Ocean City party boats are reeling in plenty of black sea bass.
After a one- to two-hour ride to an offshore wreck, the captain carefully positions the party boat over the wreck so all the anglers can fish over it. The fish are attracted to these wrecks because there are so many places in them to hide and food is plentiful.
When the captain shouts, "Put 'em down folks," everyone drops their 6- to 8-ounce sinker and No. 1/0 wide-gap hooks to the bottom and waits for the first bite. It is usually only seconds before anglers begin to catch sea bass averaging 1 to 3 pounds. Occasionally an angler brings a 4- to 5-pounder to the surface.
As the first bunch of fish are usually the larger ones, anglers quickly rebait with chunks of squid or clam. Smaller fish can be released by pricking their expanded swim bladders with the sharp tip of a fish hook. (When a fish is brought up quickly from deep water the bladder fills with air and sticks out of the fish's mouth.)
The ride home is filled with pleasant banter. The mates wash the decks, the pool winner collects his money, and the tip jar is passed for the mate. On a typical sea bass trip in May, most anglers are satisfied with a catch of 20 or more sea bass.
Fish cleaners are available to clean your catch at most marinas. After a long day of fishing, this is a luxury well worth the money. Sea bass can be dressed whole or filleted. As the bass have
large rib bones and quite a big head, it takes a hefty sea bass to produce a thick fillet. Most anglers choose to dress the medium-sized bass whole.
Ocean City anglers are happy to finally see some catches of flounder from the U.S. 50 Bridge. Most bridge fishermen use frozen shiners for bait.
Anglers in boats are still catching plenty of flounder in the Thorofare area, but more than half are too small to keep. The bay party boat Tortuga, out of Bahia Marina on 22nd Street, caught 90 flounder May 2 but was only able to keep six or seven. Last Sunday, the boat caught 40, but was only able to keep a couple. Though there may not be many fillets for dinner, at least there is plenty of action.
We did see a couple of flounder in the 3-pound range, proving there are some big ones out there. Myron Wells of Baltimore weighed in a 3-pound, 6-ounce flounder. The bait used was live minnows. Jay Reams of Ocean City has been catching one to five keeper flounder every day in the Thorofare area. He believes his success is due to using a bucktailed hook baited with a large, live minnow and a strip of squid.
Bluefish action on the Ocean City Inlet was intense last week. Anglers casting 1 ounce bucktail jigs with plastic worms were catching fish in the 2- to 4-pound range on the incoming tide. Unfortunately the action slowed during the Springfest weekend.
Mid-week the bluefish slammed the U.S. 50 Bridge. Anglers fishing for flounder were surprised when their rods bent double with 2- to 5-pound hungry blues. Many anglers took off the bait and started throwing lures. When blues hit, they do not always stay long. Sometimes they are gone in 45 minutes. When you see them coming, start casting.
Anglers fishing the Ocean City Inlet are picking up some tautog on sand fleas, according to the owners of Delmarva Sport Center on the west side of the U.S. 50 Bridge.
pTC Surf fishing has only been fair. It's not that the fish were not there, but the wind has made it hard to hold bottom. Anglers reported a blue here and there, some skates and flow fish. Occasionally an angler was lucky enough to get into a whole school of blues. Jim Walters of Fenwick Island was fishing the surf recently when the blues blitzed the beach. He landed 10 fish in 45 minutes, proving you "just got to be there."
Another lone angler fishing late last Sunday afternoon in Fenwick Island caught two huge blues. One was estimated at 15 pounds; the other fish was thought to be about 10 pounds. He was using shad for bait. The vacationer walking the beach who observed the scene said there was not another fisherman in sight.
Indian River Inlet saw some good-size sea trout recently. Walt Davis who works at Old Inlet Bait and Tackle in Indian River weighed in four trout up to 6 pounds. He was fishing at sunset with bucktails. The trout have been running deep, below the breaking bluefish.
Dave Blazer of the state Department of Natural Resources in Annapolis said the Trophy Rockfish Season, open for the month of May, is seeing a good number of rockfish in the 40- to 50-pound range in the Chesapeake Bay. The season is open to the Atlantic Ocean and up to three miles offshore. This means that an angler who obtains a tag and permit may fish for the stripers from the surf or out of their boat as long as they are fishing the ocean. The fish cannot be taken from the bay or inlet areas.