Anglers hoping for a warm Easter weekend filled with fish-catching possibilities were disappointed. Though Good Friday was a beautiful day, the fog rolled in on Saturday and kept the water temperature down. A cool breeze from the northeast made a jacket mandatory for most on the water.
Because of the weather, Ocean City flounder have been off to a slow start. Although many anglers venturing out on their own came up empty-handed, the bay party boat Tortuga out of Bahia Marina at 22nd Street caught some. The party of seven was able to keep eight. (State law forbids fishermen from keeping flounder under 13 inches.) On Sunday, the bay boat caught eight fish, and was able to keep seven. By Monday, the catch was only four fish, of which the party of one man and two small boys were able to keep two.
For anglers fishing from the shore at Ocean City, the U.S. 50 Bridge is a good choice. It crosses Ocean City's two major channels, and offers the deep water anglers need to fish this time of year. Use frozen shiners hooked through the eyes, or live minnows hooked through the lips.
Many bridge anglers use a spreader rig with size No. 2 or No. 1 hooks and a two-ounce sinker for weight. The angler does not cast this rig, but actually drifts it out with a large bobber. The brightly-colored bobber is placed 3 to 6 feet above the rig so the hooks just barely brush the bottom as it extends to areas that no angler could possibly cast to. When the bobber goes under, the angler starts reeling, hopefully with a good-sized flounder in tow.
As there will be many undersized flounder to release, it is important to handle these fish with care. Anglers find that the fish do not swallow the wide-gap type hooks as readily as the pacific bass style, making releases safer. The flounder's stomach is just below the gill plate, so do not grip the fish there when taking the hook out; rather slip your thumb gently into its gills. Handling a flounder with wet hands, rather than dry hands, will help preserve the natural slime that protects the fish from disease.
Anglers fishing the Indian River Inlet picked up more tautog last week, mostly from the south side. Tautog should be running good in another week or so. In addition to the Indian River Inlet, tautog bite at the Ocean City Inlet, near the draw of the Route 50 Bridge, at the 9th Street Pier and at the bulkhead along 3rd and 4th streets on the bay side. Tautog like sand fleas the best, which have been plentiful about an inch deep at the ocean's edge.
The party boats going out of Ocean City are plugging along, chasing the mackerel north as fast as the boats will travel. The best fishing has been offshore of Indian River and the R-B Buoy.
For dad and the boys who want to catch a few fish, including some sharks, and have a day of sun and fun out on the water, the mackerel season has been fulfilling. Fishermen trying for coolers full of mackerel have been disappointed on most days. Though the boats had a couple fantastic days the week before Easter, the average catch has been only a handful: 10 to 20 fish on a fair day, and 30 fish on a good day.
Many of the party boats will switch over to wreck fishing this weekend. Tautog, sea bass, ling cod and a few pollock will be the catch. Though wreck fishing will only be fair at first, by the first or second weeks in May, it should be in full swing. Some of the season's best wreck fishing is in May.
Anxious surf anglers are waiting for some action. Easter weekend was a definite disappointment for fishermen casting a line from the area's beaches.
There should have been a shark, or skate, or at least some blowfish; but unfortunately we heard of none of the above. Netters just offshore are catching flounder, trout and even kingfish, proving that the fish are there, but just out of reach. By this weekend, if the weather cooperates, some fish should be in the surf. Use a combination bait of bloodworm and squid for the blowfish and sharks; or use chunks of mullet for those first lean and mean bluefish.
Inland fishermen are reaping some of the fresh water trout the state has released at Shad Landing State Park near Pocomoke. The release is strictly for recreational purposes as the trout will not live long in the water there. Anglers are allowed to keep two, and must purchase a trout stamp. Trout stamps cost $3.50 for the general public and $1 for those older than 65. The fresh water trout take corn, salmon eggs, cheese balls and Berkley Power Baits.
Large pickerels weighing up to 5 1/2 pounds have been caught from the Pocomoke River and local ponds in the area. These toothy creatures, which like large live minnows for bait, are caught mostly for sport.
Porter's Crossing on Route 13, between Berlin and Snow Hill, had some herring catches last week. To catch the roe-laden fish, along with an occasional shad, anglers use tiny shad darts. The local adage is: "When the dogwoods are in bloom, and herring start their run."