Anglers searching for fish last week were just as anxiously seeking a cool breeze. Hot, muggy weather, with temperatures climbing close to 100 degrees, kept many anglers off the water during the day.
Toward evening, anglers looked for relief on the beaches of Ocean City. After the lifeguards go off duty at 5:30 p.m., anglers are allowed to surf-cast off the beaches, and they showed up by the hundreds, standing waist deep in the surf, trying to keep cool and maybe catch a fish.
The weekend fare was not what serious surf fishermen dream about, but vacationers seeking a "cool" sport for a few hours were happy to see some surf fishing action. The biggest news was the influx of Norfolk spot. The hard-fighting panfish does not get much bigger than three-quarters of a pound -- but when they run, they run in schools. Anglers using pieces of bloodworms and small No. 6 hooks were bringing them in two at a time. These fish are just beyond the breakers, so anglers without surf rods can easily catch them. Even children with fresh water rods can catch a fish.
Mixed in with the Norfolk spot were a few whiting, which also take bloodworms, and an occasional spike sea trout. Anglers using mullet and slightly larger hooks tried their luck at catching some snapper bluefish with uneven results. Some were lucky, but some weren't.
There's nothing that excites children more than the prospect of catching sand sharks in the surf. Give a kid a pack of squid and some medium-sized hooks and they can entertain themselves for hours. As the sun goes down, the small sand sharks come close to the beach, but parents shouldn't worry: These sharks do not have teeth.
David Townsend from the Ocean Pier said there have been many fishermen on the pier at night trying to "beat the heat." Besides the usual fare of large spot (just beyond the breakers) and a few kingfish, pier anglers were surprised to catch a number of speckled trout. These fish were 15 to 18 inches long and were hitting bloodworms, squid or chartreuse twister lures.
Many anglers ventured out into the ocean this week, seeking a slightly cooler temperature than the bay. Small boats and some of Ocean City's party boats had luck with sea trout and some decent sized flounder from the artificial reef offshore of 28th Street. Squid is the preferred bait on this tire reef.
The heat has been tough on the fishermen, but it has not affected the flounder fishing in the bay. Anglers are still catching them, although the fish do seem to be moving into the deeper holes in the bay.
The deeper holes just north of the Thorofare and the channel in front of the Convention Hall have produced consistent catches. Some boats had as many as eight keeper flounder, over the size limit of 13 inches. Ben Weber of Baltimore weighed in one of the largest this week. His big flounder weighed in at 5 pounds at the Ocean City Yacht Club and was caught on a minnow and squid strip sandwich in the Thorofare.
An unusual catch this week was a 14 1/2 -pound sheepshead taken from the north jetty by Jack Bouder of Lancaster, Pa. He was bottom fishing with a sand flea when the huge fish grabbed his line.
Offshore fishing was mixed last weekend. Some boats searched the Washington and Baltimore canyons and came up with empty coolers. There was grumbling about the pockets of hot water (up to 83 degrees offshore), too much boat traffic on the Hot Dog, and the heat, which kept the fish "deep" and scattered.
On the other hand, some boats were lucky, and most of the winners were women. Kim Ford of Howard, Pa., fishing aboard the Fluid Power, a charter boat out of 14th Street, fought a 239-pound big eye tuna for three hours and 40 minutes. The captain, Jack Falcucci, said she was exhausted, that her arms were black and blue, but she would not give up the rod until the fish was in the boat.
In tournament news, the Canyon Kick-off Tournament sponsored the Ocean City Marlin Club was won by Debbie Killian of Salisbury. She was fishing aboard her husband's boat the Whopper with Capt. Jay Champlin when she hooked the only billfish taken in the tournament. She won $3,120 for the blue marlin, which she released.
The Grand Slam charter boat out of Bahia Marina had a fantastic week offshore. Last Saturday, Capt. Butch Davis had Sharon and Ian Moffett of Herndon, Va., aboard. Mrs. Moffett caught and released a blue marlin and a white marlin, and her husband landed a 129-pound bluefin tuna. A friend on board, Mike Calder of Reston, Va., landed a 162-pound bluefin tuna.
The boat was slow trolling ballyhoo on the Hambone, which is just above the Hot Dog lumps. They were cruising the 30-fathom break.
Most of the offshore action last week was in the 20- to 40-fathom lines. The canyon fishing did slack off. This is good news for smaller boats that do not want to venture out so far.
With the big bluefin tuna cruising so close inshore, few anglers are getting excited about the other fish -- Spanish mackerel and king mackerel -- that are breaking water at the Third Lump and the Jackspot.
A large bluefish, taken trolling, is a scarce commodity these days. The heat has moved them farther north, so some of the party boats have stopped their evening charters. They'll be back in the fall however.