Rule” in the subject line.
April 15: Deadline for final public comments due to Amendment 7, Tracer Rebuild Plan. Email your opinion to: [email protected] (Subject: Draft Amendment 7).
April 1 to 30: Striper closure. Anglers are prohibited from targeting striped bass, which includes catch and release.
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April 18-May 23: Spring turkey season. Only bearded turkeys can be harvested. Shooting times from April 18 to May 9 are half an hour before sunrise at noon. Filming times from May 10 to 23 are half an hour before sunrise until sunset.
April 19: CCA MD Annapolis Chapter “Anglers Night Out”. Fishing movies, oysters and beers. Boatyard Bar & Grill, Eastport in Annapolis.
April 21-24: Bay Bridge Boat Show. A great water show kicks off the Chesapeake boating season. Free daily seminars. Click on annapolisboatshows.com/bay-bridge-boat-show.
May 1: Boatyard Bar & Grill Opening Day Tournament. Register at boatyardbarandgrill.com/events/annapolis-fishing-tournament.
May 1-15: Spring stripper season. One tracer per day, minimum size 35 inches, in the Chesapeake from Brewerton Channel to the Virginia state line.
May 12: Past, Present, and Future of Striped Bass: A Chesapeake Perspective. The first of three free seminars, “The Dark Years: Lessons from the Striper Moratorium of 1985-1990,” will be broadcast live from 7-8:30 p.m. Hosted by FishTalk magazine, presented by the Coastal Conservation Association and partners. Sign up for free at fishtalkmag.com/chesapeake-perspective.
Send calendar listings, news and photos to [email protected].