There are times when flounder fishing goes sour, or when a bluefish seems a fish of the past. But just when the kids are getting bored for lack of something tugging on the line, there's a small but powerful fish that can make dad a hero once again.
The Norfolk spot have invaded the bays and ocean around Ocean City like we have never seen before. Four- and 5-year-olds are catching them right in the canals around Ocean City with little push-button type rod and reels. Adults are also getting into the action as the larger spot, up to 11 inches, are moving through the channels of the bay, and along the surf's edge.
The Norfolk spot is a member of the Atlantic croaker family. The maximum size for a spot is 14 inches, but we rarely see them
quite that big in the Ocean City area. A half pound to a pound is a large spot around here.
The spot grow to about 6 inches during their first year of life, adding another 2 inches during their second year. Then they are sexually mature and move into deeper waters to spawn. The best way to identify a spot is from the dime-sized black "spot" right behind the gill plate of the fish.
The Norfolk spot may not look so big, but pound for pound it is probably one of the hardest fighting fish around.
Use a worm, clam snouts or little pieces of peeler crab to catch these bottom feeders. Larger spot will take a sandwich bait of worm and a little strip of squid -- but you have to have that worm. Bloodworms are the best, but night crawlers will do. Bait up on #6 hooks dangling on a bottom rig from the 9th Street Pier, the 2nd to 4th Street public bulkhead, the U.S. 50 bridge, the Oceanic Pier, the Ocean Pier, the public pier behind 40th Street or the area behind the recreational center at 127th Street.
Ocean City's flounder scene was disappointing for some last weekend. Most of the boats were averaging two to four keepers, definitely less than in past weeks. The good news is that some of these keepers are more than just 13- and 14-inch fish. Several 3- to 7-pounders were reported over the weekend. Charles Whittington of Salisbury caught one of these big "flatties." His fish was taken in the thoroughfare on a frozen shiner.
Charlie Battenfeld from Baldwin landed one of the largest flounder last week. It was 7 pounds, 5 ounces, taken from the 3rd Street bulkhead on a night crawler.
Fishing on the U.S. 50 bridge last weekend was fair for flounder. Anglers were averaging about two keepers along with a few snapper blues. The best times have been two hours before the high tide and one hour after the high tide. During the low tide, many anglers have switched off to catch some of the larger spot, mixed in with many small sea bass. Mitch Linzey from Ocean City, who fishes for spot regularly, says that if the angler keeps the bait moving, the troublesome sea bass will stay off the line.
David Townsend from the Ocean Pier reports an excellent week on the pier. There was quite an array of fish taken, including ling cod, Spanish mackerel, flounder, snapper, blues, kingfish, spot and some speckled trout in the evening. Two large sharks between 50 and 60 pounds also were brought up on the pier.
Last weekend's surf fishing left a lot to be desired. Surf fishing had been good the week before when we had a light northeasterly breeze, but southwesterly breezes brought a few fish and lots of flies.
Surf fishermen, do not despair: When the wind switches to the east or we get a little turbulence offshore, the surf will pick right back up with sea trout, blues, larger kingfish and spot.
Fishing at the Indian River Inlet also slowed up a bit last week, another victim of a westerly breeze. A few small bluefish were taken over the weekend, along with some speckled trout caught on peeler crab around the Coast Guard station.
All the party boats in the Ocean City area are doing fair on average-sized sea bass. The half-day bottom fishing boats have been fishing the artificial reef off 28th Street and picking up a mixed bag of sea bass, sea trout and flounder.
On the offshore scene, the news was good on white and blue marlin. Just when we needed the action for the White Marlin tournament, the "bite" was on. Typically, the fish may hit all over for an hour and a half, and then die out for two or three hours. Then, just when nobody is watching the bait, the rod doubles over, and action begins again.
The larger tuna seem to be thinning out, but a few boats were lucky enough to scare up a couple. The "Last Call" out of Bahia Marina with Capt. Jay Champlin ran into a 161-pound blue fin. The angler was Ed Cross from Thurmont. They were fishing northwest of the Hot Dog on the "Hambone" Lump.
Slightly inshore, there was good action on the Spanish and King mackerel on the First Lump. Boats are trolling ballyhoo for the king mackerel, and throwing spoons to the Spanish. This area of the ocean also has been alive with Atlantic bonita. Marion Szymanski of Baltimore, fishing aboard the charter boat Islander out of Talbot Street Pier, landed a 49-pound amberjack with a ballyhoo as she fished the First Lump with Captain Bill Duncan.