Anglers in Ocean City are happy to see schools of bluefish working the waters off the beach. Fishermen have been grabbing their fishing gear and heading to the surf, the inlets, the U.S. 50 Bridge and the Ocean Pier to catch these 3- to 12-pound fish. The blues, which showed up two weeks ago, will probably be with us for a couple more weeks before heading offshore or farther north.
Pat Townsend of the Ocean Pier said that anglers were hooking as many as 20 bluefish in a span of an hour and a half on Springfest weekend. Anglers in boats at both the Indian River Inlet and the Ocean City Inlet said you could see the fish thrashing in the water.
One of the largest bluefish caught from the surf was weighed in at Buck's Place on Route 611. The 12-pound, 4-ounce blue was taken by Mike Hickman of Berlin, while he was fishing on Assateague. He said the fishing was fantastic there.
Richard Ehrlich and Donny Reed of Salisbury caught a number of blues up to 11 pounds from the north Ocean City surf last weekend. They were using
finger mullet for bait. Jack Lowe of Ocean City had luck fishing the surf at 121st Street on filleted mackerel. Another group did well on Hopkin's lures from the 46th Street surf.
These bluefish have been churning the waters of both inlets. Anglers are using bucktail jigs dressed with plastic worms, Hopkin's lures and Gator spoons. Anglers in boats have been doing well casting or trolling at the mouth of the inlets or slightly offshore.
Finger mullet and filleted mackerel have been the ticket for most anglers fishing the surf. Finger mullet can be threaded whole on a mullet hook for the bigger blues, while smaller blues will take the mullet cut into chunks or strips. (Hint: If you have trouble keeping your mullet on the hook when you cast or the fish are stealing your bait, try the mullet hook.)
These early blues are hungry and feed ravenously. We have seen bluefish rigs ripped apart and heard reports of reels being "spooled" (the fish runs and pulls the line off the reel). We have seen rods broken and leaders bit
through, right at the swivel.
Fish like these call for the heaviest leader (at least 60-pound test) and the larger hooks (at least a size 3/0). Single rigs work best because if you get two blues on a double rig they can tear the rig in two.
Fishermen were especially glad to see the bluefish action, since the flounder season has been closed. But starting yesterday, anglers in Ocean City were able to catch and keep flounder. The Ocean City flounder season runs until Sept. 30. (The Chesapeake Bay season runs from June 1 to Oct. 31.) In both areas, there is a 14-inch size limit and a creel limit of 10 fish per person.
Flounder fishing is predicted to be good. Several 18-inch fluke have been reported caught and released by anglers fishing for bluefish or tautog. Flounder fishing in Virginia, where there is no closed season, has been excellent for more than a month. Anglers traveling there have had little trouble catching their creel limit of 10 fish per person when the weather is cooperating. (Windy, cold weather can turn a flounder bite into a lull.)
Tautog fishing along the north and south jetties in Ocean City has been steadily picking up. Anglers have been catching these fighting fish with green crab or clam. Tautog rarely take squid or other cut baits.
Keep in mind that although tautog are in season in Maryland, there is a closed season in Delaware for anglers fishing within three miles of the coast. That means Indian River Inlet and the Lewes ice breaker area is off-limits for tautog until June 15, unless the controversial decision is changed.
Offshore, the news is good. Anglers venturing out on Ocean City party boats are catching a number of sea bass and some tautog. Area boat captains are smiling over this improved fishing. Anglers and owners had to wait for the water temperatures to rise to bring other species to the hook.
Party boat fishing is at its best this time of year. The fish are moving and they are hungry and plentiful.
Ken Rexroad of Baltimore, fishing aboard the O. C. Princess, landed a 5 1/4 -pound sea bass. Marcus Caul III of Washington, also on the O. C. Princess, weighed in a 10-pound tautog (taken on clam). Max McCormick of Baltimore landed a 9 1/4 -pound tautog while fishing aboard the Angler party boat. He took the fish on crab.