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May 2024 Fishing Report

We finally seem to have a solid warm trend that will stay with us, and the water is really coming to life.  We’re losing much of that cold water clarity, but the baitfish are rolling in, and the fish are hungry!

I usually start with redfish, but the big story has been the annual spring push of large bluefish in the surf and our oceanside inlets. This year, they've shown some of the size the older guys were accustomed to, adding an extra thrill to the fishing experience.  Live bait, cut bait, spoons, soft plastics, and flies have all been effective, but we are talking about bluefish, so consider the cost when you’re rigging up for these fish.  Tying simple baitfish flies on a long shank hook or just recognizing that crease fly pattern will never look the same are good choices for fly anglers. The smaller blues aren’t particularly picky, but the large ones seem to be a bit more aware and leader-shy, so heavier mono as a bite tippet might be preferable to wire leader if those are the fish you’re seeking out.  Gray- and Speckled Trout are active in Rudee, as well, and puppy drum seem to be present 12 months out of the year, with the late spring and fall offering the most opportunity for larger fish.  All of this has led to a situation where Rudee is a combat fishing situation.  While the number of targets has been good, if you’re looking for serenity, seek other options.  The big blues can also be found at the CBBT and, later this month, should be available in the surf on the Eastern Shore. 

The shallow bull redfish run may have come to an unceremonious close, but the schools swimming in deepwater areas are just heating up.  Bluefish Rock, the islands of the CBBT, and some of the shoals on the southern end of the Shore are holding big red drum.  While the winds have kept my skiff out of playing in the ocean, I would assume that some of the areas that hold schools of bulls out there are starting to get frequent visitors, as well. These are big, strong fish, so XH spinning rods paired with 5500 or 6500 series reels, or 10-12 weight fly rods are the ticket.  Your electronics can help determine where in the water column to pursue them, but jigs should be large and fished accordingly.  One-and-a-half or two-ounce jigs with a trailer are not uncommon when going after the large reds we have locally.

The pups and over-slot insiders most of us encounter have primarily broken out of schools and are marauding as singles or in small groups.  They aren’t glued to the mud as they have been and are more likely to be found by sandy entrances to creeks and coves. Being strategic about your fishing spots can greatly increase your chances of success.  These fish are traveling in search of food, and most decent presentations are going to get a response.  Crab imitations are still working quite well, but our backwater fishery lives and breathes on baitfish.  As the spring and summer march our water temperatures upwards, the use of paddle tails (bonus if it’s on a blade), spoons, EP Minnows, and Clouser deep minnows should become your primary lures for these fish.  Based on the temperature trajectory and the number of fiddlers already active, the late May full moon may even offer some tailing fish on the flood tide. It will certainly increase activity on our local flats during the afternoon incoming. Being at the right place at the right time can make all the difference in your fishing success.

For the first time this year, I’m going to mention flounder.  That bite seemed to hold off a bit with the bouts of cold weather in April, but it will really turn on this month, and the Eastern Shore, the CBBT, and our lower bay inlets should offer great flatty action.  If you know what you’re doing, keep an eye out for that action.  If you don’t… add a Gulp! lure to a bucktail and fish the bottom slowly with twitches.  It’ll happen.

The black drum are in the surf on the shore. If you want one of the big ones, ask the local bait shop how to rig a clam sandwich. While it’s difficult to get them to eat there, they are patrolling the seaside flats, too. 

Speckled trout are abundant and active but will become much tougher to find if you miss the spring movements.  The reports out of the Elizabeth aren’t coming nearly as thick as they do in the fall, but if your favorite fishing area has marsh areas, beating the grass lines with lures early in the morning and below creeks on outgoing tides is a great way to target them.  Your fall go-to lures will work, but don’t overlook topwater. A popping cork with a shrimp or smaller baitfish pattern below is usually successful.

And finally, once the larger schools of bluefish start getting into the Bay later in May, keep an eye out for the Spanish mackerel.  While some of the offshore folks may troll for them and use them for bait, they are fantastic fun.  Hopefully, this season will be better than the last, and we can resume some of the great fun it is to chase these fish down as they’re busting on the surface.  Clark spoons are great to troll on your way out to find them, but they can also be cast at these fish, and shiny gotcha plugs work well, too.  Fly anglers will want to use a small baitfish pattern with a lot of flash.  The Kreelex fly is a great option, but much like those blues, don’t expect the fly or leader to last long if you’re unprepared for toothy fish.

Wear sunscreen. Fish hard. Catch ‘em up (and if you don’t need to harvest, let ‘em go.) Remember, responsible fishing and environmental conservation are crucial for the sustainability of our fishing spots and the preservation of our beloved fish species.       

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