I can picture it just like it was yesterday. Midnight came and went and I was still standing atop the Channel 2 Bridge in the Florida Keys. The current was slowly running east as the new tide was just starting to pick up. Below me was a large pod of tarpon, and I was watching them move in and out of the dark shadows between the footbridge I was standing on and the traffic bridge to the east.
I had been fishing for a few hours and had spent a fair amount of time targeting this pod of fish with no hookups so far. My bait of choice was a nice large, freshly-dead shrimp drifted with as little weight as possible. I knew the fish were seeing my bait as a few of them had shown interest in it, but still would not take.
As the tide began to pick up, I knew that I had to try something different otherwise the skunk is all I would catch on this night. I pulled a spool of 40-pound fluorocarbon out of my bag and replaced the 80-pound leader I had been using with one much lighter. On my next cast, I watched as my bait drifted slowly back towards one of the large shadows lurking beneath the bridge. Sure enough I felt a solid “thunk” on the end of my line. Instantly, I set the hook, and the fish rocketed airborne. I was hooked up to a giant tarpon, and the only thing I need to change was my line.
As a tackle shop owner, I am faced with many critical angling questions every day. One of the most important has to do with fishing line. Think about it. Your fishing line is what connects you to the lure or bait that you are fishing, and it is also what connects you to the fish after it bites. Good fishing line is the life blood of successful anglers.
The problem is that there are so many different types and styles of lines. Sometimes picking the right one can become quite confusing. Walk into any tackle shop along the coast and what do you see? A wall full of monofilament, fluorocarbon, and superbraid. “Which one should I use?” The answer is not simple, as the proper line can vary for the every spot you fish and every technique you use.
Still, I’ve spent quite a few years fishing in and around Ocean City, and fortunately I’ve been able to see what works best for other anglers and at the same time figure out what works best for me. So tune in to next week’s article, and I will do what I can to point you in the right direction for selecting the best fishing lines for angling around Ocean City.
But for now, let’s take a look at some of the reports that have come in from around town this past week.
Sue at “Oyster Bay” reports, “Fishing this week was good on flounder though there’s a lot of "shorts" out there. Surf fishing has been mostly small stuff like spot, kingfish, and croaker. Good action for kids with Fishbites or bloodworms. Sharks and big rays for pullage. Route 50 Bridge has had a good bite of bluefish at night and early morning. Sea bass are biting offshore, with catches more flounder. Oceanic Pier has had croaker action with lots of shad at night. Crabbing is still happening. Offshore, still good tuna fishing. We’re still getting reports of Norfolk spot in the surf along with catches of kingfish, sand perch, croaker and a rare snapper blue. Anglers are using bloodworms, Fishbite Bloodworms, and little pieces of squid or fresh bunker for these panfish. Lots of big rays and smaller skates whether you want them or not. Sharks are around with the larger ones biting at night. (Sandbar, sand tigers, and duskies are the sharks that anglers are catching and releasing.)”
Captain Jeffrey Grimes of "Helbent Charters" reports, "Mother nature chased us off the water early several times this week but without a lot of rain till late Friday the flounder bite continued to be very good. The folks at Oyster Bay told me they have heard of a good Flounder bite in the East Channel so we started out there and we caught fish on each of our first several drifts. After a while I was not real happy with the water clarity so we moved out to the Commercial Harbor and drifted the end of the incoming tide and we caught fish there on our first several passes. Finally, we moved out into the Inlet right before slack tide and we caught several bigger fish there as well. I kept changing up the baits we were offering and we found different baits worked better at the different locations. In the East Channel frozen shiners and squid strips worked the best. Out by the Commercial Harbor Gulp 3" White Minnow worked the best and in the inlet live minnows worked the best. So what did I learn this week? First, check with your local tackle shop and ask them where the bite is. Second, change up the baits you are using throughout the day.”
Oceanic Pier is now open (no fishing license required when fishing on this pier) and anglers are catching lots of flounder but keepers are hard to come by. Friday the pier had three or four keepers but most days anglers are catching one or two keepers. Croaker have also hit the pier more consistently this week. Anglers are catching them by day and also at night. There’s been live spot and little sea bass for the kids to catch. Some tautog have been caught at the very end and left hand corner of the pier. At night the shad run was surprising good this week. A few blues and croaker are biting at night. Anglers catch blues and shad on spec rigs.”
“Old Inlet” reports, "Plenty of spot on the surf. Good tuna bite in the Poormans. Joe VanSant released a 500-pound-plus blue marlin as well. Heard several reports of good flounder fishing in the bay as well as plenty of small blues. Best striper fishing is at night with all of the heat and boat traffic during the day. Live eels and lures on the incoming tide and floating fleas on the outgoing."
“Bill Sports Center” in Lewes, reports, "Kingfish and croaker were reported from the surf. Flounder are biting on Spec Rigs and Gulp! Yellowfin are biting in the Canyons."
“Lewes Harbour Marina” reports, "Flounder catches have been pretty good for guys who know how to work rough bottom structure. The rocks and sea trees of the Old Grounds between DB and DA Buoys, as well as the rubble of reef sites 9 and 10 have been holding fluke, and savvy fishermen have found that modifications to standard rigging helps them catch more flatties amongst that kind of cover. According to Captain Ricky Yakimowicz, short leaders are the key. He said a 3- to 4-ounce bucktail with a hair teaser on a 4-inch leader about a foot ahead of the jig works well. He mentioned that flukers also had success employing a rig with a sinker as heavy as necessary to maintain contact with the bottom, and a hair teaser hook on a short dropper about 6 to 8 inches above the weight.”
Capt. Monty on the “Morning Star“ is now fishing for sea bass daily. Call for reservations. 410-520-2076. Here’s a summary of his report, “Catches from not-so-much to very fine indeed. Sunday I even had one fellow with more than 20 keeper sea bass. Our special 12-hour trip Saturday started with a couple beautiful seabass and a lost-at-boatside keeper cod — then the day fell in a heap for about four hours. Despite a light rail, I had decided to fish way-out and deep. The current, easy the previous day, was full bore, 16 ounces held bottom only briefly in the strong tidal flow. Amazingly, with almost 20 knots of wind the boat laid to the current on anchor: Typically, I’d not even factor current with that much wind. Mate Mike summed up one part of the boat thusly, ‘They only had one tangle, but it lasted four hours.’ So we picked along, doing our best with a poor situation. I knew the tide would change. Ripping still, the current finally rolled halfway around the compass. South and settled, velocity lessened. The fish came out of hiding — hungry. On the way home, we had a screaming run of large tuna. Three hundred yards of 80 pound line later, Mr. Murphy laughed as the tuna flipped us a fin and went back to life as a super predator. One of these days. Another fish, summer flounder, answered to twitch-twitch on Sunday. Caught a few up to 4 1/2 pounds on gulps and cut bait with the biggest on clam. Game-on any day.”
Captain Victor Bunting on the Ocean Princess reports that he has still been picking up a mix of both keeper and throw back sea bass over the last week. “We are seeing a few more nice flounder coming in and have probably landed a good number of keepers in the last few days. The occasional triggerfish is still making an appearance, but still not as frequently as I would like. I would expect to see a few more of these fish over the next week. All in all we have had more good days of fishing than bad. Make sure you call 410-289-6226 for a reservation if you would like to go fishing.”
The “Restless Lady” reports, “Captain Todd and Brandon started out with a very rough ride this morning with a young crew. After feeling bad, the young crew with our friend Matt Defeo of Severna Park pulled through and had a nice catch even though it was rough with 5-6 footers. We were a little north of the Hotdog with a nice catch of yellowfins and three Mahi gaffers. Another charter from July 11, a stop in 40 fathoms had a bite which then suddenly had a 200-pound mako on the end of tuna gear meanwhile the tunas were everywhere five miles away in the Washington. We got there and had nine nice ones … still great fishing for all.”
At “Skip’s Bait & Tackle Shop” this week, we had some nice weigh-ins. My long-time friend and great fisherman Jack Koslosky came by twice with nice catches. The first time Jack had a 35-inch bluefish that weighed 10 pounds, 9 ounces. The monster blue hit a live spot in the O.C. Inlet. Jack also had two nice flounder that day — 19 ½-incher and 18 ½-incher, both caught in the east channel. The very next day Jack showed up again at the tackle shop with his neighbor Gary Redcay, Gary is also one of O.C.’s top anglers. They limited out on flounder with six nice flatties, 18 inches to 22 inches, all caught north of the bridge on live minnows.
I also had some great charters this past week for striped bass, or rock fish as we call them here in O.C. It’s hard to believe that we are catching keeper rock and lots of throw backs in mid-July. This is the latest I’ve ever caught this many stripers, which proves we now have resident fish staying in the O.C. waters all summer. It also proves that proper management of a species can bring them back from being almost wiped out from being over fished.
All four of our charter boats here at Skip’s Charter & Guide service are having awesome fishing, with some of the best fishing we’ve seen in years. Inshore and offshore fishing is off the hook. Pick up that phone and give us a call and book that fishing trip. We still have openings but their filling up fast. We also have our bay boat running with family flounder trips, plus our fishing, clamming, and crabbing combo charter for just $450 for a half day of family fun. We provide all rods and tackle as well as all the bait, so pack some sunscreen and a few drinks and come on out for a memory-making day on the water.
When you step on the boat, you are stepping on a boat that has over 40 years of fishing and boating experience with some of Ocean City’s top captains working for Skip’s Charter and Guide Service this year. Give me a call at the tackle shop at 410-289-Fish (3474) or on my cell 410-430-5436 and let’s talk fishing.
At the tackle shop we are open 6 a.m.-9 p.m., seven days a week, with a great staff that will answer any questions you may have about fishing the Ocean City waters. If you have a report or pictures you would like in The Dispatch or on www.oceancityfishing.com, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
The summer weather is here, and the fishing is smoking hot. So get out there and fish! Who knows? Maybe I’ll be writing about you next week.
(Maguire is an outdoor writer and owner of Skip’s Bait and Tackle and Skip’s Charter and Guide Service in Ocean City.)