Hot August nights bring anglers to the beach, where they throw their lines into the water in a search for something bigger than a Norfolk spot or snapper bluefish -- and that something is usually the dusky shark.
The sharks, with lengths up to 12 feet, do not bother swimmers and are rarely caught during daylight hours. At night, however, they cruise closer to shore to feed on small fish.
They have a long, pointed snout and are bluish to leaden gray with a white belly and resemble a sand shark except they have teeth and the sand shark doesn't -- something to keep in mind when extracting the hook from the fish.
There's nothing like a 3-foot shark, taken on the beach, to create a stir. They are strong and have been known to hit an unattended rod in a sand spike and carry it straight into the ocean. So don't wander too far from the rod unless you loosen your drag. There's nothing more disappointing than watching a $100 outfit pulled into the surf.
Fishing for the shark is simple. A 20-pound test line, a large-size bluefish rig made with 45- or 60-pound steelon and a chunk of squid or cut bait will do the trick. Cast out as far as you can, and wait. The rest is patience.
Some anglers who reeled in the fish last weekend were Matt Johnson of Fenwick Island, Del., and Rodney Heagey of New Oxford, Pa. Mr. Johnson's fish weighed 30 pounds, was 50 1/2 inches long and was caught in the Fenwick State Park on cut spot. Mr. Heagey landed a 19 1/2 -pound dusky shark at 123rd Street in Ocean City, using the usual bait of cut squid.
Anglers are also catching the dusky sharks at the inlet and at the Ocean Pier at night. They're good to good to eat, but cleaning them right away is a must. Their name -- dusky -- denotes their smell if they're left unattended too long.
The surf from Assateague to Cape Henlopen also teamed with smaller fish. Norfolk spot abound for the anglers using smaller hooks with bloodworms. The fish were running from one-half to three-quarters of a pound. Some kingfish are also mixed in, and the night of Aug. 10 saw a flurry of snapper blues caught on mullet. Some anglers had a many as 10.
Bob Diesenderfer of Shockley's Market on Route 611 said that a number of flounder -- up to 17 inches -- have been hitting in the Assateague surf on squid strips worked in on fluke killers.
Flounder fishing in the Ocean City bay has slowed somewhat. This is typical for this time of year, but after such a slam-bang flounder season, it is disappointing nonetheless. There are still a number of flounder caught; it's just that they are harder to find. Hot weather has driven the flounder to the deeper holes.
The hottest spots for flounder last week were the east channel between buoys No. 9 and No. 11, outside the inlet and on the Ocean Pier. Matt Layser of Shermansdale, Pa., caught one of the largest flounder near 28th Street. The 4 3/4 pounder was taken on a live minnow.
The Thorofare -- another good spot for flounder -- saw another species of fish last weekend. Cathy Dize and Mike Jarman of Berlin caught four sea trout up to 7 pounds while fishing with peelers in the deep water close to the marsh.
The Ocean City inlet also saw sea trout last weekend. William Thompson of Philadelphia weighed in a 7-pound trout casting a bucktail from the north jetty, proving that live bait is not always necessary.
Large pan-sized spot is still the good news in the Ocean City bay. Anglers using bloodworms or night crawlers are coming up with dozens of the hard-hitting fish. For those without boats, the Ninth Street Pier or the Ocean Pier are the best places to fish for spot.
Anglers fishing at the Indian River Inlet the morning of Aug. 10 saw a sight that few anglers get to see -- a school of stripers rolling into the inlet on the surface. These fish were running up to 30 pounds. Anglers casting top water plugs or bucktails caught and released as many as eight fish.
Another interesting catch was reported from the beach near the Indian River Inlet. A 3 1/2 -pound pompano was caught by an angler who was surf casting with peeler crab. The fish, which come here this time of year and usually feed on sand crabs, do not get that big, but some eating-size pompano can be caught using crab and fish close to shore.
Offshore fishing for white marlin was good last weekend. The whites were scattered from the Washington to the Wilmington canyons in the 60- to 100-fathom lines. Many were caught and released. A number of yellowfin tuna were caught in the canyons, too, though nothing weighing more than 100 pounds was reported. The typical size was 30 to 50 pounds.
Good-sized dolphin were reported scattered offshore, with smaller dolphin being caught as close in as offshore of the Fenwick Shoal. Lots of Spanish mackerel and king mackerel are hitting around the Third Lump. And boats fishing southeast of the Jackspot are getting into some albacore.
Warmer water is bringing in Southern fish. Anglers drifting live bunkers just a mile off the beach were picking up some good-sized cobias. Tim Dant of Seabrook on board the Changes in Attitude hooked a 43 pounder.
Bottom fishing for sea bass has slacked off a bit. The party boats are going deeper and coming up with some good ling cod catches. Lenard J. Pops of Randallstown nearly broke the Maryland record with an 18 1/2 -pound tautog he caught on board his boat the Shot Gun while fishing a wreck 15 miles offshore with a sand flea.