OC Princess deserves her noble fishing name


OCEAN CITY -- Gently, the arm of the weighing balance swung up and down, then eased to a stop. The side to which my couple-pound sea bass hung rested less than an inch higher, so the other fish won by about an ounce.

You can't win them all, though the $84 pool would have been nice. But, there were no other disappointments on my first

journey aboard Ocean City's newest and biggest headboat.

From her bow pulpit to the stern nearly 90 feet back -- with a 21-foot beam midway -- the OC Princess brings a new concept in headboat fishing to Ocean City. Not only is she the biggest and the fastest -- we cruised to our first wreck at 23 knots -- she also boasts the most amenities.

And, she also catches many fish, thanks to her skipper, 30-year-old Monty Hawkins and an efficient lend-a-hand crew headed by Mike Markewicz. A good part of her catch is due to her speed; she can reach wrecks farther offshore and fish them longer thanks to less cruising time.

Our first target was a wreck 39 miles offshore -- and well within two hours after our departure sea bass were coming aboard. The first fish of a bit over a pound was on the hook of Cathy Creel of Alexandria, Va., on her seventh trip aboard the OC Princess.

Though men predominated among the 67 anglers aboard, she might well have been the best along the rail, which incidentally has built-in rod holders. Many times she cranked in two at a time, and the ice chest fed by her and her mother Rita Fox of Ocean City was to be nearly filled when we returned to the docks of Ocean City Fishing Center at 2:30 p.m.

Consistently catching nice sea bass at the stern was Baltimorean Mike Grimmel, who also made several previous trips on the Princess, and inside while all of this was going on Rita Shrewsbury of Dover enjoyed air conditioning, a hot cheeseburger.

Had she wished, she could have played a VCR. Such are the luxuries of this new vessel, which is also pioneering in such sidelines as 24-hour trips for tuna, nighttime bluefish chumming, and 12-hour shark trips. Two or three times a day the Princess sails -- and when she runs 24-hour junkets the Judy V also docked at OC Fishing Center services regular headboaters.

It costs about $5 more ($30) for a regular day aboard this low profile boat of wood custom-built in Florida, but fishing center manager Charles Nichols said that not infrequently she is sold out before her scheduled 7 a.m. departure for wreck fishing.

"We get a lot of families -- fathers who fish and wives and kids who only want to fish a little bit," said Nichols. "They come to see what it's like to be on the ocean out of sight of land."

Donna Young of Baltimore was one such passenger. She spent most of her time in the large salon napping, munching on food and reading a paperback at a comfortable padded booth near the galley though she admitted a queasy stomach on the way out might have made her a bit more lethargic than usual. Meanwhile, her husband Howard caught 23 sea bass to be cooked at their vacation rental cottage in West Ocean City.

After two hours fishing, nearly everyone had a dozen or more bass and some others had big blues (I got a 9-pounder). Then Hawkins decided to try another wreck -- and what a menu there is in waters off here. There are sunken gunboats, steamers, airplanes, fishing vessels, tugs, barges, tankers, freighters, submarines and even destroyers like the USS Jacob Jones.

Some went down in storms, others failed to make port and were found years later, and still others were stung by German subs in World Wars I and 11. Some are huge like the 605-foot Marine Electric, others are barely big enough to hold fishable populations of bass, and they have names like Indian Arrow, Jackspot and USS Cherokee.

We picked up more bass at two more wrecks, then steamed to the docks where fish cleaning is available at a reasonable fee, and free parking is more than adequate and convenient. Rod and reel rentals are available. For furthur information, call 1-301-289-8121.

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