An Ocean City charter boat breaks through the inlet on its first offshore bluefishing trip. The fog lying over the eastern seaboard makes it seem more like a day in New England than a May day in Ocean City. But the anglers do not mind; their minds are on bluefish.
The captain nervously scans the bit of the horizon he can see, hoping the fish are out there.
Suddenly the fog lifts, and the sight is one of wonder. Just offshore of the Five Mile Buoy, as far as the eye can see, is a huge school of bluefish boiling on the surface. There is a black shadow of a school of dwindling bunkers beneath the blues. "Those blues are chowing down!" shouts the mate, as he quickly grabs the rods for the anglers.
Members of the party who want to try their hand at light tackle fishing are in for a treat. The mate quickly snaps spoons and feathers to wire leaders and attaches them with no extra weight to the spinning outfits lined with 12 pound test. (The usual gear is Penn 6/0 Senator reels spooled with 50 pound test on thick 30 to 50 pound class rods.)
"Drop 'em in the water!" shouts the captain as he circles the school of fish. Rods bend double as the anglers fight the powerful 3- to 12-pound bluefish.
"I can't get it in!" cries one angler as the drag screams and the line peels off the reel. Finally, after 20 minutes the fish is finally alongside the boat -- a huge blue, about 18 pounds.
"You want to keep 'em?" asks the mate, the gaff ready.
"No," replies the tired angler. "Let him go. I'll catch him again when he gets 20 pounds!"
Yes, shore boaters caught bluefish up to 18 pounds in areas quite close inshore -- the Fenwick Shoal, the Five Mile Buoy, the Southeast Grounds and the first and second lumps of the Bass Grounds. Though the blues were at the Jackspot Shoal, anglers did not have to travel that far.
The surf from Assateague to Cape Henelopen also came alive with bluefish this past week. Blues running 2 to 12 pounds were reported in several areas. Anglers fishing the incoming tides with mullet for bait were having the best luck.
Herminio Sierra of Baltimore had a great day a week ago Saturday. He was fishing in front of the Fountainhead Condominium on 116th Street when he got into the fish. The blues he weighed in with were 3 1/2 , 9 1/2 and 11 3/4 pounds. Fred Kacher of Oakton, Va., also had luck fishing in front of the Fountainhead. He landed a 9-pound bluefish.
Nancy Brady of Temple Hills had good luck fishing James Street in Fenwick Island early last Sunday morning. She weighed in eight blues in the 3- to 8-pound range.
Ocean City party boats did fantastic this past week on large sea bass. One of the biggest sea bass was caught aboard the Mariner, located on Talbot Street. This huge 6 1/2 pound sea bass was caught by Tracy Stottlemeyer of Smithburg. The mate on the boat commented that the bass caught were some of the largest he had seen in a long time.
The captain of the Judith M., running out of Bahia Marina at 22nd Street, called the huge sea bass "monster bass." They had fish last Sunday up to 4 1/2 pounds.
Sea bass were not the only big fish caught on party boats. Thomas Senn of Capital Heights, fishing aboard the Miss Ocean City, out of 1st Street, landed a whopping 14 1/2 pound tautog. Victor Edmondson of Washington won the pool with a 12 3/4 -pound tautog caught aboard the O.C. Princess, out of Shantytown. Bill Brown, also of Washington, caught a double-header that same day. One weighed approximately 4 pounds and the other about 3 1/2 pounds. Mr. Brown also caught one of Ocean City's few cod fish that day.
Inshore flounder fishing has been quite good despite the chilly temperatures. (Fog sitting on the shore made the Ocean City area about 20 degrees cooler than the inland cities.) Anglers were catching the fish in the Thorofare area and by the U.S. 50 bridge. Rental boats reported catching as many as eight keeper flounder, along with numerous throw-backs. A couple flounder were caught from the city pier on 9th Street. The preferred bait was a live minnow with a thin strip of squid trailing beside it.
One lucky angler was Dave Bartlebugh of Pasadena. He was fishing the Thorofare area from a boat with the popular minnow and squid sandwich bait when he landed a 4-pound flounder.
Indian River Bay was also alive with flounder action. Chris Loeb of Ocean View, Del., limited out with six good-size flounder. (The new Delaware laws are six fish creel limit and a minimum size limit of 14 inches.)