Labor Day doesn't mean the end of fishing. Some of the best offshore fishing is happening now. Anyone watching the overnight boats come into port will see there are plenty of yellowfin tuna and dolphin.
We recently watched the Mud Bucket II arrive at the Talbot Street Pier with six tuna in the 40- to 60-pound range and 30 dolphin.
Later we saw the Full House come in at Bahia Marina with 21 yellowfin tuna and a couple of dolphin.
Anglers with smaller boats shouldn't feel left out. There is plenty of action closer in. About 5 miles off the beach, Spanish mackerel are hitting on small spoons, and the first and second lumps of the Bassgrounds are seeing false albacore, king mackerel, Spanish mackerel and even bonito. The third lump is also seeing cobia.
A school of large blues was sighted at the Bassgrounds last week, the first we have seen in a while. Jay Martin of Ocean City, fishing with Tom Brinker, landed a 14 1/4 -pound bluefish on a hoochie lure.
Anglers with boats in the 15- to 17-foot range are enjoying good bottom fishing about 2 1/2 miles off the beach. Two of the best spots have been offshore of the Sea Colony in Bethany Beach, Del., and Coast Guard Station north of Indian River.
The 28th Street Reef and the area of Little Gull Shoal, south of Ocean City, are also producing fish. The sea trout, while small, are getting bigger. Larger kingfish and croaker have also been hitting in these spots on a small hook with a piece of bloodworm and a small strip of squid.
Inshore flounder fishing can be called only fair. But there are a few big ones. Dan Gutshall of West Ocean City landed a 5 pounder while drifting past buoy No. 3 near Harbor Island on a live minnow. Terry Anderson of Wellsville, Pa., beat this catch with a 5 1/4 pounder, taken at the Thorofare on a minnow and squid sandwich.
U.S. 50 bridge fishermen are catching flounder in the 2-pound range, mostly on shiners, while the Third and Fourth Street bulkhead has been producing unexpected catches of flounder.
The biggest news has been the number of flounder in the upper reaches of the bay. Many anglers fishing for spot and croaker by the Route 90 bridge with bloodworms and squid strips are also picking up legal-size flounder as well.
As the crisp air of fall comes upon us, we will see more and more sea trout. The sea wall at the inlet, the U.S. 50 bridge and the Oceanic Pier have seen good catches of the fish, especially at night. Linzsey McElfresh of Ocean City recently weighed in a whopper. The 10 1/2 pounder was taken at the north jetty on a twister. Many anglers have had good success using led heads with white twister worms from the Ocean City inlet.
Cooler weather has sent some fishermen to the tautog hole south of the south jetty, where one boat reeled in a surprising catch -- four puppy drum -- using crab for bait. Puppy drum are in the croaker family and have been prevalent in Virginia this year. In September and October, we see a sprinkling of them in the inlets and surf here.
The puppy drum prefer a churned-up bottom, so they favor the white water close to shore in the surf or the rough waters of the inlet. They love crabs and sand fleas, but will also take cut mullet or squid.
A 2-foot puppy drum was also caught from the Ocean Pier last Sunday, along with a striper that was released. David Townsend, manager of the pier, says that flounder fishing on the pier continues to be good, along with numerous spot, a number of large kingfish and a few trout and amberjacks.
Anglers without boats will find this month a good time to fish for sea bass, ling cod and tautog without the annoyance of a crowd. As the month progresses, the cool weather will stir up the fish, making for more productive catches than we had in the heat of August.
Though the fish are still not large, the fishing is good. Last week saw a number of Norfolk spot. Anglers are catching the spot on bloodworms, then cutting up the spot for bait and catching snapper blues.
Now that summer is over, anglers can surf fish during the day in Ocean City as long as they do not get in the way of swimmers. The Delaware State Park areas, which are free, are also excellent areas to surf fish.
One interesting catch in the surf this past week was a 7-foot, 137-pound sand tiger shark. Mark Thomas and Kevin Hunter of (( Ocean City fought the huge fish for 1 1/2 hours before landing it. Swimmers shouldn't worry, though: This fish rarely comes this close to shore during the day, and normally this species of shark is not aggressive. Nevertheless, it's probably not a good idea to swim into any large school of bait fish.