Ocean City sees some of its best fishing in the fall. Anglers line the beaches, able to surf fish all day. No longer are the fishermen subject to time periods and regulations. As long as the fish are biting, anglers fish.
The main objective on the beach is catching bluefish. These fish begin to migrate south, feeding on schools of finger mullet, shiners and alewifes. Bluefish are fat, mean and sassy, giving anglers lots of sport. The average-size blue in October is 2 to 6 pounds, with big blues coming in periodically from 9 to 20 pounds. The later into the season, the larger the blues.
Many anglers ask, "How long do the bluefish run in the surf?"
During the past couple of years, the blues seemed to wander farther north in the summer, thereby making their return south later. We have seen big blues in the surf here in December. Usually, though, the first hard northeast storm in the late fall or early winter signals the season's end for bluefish.
We saw blues recently in the 1- to 7-pound range. While most of the action was on the fresh or frozen finger mullet baits, some anglers picked the blues up with squid or cut bluefish. When fishing the finger mullet, most anglers prefer a "mullet hook" and thread the whole bait on the hook.
People have asked about the effects of tropical storm Danielle on surf fishing. Fishing was active before the storm, slow the day after, and then it picked up the following day. Unfortunately, the storm surge and extremely high tides made for strong currents. It took anglers 5 and 6 ounces to hold bottom. But there were still fish there.
Anglers are also picking up some flounder and sea trout in the surf, working strips of mullet, squid or bluefish strips. Flounder and trout generally stay in the surf throughout October and into the first week or two of November.
Inlet fishing has been good. Anglers are picking up the bluefish with lures such as bucktails or spoons. Add an in-line sinker for extra weight when casting light lures. Some good-sized sea trout are also still roaming the inlet area and will continue to do so through early November.
The tautog or black fish are returning to the inlets. In the summer, they disappear into the ocean. As the waters chill, they come back among the rocks by the inlet and also appear near the draw of the U.S. 50 Bridge and the bulkhead along Second to Fourth streets.
These tasty fish are definitely worth fishing for. Dig sand fleas in the surf, or use sections of hard blue crabs for bait on short-shanked size No. 2 or No. 1 hooks. Flip the baits off the rocks or bulkhead a few yards and wait for the telltale "tap-tap" of the tautog bite. The fish will either steal your bait or get caught. Give yourself some time and patience and you will catch tautog. Tautog stay in the area through the first few weeks of November.
Anglers were catching larger tautog, in the 1- to 4-pound range, from both the Ocean City and the Indian River inlets.
Flounder fishing from the U.S. 50 Bridge continues to be good. Tropical storm Danielle slowed the action for about two days after the storm while the water slowly cleared up. In fact, anglers were catching flounder as far back as the 125th Street Pier right after the storm, probably because the tides were so high.
Flounder-fishing from the U.S. 50 Bridge will continue to be good, especially on the high tide beginning the first or second week of November.
A striper season is on in Maryland. Anglers are allowed to keep one striper over 28 inches if they obtain a free permit. Permits are available at Skip's Bait and Tackle on Talbot Street, Talbot Street Pier and Rainy Day Canoe on Route 589 near Ocean
Pines. Unfortunately for avid striper anglers, the fish must be caught by day. One cannot possess or fish for stripers after 5 p.m.
Anglers fishing the U.S. 50 Bridge at night are picking up bluefish and sea trout. The sea trout are running on the small side once again. The most popular lure the last couple of weeks has been 3- to 4-inch white twister grubs tied in tandem and worked beneath the lights. Anglers also use spec rigs, red-fish rigs, bucktails and Mirrolures. Night bridge-fishing should remain good for another month.
Ocean City party boats are doing well on sea bass. One man we talked to fishing aboard the "Angler" last week kept 34 sea bass up to 4 pounds.
Drift-fishing for sea trout off Ocean City has been good when the weather permits the smaller boats to venture offshore. Most of these trout are still running on the small side, but there are 1-, 3- and 4-pounders mixed in. Some croakers are still being caught, but few of these have been of legal size.
Anglers further offshore are picking up king mackerel, Spanish mackerel, tuna, dolphin and marlin. This activity lasts as long as the bait fish are around. The problem this time of year is the weather, and the number of people willing to spend the money to venture far offshore.
All in all, it has been a good fishing year.