Anglers awaiting the arrival of the bluefish were moved to abrupt action as a huge school of fish suddenly appeared at the Ocean City Inlet last Sunday afternoon. The Inlet came alive with boiling bluefish, chopping at almost anything thrown at them. The fish, running 2 to 4 pounds, were taking bucktails, plugs, spoons or bait.
Mark Fleming of Delmarva Sporting Center grabbed his boat and found the blues boiling around the Old Railroad Bridge. Casting chunks of bunker and herring, Mr. Fleming and a friend caught 30 blues weighing in at 5 to 7 pounds. After a long winter of inactivity and an interminably long spring, this blitz was certainly welcome.
Bluefish were not the only action at the rock pile. One angler casting live minnows from the Inlet was surprised to pick up three legal-sized flounder along with numerous skates. Anglers fishing for tautog are picking up these as well.
Though many anglers with boats are trying for tautog at the South Jetty, few have been reported. But soon, the tautog that come to the South Jetty to spawn will be plentiful. Since it is spawning time, it is important to release the egg-laden females and only keep the males.
Ocean City's bay has come alive with flounder, though most of the flounder are being caught by anglers in boats. The hot spot has been the deep hole just north of the Thorofare. Jay Ream of Ocean City caught five keeper flounders on the very chilly Sunday morning. He was using live minnows on a bucktail hook while fishing in the outgoing tide.
Yes, the flounder have surprised us this week, by biting on the low tide rather than the high. This is probably because the water temperature is slightly warmer on the low, making the fish more inclined to bite. Live minnows seem to be the preferred bait, though many anglers are doing just as well with frozen shiners.
There are surprising numbers of throw-back flounder in the bay. The party boat Tortuga, out of Bahia Marina, with three people aboard, had a catch of 40 fish one day, with 12 being legal. This gave anglers lots of action and some fish, too! Be sure to use curved, wide-gap style fish hooks, rather than long-shanked pacific-bass types. The bent style tends to "lip hook," rather than to "gut hook" the fish making releases easier.
Surf anglers looking for action also found some this week. One group of anglers fishing the Delaware Seashore State Park got into a school of big bluefish up to 10 pounds. They were fishing with a squid and bloodworm combination. Three small stripers were also caught and released. Other surf anglers reported numerous skates and a spattering of blowfish.
Indian River Inlet turned on with catches of bluefish and tautog. The tautog are all legal size (more than 12 inches) and biting on slack water, either low or high. The fish, according to Scott Baltz of Old Inlet Bait and Tackle at Indian River, are hitting in the deeper water. Mr. Baltz picked up nine tautog on one day, and five the next, proving the fish are definitely biting well.
Ocean City's uneventful offshore Atlantic mackerel run is over, and party boat captains are looking forward to a spring catch of good-sized sea bass. Lloyd Lewis of Talbot Street Pier comments that the best fishing is yet to come. The first or second week in May is when the sea bass really turn on.
Party boats wreck-fishing last weekend did only fair on sea bass and tautog. Capt. John Bunting of the party boat Miss Ocean City said that anglers were averaging 8 to 10 fish per person. Capt. John commented that the sea bass that they caught were a good size, the tautog were running 1 to 3 pounds, and that numerous spiny dog-fish sharks were caught.
Capt. Monty Hawkins on the party boat O.C. Princess reports that more and more fish are showing up on the wrecks all the time. Ling cod, some pollock, more sea bass and tautog are coming our way.
The party boat Tradewinds VIII out of Indian River had an exciting day. The pickings of sea bass were slim, when suddenly a huge school of bluefish arrived. Rods went double and anglers started reeling like mad. Vacationers went home with lots of fish.
The Realistic charter boat out of Indian River also had tremendous action. On an over-nighter, they caught, and released all but one of 65 blue sharks 30 to 200 pounds. They were fishing in 1,500 fathoms of water.
Though the sudden appearance of saltwater fish may over shadow freshwater fishing, some very good catches were reported this week including one very large bass. John Lyons of the newly opened Seaside Bait and Tackle in Ocean View, Del., landed a 7 1/2 pound beauty from Broad Creek in Laurel. He let the fish swim around in the live tank in the store for all to see before releasing it.
Flounder fishing south of us in Virginia is still good. Anglers in Chincoteague have been pulling them in when the weather cooperates. Jesse Santiano caught 19 in 2 1/2 hours last Saturday, proving that the Virginia run is still on. The fish are running at good size with only some throw-backs.