Welcome back to “Fish ‘N OC.” In this week’s article, I’d like to dedicate some time to a subject that is near and dear to the hearts of many here in Ocean City’s fishing community, that is the “White Marlin Open.”
If you are someone who is very familiar with OC’s fishing scene, there is a good chance that you’ve heard about the White Marlin Open. Who knows, maybe you have even fished in it. Still, for those of you who do not know about the tournament, the White Marlin Open truly is the largest and most lucrative fishing tournament in the world. Every year, hundreds of fishing teams from all along the eastern seaboard invest countless hours (as well as thousands of dollars) into the tournament, with high hopes of landing a grand-prize winning fish, most notable is the white marlin, which has been known to net over $1 million in prize money for the winning anglers in recent years. Fortunately for us here in Ocean City, the White Marlin Open (and all the excitement that surrounds it) is centered right here in our own backyards.
Every year the first full week in August is scheduled as tournament week. Generally, this time frame coincides with the height of our billfishing season here in the mid-Atlantic region, so it is not by accident that this week has been selected. This year’s tournament will mark the 38th Annual White Marlin Open, which will take place Aug. 8-12. Boats are allowed to fish three of these five days. As you all know, the weather plays a huge role in fishing success, and there is probably no other fishing game on earth where it is more significant than in offshore angling. Hence anglers and captains will be actively watching all the local weather and marine forecasts with hopes of selecting the best three days to compete.
In preparation for this week’s article, I did some digging back through the tournament’s historical archives to pull out a few interesting tidbits about prize fish from tournaments past.
Since 1974, there have been 37 grand prize winning white marlin, the largest of which weighed 99 pounds and was caught by angler Steve Bass in 1980. Coincidentally, the smallest white marlin to win the tournament’s grand prize was a 65.5 pound fish that was caught by angler John Bosley in 1987. Through the years the average weight of the grand prize winning white marlin turns out to be 79.41 pounds, which is a pretty nice-sized fish over all. However, the past four years have produced a trend for larger whites, with the average grand-prize winner tipping the scales at 88.75 pounds. So, if the trend continues, it will take a white marlin of nearly 90 pounds to win this year’s tournament.
Still, white marlin is not the only prize winning fish sought after in the White Marlin Open. Blue marlin also plays a huge role for anglers. If you have been following the tournament in the recent past, you will probably know that the past few years have produced some incredible blue marlin catches. In fact, the largest two blue marlin caught in tournament history were landed in the last two tournaments. In 2009, Robert Farris landed a 1,062-pound blue marlin which was the first grander caught in tournament history. Then again in 2010 (against all odds), another 1,000-plus pound blue hit the scales as angler James Kontos landed his tournament winning 1010.5-pound blue. Still, not to be discounted is the tournament’s fourth largest blue, a 935.5 pound giant, that was caught by Robert Lockwood in 2008. Needless to say, the past few years have started a serious trend for giant blue marlin.
As you can see, whether we are talking about big white marlin or giant blues it is hard to say what could be caught in this year’s tournament. Personally, I know I would love to see the giant blue marlin trend continue with another grander coming to the scales this year. Still, the only thing I do know for sure is that every year is different. This upcoming tournament week is sure to be full of fun and excitement, with hopefully a few more surprises. I certainly am looking forward to it.
But for now, let’s shift gears and take a look back at some of the fishing reports that have come in this past week.
Sue at “Oyster Bay” reports, “Fishing this week was good on flounder though there are a tremendous amounts of throw backs. Just got to hang in there, enjoy fishing, and hope to catch a "keeper". There’s croaker out there in the bay as well along with snapper blues around the Route 50 Bridge and Inlet and a few stripers around the South Jetty. Big spot are in the bay as well. Surf fishing continues to be good with the small stuff. Tasty kingfish (whiting), Norfolk spot and croaker are in the suds in the mornings. Sharks, big rays, snapper blues, kingfish and some croaker are biting at night. Route 50 Bridge continues to be excellent fishing at night with stripers (lots of shorts) and blues. By day, the Bridge is seeing flounder, tautog near the draw, and blues. Offshore, the bite continues with sea bass and flounder. Further offshore, all the typical offshore fish such as dolphin, tuna, and marlin are biting. Lots of charter boats were fishing this week.”
E. C Dorsch, Jr. reports, "Just got back from a week where we fished 4 times from my boat, total of maybe 19 hours fishing. I can’t fault the action or the numbers — 261 flounder brought to the boat along with high numbers of channel bass and sea robins. We also added in an occasional blue, toadfish, stargazer and croaker. Somehow amongst all that action, we got to keep one, 18.5-inch flounder and a 13-inch croaker. Not only did we catch only the one keeper, we only had two others over 17 inches and only saw one other keeper caught all week using Gulp, minnows, shiners, squid and combinations of all the previous and spot (though the spot I got were more like eating size).”
Captain Jeffrey Grimes of "Helbent Charters" reports, "What a difference a week makes. Last weekend we were looking for a way to get any kind of relief from the heat and this weekend Mother Nature brought us a cool ocean breeze and it did not affect the flounder bite. Once again the water quality in the inlet was clear and the water temperature still in the low 70′s. We fished the beginning of the outgoing tide and it did produce a very good bite with at times several multiple hook ups. White Gulp continues to be a popular bait of choice by the flounder on the top hook and live minnows on the bottom hook. I still love to watch folks catch flounder on Gulp for the first time. They are amazed how well it works so if you never tried it you owe it yourself to give it a shot. You will not be sorry. See you on the water. "
“Bill Sports Center” in Lewes, reports, “That croaker are biting in Masseys Ditch along with spot, little sea bass, and flounder. Indian River Inlet has seen some striper action at night along with a couple big blues. By day the Indian River Inlet has seen some decent flounder catches. Herring Point saw some 14-inch bluefish, croaker, and kingfish.”
“Lewes Harbour Marina” reports, "Yellowfins have been hanging out at the Hot Dog, and crews chunking with butterfish and sardines have had good success with tuna ranging from 20 to 40 pounds on average. In addition to those hooked by chunkers at the Hot Dog, tuna were taken by trollers at the Hambone and Massey’s Canyon. Those pulling ballyhoo and spreader bars also hooked bluefins, wahoo, dolphin and white marlin. Offshore bottom fishing has been good. Inshore bottom fishing improved over the past few days. Bucktails were effective for the flatfish. The Angler headboat had a mix of flounder and ling near DB Buoy during the week. In Delaware Bay, fishermen picked at flatties around artificial reefs 5, 6, 7 and 8. Increasing numbers of spot have been caught inside Cape Henlopen, around the piers and walls, and in Roosevelt Inlet and Lewes Canal. Bloodworms and Fishbites were favorites of the tasty panfish. Some croakers have been mixed in with spot, but the large schools of hardheads that hopefully will arrive, have yet to show.”
Capt. Monty on the “Morning Star” reports, “Sea bass fishing remains okay considering it’s now high summer. Couple days this week could have passed for spring. Twelve and a half inches is still a pain in the neck, but often times the catching’s great. Sending folks home with several fish fries’ worth. Some aboard will have flounder, too. We had our best catch of flatties this week with fish up to 6 pounds. Hope to improve on that. Certainly not catching flounder everyday. If you want dirty dishes caused by your fishing prowess, you have to fish for what’s biting. We’ll find seabass or fluke for you — hopefully both — hang bait accordingly. Also the odd mahi/dorado/dolphin in the mix — just a treat when it happens. Nothing consistent. Stumbled upon a snoozing humpback Thursday; "Logging" my whale researcher friend says.it was inspected for injury or rope and none found. The animal went away with increasing vigor. First inshore whale in a while. I wonder if the unusual abundance of large menhaden will draw more. I hear from the best of sources that there were giant bluefins inshore last week too. Our blueline tile/cbass trip July 24 was among my best days ever. Electric reels are like rap/death metal ad two dozen fingernails scratching a chalkboard to me. I just can’t do it. Groans and grunts, however, are sweet music as anglers set the hook and start hand-cranking from the deep. It’ll wear you out.”
Captain Chris Mizurak on the “Angler” reports, "We are still having some decent sea bass fishing. Some days it is tougher than others, but not bad for late July. We had our best flounder bite of the year today with the largest weighing over 6lbs. Not many keepers but a good amount of throwbacks. We are sailing daily at 730 a.m., the cost is $62 per person which includes rod, reel, and bait. Please call 410-289-7424 for reservations. Thanks and hope to see you soon!"
Capt. Drew Zerbe on the “Tortuga” reports, “Had a pretty good week with fair weather and good fishing conditions. Had many anglers who caught plenty of flounder, both throwbacks and keepers as well. Come try your luck with us at Bahia Marina/Fish Tales located at 22nd St. bayside Ocean City.
Capt. Sean on the “Restlesslady” reports, “Ok, the night in the Baltimore action was not what we thought might happen but we had three shark bites, one big blue shark which was a surprise in 78 degree water two other dusky both putting up a good fight. Then in the morning fish started biting but was over when 35 other boats showed up. Todd and crew jump off two whites and pulled off four nice tunas ended up catching five nice tunas in the 50-60-pound range and a couple of nice gaffers.
Here at “Skip’s Bait and Tackle Shop”, we weighed in a few nice fish this week. Joel Bragg and son Joey from Bird in Hand, Pa. came in with a nice flounder measuring 27 inches and weighing 7 pounds caught at the “Oceanic Pier” on a live minnow and Berkley Gulp. It was the biggest of the season from the pier.
We also had some exciting charters this week with lots of striper and flounder action. Sam Mancari and his children Richard, Lindsey, and Chris went on a combo charter of striper and flounder fishing. We had non-stop action at the south jetty with double and even triple hook ups with nice fish from 20 to 27 inches, but no keeper. The flounder action was also hot and heavy but still couldn’t catch that 18” we needed to put in the box.
We did get a keeper striper this week from the south jetty with the Skoner gang from Pittsburgh, regular charter customers of mine. Like always, Janet Skoner had the hot rod with lots of action and the only keeper of the trip, with a nice fat 32-inch striper for the supper table that night.
Here at “Skip’s Charter and Guide Service” we are still catching stripers. We are still booking the south jetty trips while the fish are still biting. We also started our 4 hour flounder trips for families which are a great deal for $450.00 everything included. We will even clean your fish and freeze them for you to take home. The croakers are starting to bite and that’s great action for the little ones.
All four of our charter boats here at Skip’s Charter & Guide service are having awesome fishing, with some of the best fishing we’ve seen in years. Inshore and offshore fishing is off the hook. Pick up that phone and give us a call and book that fishing trip. We still have openings but their filling up fast. We also have our bay boat running with family flounder trips, plus our fishing, clamming, and crabbing combo charter for just $450 for a half day of family fun. We provide all rods and tackle as well as all the bait, so pack some sunscreen and a few drinks and come on out for a memory-making day on the water.
When you step on the boat, you are stepping on a boat that has over 40 years of fishing and boating experience with some of Ocean City’s top captains working for Skip’s Charter and Guide Service this year. Give me a call at the tackle shop at 410-289-FISH (3474) or on my cell 410-430-5436 and let’s talk fishing.
At the tackle shop we are open 6 a.m.-9 p.m., seven days a week, with a great staff that will answer any questions you may have about fishing the Ocean City waters. If you have a report or pictures you would like in The Dispatch or on www.oceancityfishing.com, email me at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. The summer weather is here, and the fishing is smoking hot. So get out there and fish! Who knows? Maybe I’ll be writing about you next week.
(Maguire is an outdoor writer and owner of Skip’s Bait and Tackle and Skip’s Charter and Guide Service in Ocean City.)