Outlook good for flounder at Ocean City

On the Outdoors

May 07, 1998|By Peter Baker | Peter Baker,SUN STAFF

Rockfish, freshwater trout and black bass get much of the attention of spring fishermen in the Baltimore-Annapolis area. But along Maryland's Atlantic Coast, the summer flounder run appears to be strong at Ocean City this season.

According to Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Service biologist Jim Casey, after stocks declined in the 1980s summer flounder are recovering and good numbers of larger fish should be available this year.

Fisheries Service biologist Martin L. Gary, who compiles catch reports from around the state, said this week that the Thorofare, Route 50 bridge and the East Channel behind Ocecan City all have been turning up nice catches of flounder ranging to more than seven pounds.

Over the weekend, Skipper Mumford of Ocean City landed a 7.5-pounder.

According to Casey, recent surveys of recreational anglers indicate the majority of flounder caught range from 13- to 18-inches, but a strong 1995 year class, he said, should produce good angling for fish in the three-pound range.

The minimum length for flounder is 14.5 inches. The creel limit is 10 per day.

"As an aggressive, bottom-dwelling predator, the flounder relies on its ability to change its skin color, blending into the background to better ambush its prey," said Casey. "They then feed on small bottom worms, crabs, anchovies, shiners, spot and the juveniles of other fish like croaker and weakfish."

The key to fishing for flounder is to figure where the best ambush positions are and to present bait accordingly.

At Ocean City, where the back bays are shallow and cut with channels and shoals, Casey said, fish the deeper edges of shoals, leads and channel edges at high ebb tide and the channels at low flood tide.

At high ebb, the movement of the water will carry baits over the edges and past likely ambush positions. During flood tide, flounder are likely to be in the deeper waters of the channel.

Later in the year, flounder will move into the lower Chesapeake Bay, where they will lie in wait along channel edges from 20 to 60 feet deep. Again, play the tide and the current and drift baits accordingly. Use only enough weight to regularly bounce bottom.

Best bay baits are bloodworms, belly strips of spot and flounder, mussels and bull minnows. On the ocean side, live minnows and squid strips are most popular.

Fishing report

Upper Chesapeake Bay -- Rockfish catches continue to be spotty, but DNR biologists say the major spawn has begun in the upper bay -- and that means the big, migratory rock will be moving south through the area. Presently, trollers are catching some keepers above the 28-inch minimum, but many anglers are chumming and catching and releasing smaller fish. White perch reportedly are moving onto oyster bars and humps. In the Susquehanna River, white perch fishing is hot on shad darts with grass shrimp or bloodworms.

Middle Chesapeake Bay -- From the Gooses to the HS Buoy, rockfish catches continue to be reliable, but has been patchy at times elsewhere as the migrants move farther south. Still very good fishing for trophy stripers, but not as strong as last week. Croaker, meanwhile, have moved up the Choptank River to the bridge-pier in Cambridge, and anglers there are catching doubleheaders of 16 inches at times. Shell bottom areas are regularly producing 12- to 15-inchers. Bluefish, including some bruisers, also have moved well up the bay, although they are not yet numerous. White perch can be found over hard bottom and edges along the western shore from Thomas Point to Hacketts.

Lower Chesapeake Bay -- DNR reports the most consistent striper fishing from Solomons south to Smith Point, with Hooper Island Light to Buoy 72 probably the best area. Trolled chartreuse, yellow or white parachutes or bucktails along the edges of the main shipping channel has worked best. Bluefish are scattered through the area, and croaker are large and numerous in the shallows of the Honga River, Tangier Sound and the Point Lookout area.

Ocean City -- Inshore the flounder catches continue to be good at the Thorofare, Route 50 Bridge and the East Channel, and the Route 50 Bridge has been a good location for keeper rockfish on bucktails and twisters. The back bay blitz of bluefish has subsided, but there still are some big blues in the surf along with an occasional large striper. Offshore, big blues have moved onto the Bass Grounds and the blue shark migration should be close behind. Head boats working the wrecks are doing well on tautog and a few sea bass.

FRESH WATER

Gunpowder Falls -- River has been low and clear, 52 degrees. Tan caddis, size 10-18 bead head nymphs and standard pheasant-tail, gold-ribbed hare's ears, green weenies and green San Juan worms.

Loch Raven -- Warren Road bridge area turning up some northern pike, crappie and bluegill suspended at cove mouths, bass and pickerel along the edges of grass beds.

Prettyboy -- White perch and crappie in the Hoffmanville Road area and smallmouths moving into the shallows.

Liberty -- Crappie schooling at cove mouths, but striper catches mostly are limited to 3- to 6-pounders.

Deep Creek Lake -- Smallmouth in 3- to 5-foot depths, where live minnows work well. Crappie schooled in the Turkey Point area. Occasional walleye action.

Pub Date: 5/07/98

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