Story by Tom Pagliaroli

Ah, the sweet sounds of a salty springtime!

What a difference a week makes. While stripers and tog have been getting the overwhelming majority of the saltwater angler attention, the black drum have been rolling with a building bang that will reach a kettle booming crescendo during the upcoming weeks. Great Bay is on fire and the clam crush in underway in Delaware Bay.

Photo: G. Adair

And then, today (Thursday) the first bluefish were being caught from Cape May up through Sea Isle City and are sure to be along the Long Beach Island surf by the weekend, and points north by the middle of next week.

Oh, yeah: big weakfish (tiderunners) are being caught after dark in the ICW from North Wildwood up through Ocean City, and no doubt will be showing in Barnegat Bay by next weekend if a few haven’t sneaked in already.

The Great Bay drum activity is especially intriguing. No need for a boat: simply soak a wad of fresh clam from the squishy banks along Ohio or Iowa, and chances are good-to-excellent that a boomer will find it and suck it in. While the majority are currently at the 15-lb. to 30-lb. “puppy” sizes, bigger ones will be barreling in shortly. Drum to 50-plus pounds can be expected, and it’s basically big game fishing from land.

In Delaware Bay, the fish are much larger, with drum in the 75-90 pound class not uncommon, and many are hooked well within sight of land. However, 99% of the action is from a boat, unlike in Great Bay or lower Barnegat Bay around Beach Haven.

Photo: C. Koshland

However, it’s the expected, but still surprising, arrival of the hordes of hungry bluefish that is the sudden matter of the chatter at bait and tackle shops. These aren’t tailor or cocktail sizes, either: they are ranging from 5 to 10 pounds and are pulverizing plugs, bucktails and plastics. It’s hoped that the rampage of  “slammer”, gator” and “gorilla” blues  (12 to 20 pounds) that was absent last spring but blew anglers’ minds three previous spring seasons in a row, will once again occur. It was utter jaw snapping/rod bending shock and awe from mid-April into the first week of June, and fingers are crossed for a repeat after a season’s respite.