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Delaware Bay Report

Report from Tuesday, May 23.

| Port Elizabeth | Newport | Fortescue | Cape May | Last Week's Report |
Port Elizabeth
Delaware Bay’s black drum fishing was slow early last week, said Sharon from The Girls Place Bait & Tackle. Windy weather kept reports scarce during the weekend, but a few reports rolled in about drum boated then. The fish seemed to be found in shallows close to shore again. At first this season, they were located shallow, and afterward deep. A few striped bass were reeled from the bay. The bay’s population of smaller bluefish seemed to build. The bait netter found them in catches. Summer flounder season was going to open Thursday. Minnows and all the flounder bait, rigs and supplies are fully stocked. Fresh clams, bait for drum, were unavailable three days last week, because weather kept suppliers from sailing for them. But the clams are stocked when available. Crabbing was fairly good. Wind during the weekend helped keep bugs off crabbers, at least. The Girls Place, located on Route 47, just after Route 55 ends, carries a large supply of bait and tackle, and is the long, one-story, yellow building on the right. It’s on the way to the bay.

Crabbing kicked off this weekend for the season at Beaver Dam Boat Rentals, Paul said. Rough weather didn’t help, but most boats trapped two to four dozen keepers apiece and released loads of undersized. Better crabbers trapped slightly more than inexperienced did. Results were pretty darn good, considering the weather, he said. Lots of crabs seemed 4 ¼ inches, and that’s ¼-inch smaller than legal size. Those should grow to keeper size when crabs shed next. A couple of crabs were 6 inches. Not much shedding seemed to happen yet, because water was cool. Small crabs are usual in the early season, and the blueclaws shed to grow throughout the warm months. The sheer number of crabs seemed to bode well for crabbing this year, and that was expected, because winter was mild. Severely cold winters can kill crabs and slow crabbing the rest of the year. Most of the crabbers seemed to use bunker for bait. None of the rental-boaters fished, and not a ton of customers showed up in the weather. Saturday was cloudy and especially windy. Sunday was windy but sunny. Customers crab and fish from rental boats towed up Oranokin Creek, running past the shop. The store stocks everything needed for crabbing, from bait, traps and nets to snacks, drinks and suntan lotion. Rental kayaks and canoes are available to paddle the scenic creek. The boats, kayaks and canoes are available Saturdays and Sundays, and also on Memorial Day, until becoming available daily on June 24. Visit Beaver Dam’s website.

Party boat trips headed for black drum Wednesday and Saturday from Fortescue, but Capt. Tom from Erica Leigh Charters heard no results, he said. His neighbor sailed for drum Saturday in a smaller boat, and Tom was waiting to hear those results, too. Drum trips will begin with Erica Leigh now. Summer flounder season was tentatively going to be opened Thursday of this week. That’s the date New Jersey chose, but the federal government needed to approve. There was controversy, because the fed wanted a larger size limit than Jersey chose, and the fed and Jersey were going to need to either reach an agreement, or Jersey was going to need to make the size limit larger, or Jersey was going to go out of compliance with the fed. None of Fortescue’s boats seemed to fish for striped bass on the bay anymore this season. They all seemed to target drum. The boaters had been fishing for stripers at places like the shallows near shore off the Villas.

Trips for black drum were canceled because of weather during the weekend on the Salt Talk, Capt. Howard said. But the fishing’s been catching okay, better on some days than others. All trips seemed to land a couple, at least. Howard bought a bushel of fresh surf clams for the weekend’s drum fishing but had to shuck, salt and freeze them. He’ll use them in fall to fish for catches like kingfish and spots. Those fish love them, and the salt keeps the clams fresher and also helps them stay on the hook, firming up the bait. Summer flounder season will open Thursday, and Howard will decide whether trips this weekend will sail for drum or flounder. Just because the season opens doesn’t mean flounder will arrive in the bay yet. But they could be there. The local bunker netter found weakfish in catches but no flounder. Howard was unsure whether Fortescue’s beach anglers caught striped bass like before. They had been landing big stripers. Horseshoe crabs were arriving on the beach to lay eggs. They come in such large numbers that they can make the beach angling difficult, fouling fishing lines. Big bluefish 10 or 12 pounds had been fought from the shore, too. The original Salt Talk was a Fortescue party boat, and Howard recently sold that vessel, and the new Salt Talk is a charter boat for up to four passengers.

Cape May
Two black drum probably 65 and 70 pounds were heaved from Delaware Bay on Thursday night on the Prime Time II, Capt. Steve said. None was hooked on a trip Saturday night, and the fish might’ve been spawning. Tides also weren’t right, and weather was rough, and the angling will probably pick back up around the new moon this week, he hopes. Sometimes drum bite well during May’s full moon and stop biting the week afterward because of spawning and the tides. The fish can chew into early June. Wind and seas were rough on Saturday’s trip and were calm on Thursday’s. The Prime Time II will probably begin shark fishing this weekend on the ocean. Sharks close to shore like threshers usually show up by then.

Black drum fishing on Delaware Bay began to go pretty well again with Fishin’ Fever Sportfishing, Capt. Tom said. The fish had bitten a moment this season, and the angling had slowed afterward for a time. The fish to 60 pounds were hauled aboard with Fishin’ Fever recently. The bay’s boating for striped bass became terrible, dead. “Done with that,” he said. The crew looks forward to Friday’s opening of sea bass season. Summer flounder fishing aboard usually begins during June’s first week. Trips for mako sharks and thresher sharks are on tap for June.

Jim Whitman’s charter fished hard for black drum Saturday on Delaware Bay on the Heavy Hitter, but the angling was no good, Capt. George said. None of the fish was hooked, and George knew about only two drum reeled in that day on other boats. Dave Layton’s charter on Sunday boxed five drum, mostly 35 to 50 pounds, aboard. George spoke with anglers who fished for drum Friday, and most of the fleet seemed skunked, but when a boat got into the fish that day, they seemed to catch well. Lots of drum are swimming the bay and are being marked and heard drumming. On Saturday, wind blew fiercely at the dock, but conditions close to shore weren’t bad on the water, once the tide changed and didn’t flow against the wind. Nobody probably ventured farther from shore that day to places like Tussy’s Slough. On Sunday, the fishing aboard struggled at first, and made some moves. George got a call from another boat that was catching, inviting him in. George moved the boat there, and catching took a while to get going, but then began on board. This coming Sunday is available for a drum charter because of a cancellation. Drum trips are booked for Saturday and Monday, Memorial Day. A charter will fish for sea bass Friday, opening day of sea bass season.

Delaware Bay’s surf fished pretty well for striped bass last week, said Nick from Hands Too Bait & Tackle. Fresh bunker dragged in some big, but some anglers dunked clams, giving a chance to hook a black drum, too. Occasional bluefish to 15 pounds jumped into the bay’s surf and into the surf at Cape May Point, at the confluence of the bay and ocean. Stripers were mixed in at the point with blues. Sometimes stripers and blues were banked from the ocean surf. Blues from there were reported from North Wildwood last Thursday. Weakfish hovered at Cape May Point, soft-plastic lures locking into them. The back bay fished well for sizable blues last week. Nick wasn’t asked whether that was for shore anglers as well as boaters. For boaters, Delaware Bay’s drum fishing seemed a little slow last week, “just getting after the moon,” he said. A drum tournament was set for last weekend, so anglers were quiet about the fishing. Boating for the bay’s stripers was a little slow last week, but picked a few in shallows close to shore and farther out at the Cock and Balls.

Last Week's Report
Port Elizabeth

Boaters cranked in black drum from Delaware Bay off Villas last week, until weather including wind and Saturday’s nor’easter kept many trips docked, said Sharon from The Girls Place Bait & Tackle. Forecasts continued to call for rough weather Sunday, and wind even blew 30 or 40 m.p.h. Monday. But wind and weather were supposed to calm afterward through the rest of the week. Striped bass including good-sized were beached from the bay’s surf at Fortescue and were boated from the bay toward Riggins Ditch and Maurice River. Sizable stripers were also hung from the river, including far upstream, where a freshwater fishing license is required. Catches of large striped bass seemed to improve on the ocean farther north, like toward Barnegat Inlet. Bluefishing had already been good in back waters in that area, including in Barnegat Bay, and that’s the way spring fishing usually unfolds. Blues show up, and then large stripers do. The stripers are mature fish that spawned in rivers and bays and now migrated to the ocean to trek north to cooler waters for summer. That’s what stripers like those banked at Fortescue were probably doing. Blues also continued to swarm South Jersey’s bays and surf. Recreational crabbing’s been fairly good. Weather even kept commercial crabbers from sailing. Fresh bait for fishing becomes scarce during rough weather that keeps boats from sailing for the bait. A couple of bushels of fresh bunker were stocked Sunday, but the wind kept bunker boats from running Monday. Clam boats hadn’t sailed for a moment but would probably resume Tuesday. Delaware Bay’s boaters hoped to get back after drum. The Girls Place, located on Route 47, just after Route 55 ends, carries a large supply of bait and tackle, and is the long, one-story, yellow building on the right. It’s on the way to the bay.


Crabbing will become available this weekend at Beaver Dam Boat Rentals, Paul said. Then it’ll be available Saturdays and Sundays, and also on Memorial Day, until becoming available daily on June 24. Paul saw crabs hanging on pilings, and that seemed a good sign. Crabbing might be good this year, because of the mild winter. Severely cold winters can kill large numbers of crabs, slowing crabbing the rest of the year. Commercial crabbers clobbered catches. A few crab shells were seen, but not much crab shedding seemed to happen yet this year, because nighttime was chilly. Crabs shed to grow. Customers crab and fish on rental boats towed up Oranokin Creek, running past the shop. Fishing can tie into catches including white perch, small striped bass, croakers and more at different times of season on the creek. Currently, small white perch seemed to swim the water. Rental canoes and kayaks will also be available to paddle the scenic creek. Beaver Dam stocks everything needed for crabbing, from bait, traps and nets to drinks, snacks and suntan lotion. Events like birthday parties and family reunions can be hosted. So can groups like scouts, including for an educational day about the environment. Visit Beaver Dam’s website.


The Salt Talk was moved back to Fortescue, Gail said. The boat had been docked on Cohansey River to bunker-chunk for striped bass on lower Delaware River or upper Delaware Bay. Charters aboard will now fish for black drum on the bay. The boat will sail from Fortescue for that and for the rest of the fishing season. No trips fished in the wind and rough weather recently. News was scarce. The striper fishing on Delaware River and the upper bay happens each spring. Large stripers pass through on the way to spawn farther upstream and on the way back. Most spawning seemed finished now. Then the bass swim through the bay to the ocean to migrate north for summer. Capt. Howard, Gail’s husband, runs the Salt Talk. The Salt Talk used to be a party boat at Fortescue. Howard sold that vessel, and the new Salk Talk is a charter boat for up to four passengers. Large stripers were getting heaved from Fortescue’s shore when Howard gave the report from the boat last week. Gail was unsure whether the fish still were, and had been away for Mothers’ Day.

Cape May

Capt. George from the Heavy Hitter fished for black drum on Delaware Bay on Sunday with a friend on the friend’s boat, and a couple of the fish including one bigger, a 55-pounder, were reeled in, George said. Just a few boats fished the area, apparently because that was Mothers’ Day. The fishing seemed a slow pick that day and was decent early last week, until rough weather began later in the week, culminating in the nor’easter Saturday. Forecasts were rough for Sunday, but the bay was flat as a lake until 5:30 p.m., when wind and seas picked up, and dark clouds began to roll in. The trip sailed for the fishing at 11 a.m. Heavy Hitter will charter for drum soon.

Nick from Hands Too Bait & Tackle plugged a 43-inch 26-pound striped bass from the surf Wednesday evening on a swimming lure, he said. Occasional stripers were mixed with bluefish in the surf. Most of the stripers came from Delaware Bay’s shore, but sometimes one came from the ocean’s. Fish fresh bunker, fresh clams or swimmers for the bass. Blues schooled practically everywhere. Most were concentrated along Delaware Bay’s jetties this past week, but they also ran the ocean surf and the back bay then. For the blues, fish bunker, bucktails or swimmers. The bay off Coxhall Creek was loaded with boats fishing for black drum last week. Most of the boats decked three to nine of the fish, weighing 30 to 70 pounds. Nothing was heard about stripers boated on the bay, but most boats fished for drum. No weakfish were checked-in, but a few were heard about from along jetties in North Wildwood and locally on bloodworms under a float or on bucktails.