Thinking about flying to Cabo? Planning a fishing trip to Washington state’s San Juan Islands? You first might want to check out the Delaware coast. All things considered, surf fishing here might just be better than anywhere else in the Americas. Such a claim is, of course, subjective. It depends partly on the kind of fishing one prefers. But considering such factors as angling options, fishing infrastructure and availability of a great variety of fish, Delaware’s coast is hard to beat. 

Why do people surf fish? One practical reason is that there is no need to own or borrow a boat to catch fish. This saves money and time, particularly with regard to boat maintenance and travel. Also, some anglers do not like to fish from a boat, preferring instead to keep their feet on relatively solid ground. 

Other anglers choose to fish from shore because they believe better opportunities are to be found there for enjoying the surrounding sights and sounds of the surf, while many nature lovers feel it represents a more peaceful fishing environment. Still others are attracted to the challenge presented by conditions that seem to give every advantage to the prey rather than to the angler. 

The nutrient-rich currents that move along the Atlantic Coast sustain a wealth of fish that populate within easy casting distance of the beach. In Delaware, the most common is the bluefish, although striped bass (rockfish) are, perhaps, the most sought-after prize by surf anglers. Other species include cod, dogfish, skate, kingfish, croaker, sea trout and summer flounder. With a basic understanding of the seasons, shore conditions, equipment and regulations, an angler can get lucky most any time.

Two other nice things about surf fishing in Delaware are access and convenience. Delaware beaches in particular tend to be managed by government agency, which allows greater public access to them. At the same time, piers, beaches, motels, grocery stores, restaurants and tackle shops lie in convenient profusion all along the Delaware coast, with services offered at a range of prices that allow anglers of all budgets an equal shot at the fun.

Tackle selection for surf fishing involves personal choice and fishing objectives. On any given Delaware beach, you may find light, medium and heavy tackle. In some instances, surf conditions will determine what kind of tackle to select. The distances needed to cast bait to productive fishing areas will also influence the type of tackle chosen. Anglers casting long distances using heavy bait generally employ long fishing rods, such as a 13-footer. However, an 8- to 10-foot rod is oftentimes fine because you do not need to cast very far to be in on the action. 

The most common rig is a two-hook arrangement with floats to keep bait just off the bottom. This keeps crabs from eating it. On calm days, with little wind, a 3 oz. weight should be plenty. Baits include bloodworms, squid strips, pieces of shrimp and one of the processed bait products that need not be kept cold.

A handy item to bring along when surf fishing is a large container for carrying gear. The container can hold several 
bottom rigs, a bucket with ice and bait, a bait knife and pliers, as well as sunscreen, a snack and fresh water. Add a sand spike with a rod and reel, and you’re ready to hit the beach with everything you need carried in two hands. The sand spike is especially handy when changing bait, giving an angler free hands to work with pointed fishing hooks. 

The best angling on the Delaware coast is, oftentimes, from a jetty. A surf rod with a saltwater jig cast from a jetty can be used to catch a variety of fish. Start fishing a slack tide half an hour before the incoming tide. Do be careful when surf fishing while standing on coastal sand. Sneaker waves can quickly wash your rump into the Atlantic Ocean. Never, ever turn your back on the water, and always fish with a friend or around others who are close by.

If there is a number-one technical tip for surf fishing, it would have to be this: Don’t cast over the fish. Many anglers throw their bait out as far as they can and, by doing so, completely miss the fish. Fact: many fish feed right behind breaking waves; this is where baitfish congregate. It makes sense to place your bait where baitfish are.

Broadkill Beach, Primehook Beach (also known as Short’s Beach), Fowler Beach and Slaughter Beach are accessible by crossing the Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge on side roads dropping down from County Highway 1. All of them, as is Beach Plum Island (farther south along Delaware Bay, toward the Roosevelt Inlet above Lewes) are excellent places to practice your surf fishing skills.

Lewes‚ located at the mouth of Delaware Bay gives anglers a variety of fishing options from which to choose, including surf fishing. Cape Henlopen State Park, where the bay meets the ocean, is ideal for surf fishing, as is Roosevelt Inlet at the end of Cedar Street. The beach at Cape Henlopen is open year-round. Anglers may drive onto the beach for surf fishing purposes after obtaining a permit from park authorities. 

The Delaware Seashore State Park includes six miles of ocean and bay shoreline, which borders the Atlantic Ocean to the east and Indian River Inlet and Rehoboth Bay to the west. Designated surf fishing areas are open 24 hours a day. There are several access surf-fishing spots in the state park. Fenwick Island, meanwhile, is the most southerly township in the state. It has wide, expansive ocean beaches that are ideal for surf fishing. 

The best way to decide where to fish is to scout a likely area of beach at low tide. Look for topography such as a sandbar or jetty, because the surrounding water currents often hold baitfish. Sandbars can sometimes be fished from the beach; therefore, study how the tide brings water across the bar. If the sandbar is parallel to the shoreline, water will come around either end, creating a cut. Currents will carry baitfish through a cut with the tide. Big fish lie in wait around those cuts. Tide and time of day are also factors that come into play. The way both mesh together is important, but I like to start surf casting just before the sun breaks the horizon. More than once, my first cast into an inky combination of sky and ocean has resulted in a successful fishing venture. 

The best thing of all about surf fishing, though, is that as long as you take time to smell the proverbial roses, by really taking in your ethereal commune with Mother Nature, you are guaranteed to have a good time — despite the one that got away.

DID YOU KNOW?: In the summer of 1958, a group of like-minded fishermen gathered in the garage of Russell “Chocup” Hudson in order to discuss the formation of a new fishing club. These fishermen were a group of friends who liked getting together to camp, fish or just gather and shoot the bull. Along with them were members of the Massachusetts Beach Buggy Association, who were asked to attend to help organize a new club. On that day, the Delaware Beach Buggy Association, as it was then known, was founded. Its by-laws were taken from those of the Massachusetts Beach Buggy Association and remain in effect to this day.

Today, the organization is called the Delaware Mobile Surf-Fishermen, Inc. (commonly known as DMS), and it’s a family-oriented group of  men, woman and children who have a deep interest in surf fishing, preserving beach access, as well as conservation of the beaches, waters and the marine sport fisheries. DMS strives to provide its members and the public with information relating to beach-access issues, beach driving, marine sport fishing and waters. DMS participates in many activities to further the conservation of the beaches and the sport of surf fishing. It sponsors or supports beach clean-ups, beach-grass plantings, Adopt-a-Highway programs, the Delaware Special Olympics fishing event and its Annual Invitational Surf Fishing Tournament, to name a few. The group also meets regularly with Delaware’s Department of Natural Resources (DNREC) officials and also holds a seat on the Governor's Advisory Council on Recreational Fishing Funding.

To learn more or to become a member, visit

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