OCEAN CITY, MD – In what has been a crazy year with the pandemic, an odd turn of events awarded me an opportunity to take a week long solo fishing trip to Ocean City, MD. With only a week from the idea of doing the trip to actually leaving, I had little time to research in advance. I was fortunate to find a very nice guy on the Roughfish Facebook Group for some conversation and also found some decent Youtube videos, and that would be the extent of what I was armed with. This truly would be an adventure.
After the eight hour plus drive I was pretty tired, but not so tired as to not try fishing right away. After catching a Horseshoe Crab and also some type of Spider Crab, I began catching some small fish (pictured above). Locals fishing near me would ID these fish as Tautog, with me later learning they were actually Bergall Wrasse (Cunner). I caught many, hoping for a larger specimen, but none exceeded 8 or 9 inches. I was pleased to be catching something, and it was a species that I had never caught prior.
The first full day in Ocean City, I decided I would bottom fish with a rotation of trying squid, raw shrimp, or minnows while intermittently casting various offerings. Sadly, everyone was talking about how slow the fishing was and I found myself changing what I was doing too frequently. I wish I would have just slowed down and stuck to something with more patience. There would end up being no magical lure or bait to catch fish. The highlight of the day, was a solid strike that came off about as fast as I felt the hit. The pictured swimbait is what I reeled in, a short strike that missed the point of the hook and simply sheered off the tail. Locals I showed this to, said a Bluefish was the likely culprit.
I am not sure if that hit was a blessing or a curse. On the positive side, it caused me to spend countless hours throwing the same thing which provided two awesome huge hookups (unfortunately both fish coming off). It also helped me to stay in the same area and watch and learn about the tides. On the downside, I lost focus and attention on keeping other rods for bottom and bait fishing going. I have to believe if I stuck with those, I would have had some catches to show for it.
At some point, I did finally realize that I could potentially spend all week hoping for the big hookup and landing of a massive fish. Sure, if I got it, a single fish could have made the whole trip… but if I didn’t get that bite I would be kicking myself for not moving around and trying other things. Thankfully, I made a move and committed to using bait for awhile. I was rewarded with a series of catches of American Eels. This is a new species that I had never encountered before, with the largest eel being 24 inches.
Mid-week I caved on my solo exploration, I stacked the odds in my favor of getting to catch fish by booking my spot on the party boat The Angler. I was treated with consistent Black Sea Bass action throughout the trip, with 7 or 8 being keeper size (12.5″+). Along with being plenty entertained by my own catches, I witnessed a 15# fish get ‘almost’ caught by an angler at the front of the boat. The angler was inexperienced and proceeded to reel his fish out of the water and into the air before the mate got up to him with the net. As expected, the fish did a few head shakes and dropped back into the water. I’m not sure what species it was, but I had a clear view of the event, and I felt pretty bad for the guy.
The following day after the party boat, weather took a turn for the worst. Fishing was slow but I did manage another new species catch, a Skate. I learned quickly in the week that the anglers look at the skates and rays with disdain for the most part, but I was happy to add something new to my life list. With the fishing being slow, any bite was welcomed, let alone a new species. On a whim, I decided to get myself a spot on the Tortuga, but I did not manage anything on the three hour trip. The Captain worked hard to get us on the fish, but it just was slow fishing, I would go out with them again. The highlight of the trip was the kid sitting next to me that managed the only keeper, winning the big fish pot.
As the trip was coming to an end, I put some time in throwing a Spec Rig. This had been introduced to me in a Youtube video, but more importantly and of more influence was some new friends I had met (will be seen in Part 2) who recommended it. While neither the Bluefish or Striped Bass (Rockfish) I caught on the rig were very big, the catches meant a lot to me. Not just for the simple fact of how hard people were working for a bite and how much time it took, but rather it made me feel like I had legitimized myself as an O.C. shore angler. I celebrated these small fish and their release as a big accomplishment.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed that I didn’t land any great trophy type fish. I didn’t really have a lot of time to set goals for the trip, and I have wavered between wondering if I had set the bar too low or too high for expectations in my mind. In the end, I had a great time. I caught some fish, made new friends, found new areas to fish, and learned a lot. By any definition, that has to be success!
Read Part 2 here!