Welcome back to “Fish ‘N OC!” Believe it or not, in spite of Mother Nature’s best efforts, we are still here. If you live anywhere near the East Coast of the United States, I am sure you are well aware that we experienced some anxious moments this past week as Hurricane Irene blasted our coastline. In fact, some of you readers may have experienced a few of your own “white-knuckle” moments this past week as well.
Still, Hurricane Irene came and she went, as storms do. And, fortunately, I am here to report to you that we are still standing, and we are nearly back to normal.
In fact, we have had some beautiful weather since the storm passed. The skies have been clear and blue, with warm afternoons and calm conditions — great weather for fishing actually. Still, the water has cooled a bit since the storm passed, and I have often found in the past that it does take a few days of stable weather for the fishing to return to normal after a major weather system has passed through our area.
The way it looks now, if conditions continue along their present path, we may be in for an early fall this year in Ocean City. If you read last week’s article, you’ll know that fall is one of my favorite times of the year. That is why in this week’s article I’d like to share with you a sneak peek into the types of fishing that you will find me doing this coming fall.
For me, fall and rockfish (stripers) go hand in hand. It is undeniable; there is something special about striper fishing in the fall. The baitfish school up, the stripers are hungry, and it just seems like there is a sense of urgency as the fish need to fatten up as much as possible before enduring the cold waters of winter.
For me, fall also means spending a great majority of my time fishing around the inlet. In fall, all of the baitfish that spent their summers growing up in our back bays begin to migrate south in preparation for the winter. In order for these fish to reach the beachfront, they must first pass through the giant funnel which is our inlet. Often huge schools of baitfish are met by hordes of hungry stripers and bluefish that use our inlet as a feeding station—a perfect location for intercepting the young baitfish as they head south for the winter. That is why I spend the majority of my time fishing around the inlet in fall—it is a perfect spot for me to intercept these feeding stripers and bluefish as well.
Still, as the season moves on towards winter, I find myself spending more and more time fishing outside of the inlet along the beachfront. As our local water’s cool and our bays empty out, my focus usually shifts to the schools of fish that are continuing their migration south along the shores of Delmarva.
Oftentimes these ocean fish can be big, and they are almost always feeding hard, as their trip south requires a lot of food and energy. If you are lucky enough to hit it right, this can be some of the most entertaining fishing of the year—when the fish “blitz” schools of baitfish on the surface. Flocks of birds will attack the baitfish pods from above and at the same time groups of hungry stripers and bluefish attack their prey from below. It is times like these, that any bait or lure can be eaten instantly as it hits the water. Fishing like this makes for sore arms and shoulders and unforgettable memories.
Still, seeing that it is now just the beginning of September, the majority of our fall action is at least a month or more away. We have had some great action up to this point this year, however. This past spring was great for stripers in Delmarva. In fact, the area up north around Indian River saw some of the best action since the early 80s. Here in Ocean City we saw some excellent action as well with good number of fish, but on average I am sure our fish were a little smaller here than what was going on up around Indian River.
One nice thing that I can say about our stripers here in Ocean City is that they are not afraid to stick around during the summer time. Our best action for numbers of fish is always in the spring and then again in the fall, but we were able catch fish practically all summer long this year, which is a pretty special thing.
As far as flounder go, this has been a year to remember. Every year it seems like our flounder fishing continues to get better and better. In fact, it is hard for me to say much about our flounder fishery other than there really are a lot of flounder around Ocean City. It will be fun to continue to follow this fishery as our seasons change into fall. Fall often produces some of the largest flounder of the year, so it is hard to say what could come to the scales in the next couple of months.
But for now, the Labor Day holiday is upon us and with it comes the end of our summer tourist season here in Ocean City. This will most likely be my last report for this year, but you can bet I will still be out there on the water fishing. It is my hope that you all will get a chance to spend some time on the water this fall as well. I wish you the best of luck. Thank you for following “Fish ‘N OC” in this 2011 season. But for now, let’s take our last look back at some of the fishing reports that came in this past week.
Sue Foster from “Oyster Bay” reports, “Hurricane Irene is gone, but we only had a couple fishing days before evacuation, then weather, put a damper on it all. City fathers evacuated Ocean City while it was still nice and fish were biting. The last day we had reports were good. Fish bite good before a storm is definitely true. We had flounder, bluefish, sheepshead and shad reported days before the storm. We even had reports of pompano and a 44-inch cobia from the surf.
Surf fishing was good this past week on snapper blues. There were still some spot and kingfish around, and some little silverish red fish described that we think must have been either croaker or trout. Not sure… Sand sharks, big rays, and some larger sharks were also about.
We had reports of decent flounder fishing days before the storm. East Channel, Route 50 Bridge, Inlet, Oceanic Pier, 9th Street Pier. I even heard of a "keeper" caught behind Convention Hall pier caught at low tide. Very unusual. I had a couple anglers say they were fishing live minnows with no weight and the flounder were just inhaling the minnows.”
J.J. from the “Oceanic Pier” reports, “We are starting to see nice keeper flounder, mostly during the day light hours on incoming tide. The best baits are live minnows, shiners, squid, and Berkley Gulp. The Tog have also made their return with the cooler weather, sand fleas, and green crabs work the best. At night, shad, blues, and some small stripers make their nightly appearance. Crabbing is the best we have seen in years, lots of fun for the little ones.”
“Old Inlet” reports, “Bluefish are moving through the Inlet on the incoming tide during the daytime. It seems they will run 2-3 days in a row then disappear for a day or two. The striper bite has slowed down. This is typical for August. What bite there is has been at night on eels and dark plugs, shads and bucktails. There are a pile of short flounder in the Inlet and in the bays. A few keepers in the mix but mostly 16-17-inch fish. Croakers reported around Masseys Ditch. Small croakers on the beach as well with kingfish, blues and sand perch in the mix too. The mullet run is just getting started. Reminder: Tautog will be closed Sept. 1-28.”
Captain Victor Bunting on the “Ocean Princess” reports, “that he has been picking up a mix of both keeper and throw back sea bass over the last week. We are seeing a few more nice flounder coming in." We hear Capt Victor is catching croaker just offshore as well.
Capt Chris Mizurak on the “Angler” reports, "The seabass fishing continues to be fairly good for late August. Plenty of action with most people going home with enough for a nice dinner. We had some good flounder fishing this week with some keepers on just about every trip. Summer is coming to a close and the fishing should only get better in the coming weeks.”
Capt. Drew on the “Tortuga” reports, “Fishing continued on the same track that it had been for the early part of this week, lots of action on throwback flounder, kingfish, robins and puffers. Then Irene showed up. We closed down from Thursday until Monday to make preparations for the storm. For the most part, damage here was less than expected and both "Tortuga" and "Judith M" escaped with no damage. As of right now, we are fishing in poor water clarity conditions but I expect it to improve by tomorrow or the next day.”
Capt. Sean on thee “Restlesslady” reports, “Todd and crew started last Tuesday afternoon on a 30-hour trip. Put lines in at inshore fingers trolled out to the deep 500 fathoms. Fished all night, had a big animal on for a couple hours — no idea we could not move it bit 400 feet deep on a swordfish bait. In the morning came a little action, catching some dolphins and a couple big white marlin,one was bleeding bad and came to the dock 73 inches, 39-inch girth, 98 pounds and laid on the deck for six hours. We also managed some dolphins and a nice wahoo.”
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. 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.
(Maguire is an outdoor writer and owner of Skip’s Bait and Tackle and Skip’s Charter and Guide Service in Ocean City.)