Vacationers come to Ocean City expecting sunny beach weather, but sometimes are disappointed to encounter a day of cloudy weather or drizzle. Avid fishermen head for the U.S. 50 bridge or one of Ocean City's piers, but the novice with two or three children in tow may not be financially prepared for a day of fishing.
A good alternative is crabbing. Ocean City's waters are full of crabs this year. Even the lagoons and canals winding through the bay areas of north Ocean City are full of crabs. Not all of them are legal - over the size limit of 5 inches - but it's lots of fun to catch crabs, even if you simply throw them back. Young children are especially fascinated by the blue clawed creatures.
The joy of crabbing is that it's simple and relatively inexpensive to do. Simply tie a chicken neck to a piece of string, weighted down with a little sinker weight and toss it in the water. When the line begins to move, slowly bring in the line and dip the crab with a 5-foot crab net. Shake the crab into a cooler, bucket or old cardboard box if it's legal size. And the best part is that the necessary equipment can be purchased for under $10.
Last weekend's inclement weather saw hundreds of vacationers taking advantage of Ocean City crabbing. The pier behind the Recreational Center at 127th Street was teeming with folks with hand lines and crab traps, trying their luck between the raindrops. The pier behind the Convention Hall at 40th Street was also a popular haunt.
Other crabbing spots are the Ninth Street pier, the finger piers beneath the U.S. 50 bridge between Ocean City and Berlin. The pay piers - the Oceanic Pier and the Shantytown Pier - also welcome crabbers as well as fishermen.
Crabbing, similar to fishing, is more productive on the higher tides. The crabbers that tried their luck on the low tide were disappointed to find the crabs were small and the water beneath the public pier was shallow.
Surf fishing came alive last weekend with a flurry of Norfolk spot and a sprinkling of kingfish. Bloodworms on a small No. 6 hook were the ticket for these fish.
The northeast breeze gave anglers respite from the biting flies and brought the elusive bluefish back into the surf. The blues were not big, only up to about a pound in size, but anglers were happy to see them nonetheless.
Surf fishing on Assateague Island, which has been disappointingly slow, picked up this week with the Norfolk spot and kingfish, and anglers surf-fishing in the Delaware State Park also picked up more fish than usual.
The news on the flounder front is still good. Anglers in Ocean City were happy to see larger fish last week. Several of the fish tipped the scales, weighing over 6 pound. Ray Strasbaugh of York, Pa., weigh in a 6-pound, 10-ounce fluke at Bahia Marina, which he caught on a minnow and squid sandwich as he hugged the bulkhead at 28th Street last Saturday. Donald Vaughn of Carlisle, Pa., caught a 6-pound flounder drifting past buoy No. 4 near Harbor Island. His catch was also taken on a minnow and squid combination.
The hot spot in the Ocean City bay last week was the Harbor
Island channel and the channel in front of Dorchester Street between the inlet and the U.S. 50 bridge.
One angler had an unusual catch last weekend. Tim Axe of Red Lion, Pa., was casting off Stinky Beach (near the old railroad bridge in West Ocean City) for flounder when he hooked something a "little" larger. Tim fought the fish for more than half an hour with only a 12-pound test line before he finally beached a 74 1/2 -pound black drum, which was weighed in at Delmarva Sports Center.
Warm ocean currents also brought a surprising catch at the Ocean Pier. An angler casting a stingsilver lure brought in a Spanish mackerel. Two more were caught before the school of fish swam back offshore. These fish are normally caught at least 3 miles off the beach.
Indian River Bay has produced one of the largerst flounder of the season. Betty Argenbright of Shippensburg, Pa., landed an 8-pound, 14 1/2 -ounce flounder from the channel between Gull Island and Sandy Island. She was using a minnow for bait. Tress Murray of Murray's Bait and Tackle, where the fish was weighed, reported that several 6-pound flounder were also taken out of that hole over the weekend.
The Indian River Inlet is back in action. Anglers there are once again seeing bluefish come through the inlet at the changes of tide, and at night, small sea trout are coming through. It is interesting how the locals are catching the trout. They are setting a lantern on the rocks to attract small squids and then cast-netting the whole baby squids and throwing them back out on a hook to catch the trout.
Offshore trout fishing is also picking up with anglers using strip of squid. The hot spots have been 2 to 3 miles offshore of the 28th Street reef, the Sea Colony and the Coast Guard Station north of Indian River Inlet.
The offshore scene is only fair. Blue marlin activity is good, especially in the Washington and Poor Man's canyons, but white marlin action has slowed down.
Anglers fishing for dolphin were happy to see some big ones. Leon Messerly of Cincinnati weighed in the largest of the season -- 49 pounds. He was fishing in the Washington Canyon with a ballyhoo aboard the Twelve Pack.
On the tournament scene, the Mid-Atlantic Angler Tournament was won by the Red Eye with Capt. Glenn Mumford. The tournament is a "handicap" tournament, which means the angler must bring in a billfish on 20-pound test is less than 20 minutes. The Red Eye, which is owned by Jim Roberts, brought in two white marlins, both boated in under 5 minutes.