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Vol 46 | WINTER ISSUE | Jan 1, 2021

2020 Year in Review Chum Lines Fish Stories Fishing Well is the Best Revenge Ship to Shore The Galley Issue Photos
2020 Year in Review

Article by Larry Budd

It was hard to consider doing a “Year in Review” for 2020. Do we really want to go through it again?! With all the bad, there was some good fishing this summer, so we will focus on that. The following is a summary of the weekly issues fishing reports for Ocean City and Delaware from the summer of 2020 in the Coastal Fisherman. Issue dates are in bold. Enjoy!

May 22, 2020 - Larry Jock graced the cover of this first issue in 2020 with a huge rockfish he caught in 2017. He had a passion for rockfishing and this fishing community. His presence continues to be missed.

Weather was the issue in late May, keeping most at the dock or in the bay only. Rockfish were being caught by the Rt. 50 Bridge and the Rt. 90 Bridge mostly in the two hours after high tide. Flounder were mainly in the East and West Channels and in the mouth of the Commercial Harbor. The back bay behind Assateague was also a good choice if you found the right spot. Gulp tipped with squid or minnows was doing the trick. The sea bass season opened on May 15th and the headboats and private boats had success at the Jack Spot. Squid was the bait of choice for many, however fresh or salted clams was the choice for the veterans. A couple of boats braved the weather to go offshore. The “Wrecker” brought a 74” swordfish and several tilefish to the docks. Late April saw one yellowfin catch report, but several were reported to the south around Chincoteague, so we knew they were coming.

June 9, 2020 - A couple of weeks passed until our 2nd issue of 2020 to adjust for the pandemic and a new publisher! The big news was the release of the first white marlin for 2020 and the controversy surrounding it. First of all, no white marlin had been on record as being caught this early in May, yet on May 23rd, not 1, but 2 whites were released. After review of the catch timings, it was Capt. Chris Miller on the “Reel Escape” who earned the First White Marlin Release award for 2020 and recording the earliest on record. Angler Andy Bleinberger was on the cover with the 445 lb. Blue Marlin he caught while working the area between the Baltimore and Poor Man’s Canyon while fishing on the “C-Boys”. While a catch of a lifetime, unfortunately the fish did not survive the fight and was boated. The first mahi catch of 2020 was also reported, caught south of the Washington Canyon by the “Reel Fin Addict”. The yellowfin were in full swing by this time with several catch reports in the double digits. The Poor Man’s Canyon area was the hotspot for these meat fish. Bigeye tuna were also showing up, “Full Service” brought a nice 217 lb. tuna to the scales. at Sunset Marina, “Magic Moment” brought in 2 as well. Inshore and the bay saw continued improvement in rockfish and flounder. The deep holes near the Ocean City Airport and by Harbor Island were top spots. Nearshore flounder fishing was had been slow due to colder water temps. The surf was yielding nice bluefish, black drum and red drum, especially on the southern end of Assateague.

June 24, 2020 - This issue marked the return of weekly publishing. We saw reporting on the first tournaments of the 2020 season with the boys on the “”Oppor-Tuna-Ty” on the cover with their tuna catch from the Ocean City Marlin Club’s Small Boat Tournament. They took 1st and 3rd place for their 2 bigeye and one yellowfin tunas earning over $17,000. Tuna was the headline story for these 2 weeks. Nice mixes of bigeye and yellowfin were being reported from the southern Poor Man’s Canyon. Charter boat “That’s Right” hit it hard catching their limit of yellowfin in just 2 hours. The first longfin tuna was also reported by “PYY Fishing” from the Poor Man’s Canyon as well. The first wahoo was also reported by the “Last Call” pulling in a nice 79lb. fish.

The winds made the bay dirty and made it hard to cast on the beach, really limiting the catch. A saving grace was the sea bass fishing. It could be a rough ride and there were many throwbacks, but there were keepers in the mix. We also got reports of cobia at the Little Gull Reef.

July 1, 2020 - This week’s cover featured a doormat of a flounder, 27” and 7.1 lbs., caught at an inshore wreck on the charter boat “On the Run”. Offshore the story continued to focus on tuna. Even though the yellowfin bite slowed, the quantity and size of the bigeyes being brought to the dock increased as more captains focused on deep drops for these monsters. The “Always Late” brought 14 bigeye to the dock they found in 200 fathoms in the Baltimore Canyon. Anglers on “That’s Right” went 7 for 8 on bigeye tuna, also in the Baltimore. Charter boat “Primary Search” returned to Sunset Marina after an overnight trip with 9 yellowfin, a mako and a swordfish from the Washington Canyon. Longfin tuna remained elusive, but we did hear of a 61.5 lb. fish caught between the Baltimore and Poor Man’s Canyons. Small mahi were being found to the south, largest this week was 19 lbs. Billfish bites remained consistent, usually mapping to the success or not of the tuna bite and being caught on tuna spreads. A highlight this week was the 620 lb. blue marlin caught by the crew of the “Bird Dog” out of the Indian River Inlet Marina. The crew connected with this one at 5AM in the Baltimore Canyon and fought it for 6 1/2 hours. A couple of swordfish came in from overnight trips.

The near shore and bay fishing picked up this week after the winds settled down. Sea bass fishing did well at the Jack Spot, but the throwback ratio was still in the 10 to 1 area. Clams on jigs was the winning combo. Slammer bluefish were found at the nearshore wrecks with lots of snapper blues creating great action in the bay. Cut bait at night off the Rt. 50 Bridge or the 3rd Street causeway were good spots. Cleaner water improved the flounder bite in the bay and keepers were found in the usual spots ... Ocean City Inlet & Commercial Harbor entrance, bay behind Assateague, Indian River Inlet up to the marina entrance as well as by the power plant in the bay. Shiners and minnows were the choice in Ocean City areas, but the folks in Delaware leaned toward white Gulp. Near shore hot spots were the coral grounds and area around A Buoy reported the best catches. In the surf, anglers were targeting kingfish and snapper blues and also catching a lot of rays on their mullet rigs.

July 8, 2020 - This week’s cover featured the crew from “Reel Chaos” with a 281 lb. swordfish from the Washington Canyon! We finally entered the tournament season of 2020 this week with the Ocean City Marlin Club’s Canyon Kick-Off. Lots of yellowfin tuna were brought to the scales from several different canyons as well as the Hotdog. “Lucky Duck II” held the lead with a 51.4 lb. catch and “Grande Pez” was 2nd with a 51.2. lb. tuna. “Roll Groove” slid into 3rd late on day 3 at 50.8 lbs. Unlike the weeks before, no bigeye or longfin were brought to the scales. In the billfish division, “Fish On” and “BuckShot” and “First Light” reported 5 white marlin releases in a single day. It came down to the last two of those boats for the division win with 8 apiece, but in the end “Buckshot” prevailed with the earliest 8th release. There were not many mahi weighed, but the “Makenzie Rae” locked first place with a 36 pounder they found in 150 fathoms in the Poor Man’s Canyon. Outside the tournament ... single digit yellowfin tuna catches were consistent, mostly from between the Poor Man’s and Baltimore Canyons. Blue marlin release reports were few and far between, however a 650 lb. blue was brought into Hook’em & Cook’em at the Indian River Marina.

Tog season opened in Maryland and Delaware this week. Early anglers headed to deep water spots in the Jack Spot and NJ/DE reef to target these fish. Warmer water moving into the area slowed the sea bass bite, but deeper & cooler water still produced nice keepers. The warmer water combined with the beach crowds put pressure on the surf fishing. Evening and nighttime fishing were still producing some blues, sharks and the occasional cobia. The back bays of Maryland were red hot with flounder, squid tipped with minnows working the best, followed by the reliable Gulp. In Delaware, A and B Buoy was the place to be, but did require working through some throwbacks.
July 15, 2020 - It was the crew of the “Big Stick” on the cover with their 195 lb. bigeye tuna that took 1st place for the Single Largest Fish caught in the 33rd Annual Ocean City Tuna Tournament. Tropical storm Fay rolled up the coast this week threatening the Ocean City Tuna Tournament. As Fay washed out any fishing on Friday, the tournament was modified to a 2 day event with each of the 32 registered boats fishing 1 of the 2 days. Bigeye tunas were found between the Poor Man’s and Baltimore Canyons in slightly cooler waters. White marlin fishing got hot and remained constant with those trolling for tuna. A real standout this week however was the “Lights Out”, releasing 15 whites in a single day. Parker Wheeler released a blue marlin he caught in 100 fathoms in the Washington Canyon that was estimated at 200 lbs. Tuna catches kept on going, and they are closer, especially the yellowfin with many double digit catches. The “Restless Lady” returned with 17, the “Wrecker” with 11 yellowfin from the southeast corner of the Poor Man’s Canyon, “Always Late” found 11 yellowfins at the Rockpile. Two ‘rare for 2020’ catches reported out of Lewes, DE this week. “Reel Chaotic” harvested 2 longfins out of the Baltimore Canyon and the “Katydid” caught a bluefin tuna. Some bull dolphins started showing up in Massey’s Canyon. The “Wreckless Pursuit’ landed a 45 inch, 35 lb. bull. Finally, the cobia have arrived! Anglers worked the inshore reefs like the Little Gull.

Flounder remained strong in the bays and inshore with many reports of limit catches. “Lucky Break” had 6 keepers near the OC Airport. Top reports this week were from the Ocean City Inlet, Jack Spot, African Queen and Site 10. A rare snowy grouper was caught in 500’ of water on the edge of the Washington Canyon. Oversize rockfish were being caught at night in the Indian River Inlet and kingfish were plentiful in the surf.

July 22, 2020 - Anglers Jack Willard, Grace Willard and Finn Stine made the cover for their 1st place win in the 16th Annual Ocean City Marlin Club Kid’s Classic with 4 white marlin releases from the Norfolk Canyon while on the “Fish On”. Offshore was once again dominated by yellowfin tuna. As most captains moved from trolling to chunking, the Hotdog became the place to be! The “Rhonda’s Osprey” had a busy morning landing 14 yellowfins with several quad and triple hookups. The “Restless Lady” took its first chunking trip to the Hotdog and boated 17. The “Marli” hit 7, “Magic Moment” had 12 and the “That’s Right” got 11. It was not a good week to be a yellowfin tuna. Tilefish were getting hot. The “Seacurity” landed a 30 lb. golden tilefish in 125 fathoms in the Poor Man’s, Marty Jones got one 43.8 lbs. in the Baltimore Canyon. Captains were running further south for billfish in the Washington and Norfolk Canyons. “The Zipper” boated a 335 lb. blue marlin that did not survive the fight in the Norfolk Canyon. Mahi bite was strong mixed in when chunking butterfish for tuna.

Nearshore the story was the continued strength of the sea bass bite, it is the strongest and longest its been in a decade. Tog were following the summer pattern and are harder to find. Deeper wrecks still hold some keepers. “Out of Control” landed a 59 lb. wahoo just inside of the Poor Man’s Canyon. Bay flounder fishing remained strong at all the usual hot spots with the Lewes Canal with the Old Grounds being the go to spot near shore. Many reports of limit catches from Lewes to Assateague.

July 29, 2020 - The HUK Big Fish Classic was the cover shot this week showcasing the 384 lb. blue marlin caught by the “Seacurity. This tournament was the first big one of the Covid 2020 summer with 106 boats participating as well as setting a record for the tournament payout of $891,560! The Heaviest Tuna Division was taken by one of the few bigeyes brought to the scale. The Heaviest Stringer Division was won by “Whisky Kilo” after they found a school of yellowfins in the 60 lb. range. Early in the week was another crazy yellowfin bite at the Hotdog. Many double digit and limit catches from chunking. Juvenile mahi were being caught inshore at the Hotdog as well with bulls being boated in the Washington and Norfolk Canyons.

Tog fishing has slowed with mostly undersized fish being caught at the Ocean City inlet rocks, same for the offshore. Flounder in the bay areas was getting better every day. In Ocean City, the area in front of Martha’s Landing up to the Rt. 50 Bridge was producing nice keepers. Next was by Harbor Island. Live spot was the bait catching the big fatties. In Delaware, the Lewes Canal was the hot spot as well as the Indian River Inlet using Gulp. Some had luck on from the beach with cut spot, John Chance wrestled in a 4 pounder he got fishing at the 3R’s.

August 5, 2020 - Team “Billfisher” was on the cover for their win in the Billfish Release Division of the 12th Annual Ocean City Marlin Club Ladies Tournament - “Heels & Reels” with their 6 releases. Most of the marlin action was in the Baltimore Canyon in over 500 fathoms with some just outside the Poor Man’s Canyon. Once again, a larger yellowfin won the Tuna Division when “Liquid RX” brought in one at 63.4 lbs. While the Hotdog remained the go to spot for chunking, others found success at the Hambone and in the Massey’s Canyon. Nice sized mahi over 30 lbs. were being found outside the Baltimore Canyon. King and spanish mackerel were also plentiful at the nearshore wrecks and even in the mouth of the bays. The Fenwick Shoal was a hot spot.

Ryleigh Archer boated an 84 lb. wahoo she landed on her first offshore trip ever. She was on the “Slaughterhouse” at the South Dump Site toward the Baltimore Canyon in about 30 fathoms. With air temps in the upper 90’s and low west winds, there was no doubt August had arrived. With the heat came reports of warmer water fish not usually in our area. A 15 lb. triple tail was weighed at Atlantic Tackle and several reports of tarpon were made. Sea bass just won’t stop with big ones in 90 feet of water or more at the Jack Spot, The Great Eastern Reef and A Buoy. Flounder catches were still strong and the Ocean Pines Chamber of Commerce held their 13th Annual Flounder Tournament. Justin Kreiser took 1st place with a 20 5/8 inch, 3.19 pound fattie. Sheepshead fishing was solid at the rocks of the inlets as well as inshore wrecks. Trigger fishing picked up at the wrecks as well.

August 12, 2020 - White Marlin Open week had arrived! The winning monster 97 lb. white from the “Canyon Blues” was on the cover earning $1,850,000. Another storm caused the WMO to extend the tournament to an unprecedented 7 days. 443 boats competed for over $6 million in prize money. A swordfish won the new Biggest Fish award winning $375K. Tropical Storm Isaias messed up the week. Before she hit and after deep water over 1200 fathoms in the Poor Man’s Canyon was where to find white marlin. The Hotdog still held yellowfin tuna. Mahi was in deep water in the Poor Man’s, “Jenny Poo” brought a 58.5 lb. fish to the WMO scales. Wahoo were in the Baltimore.
Before the storm clouded the water, flounder were hot at A & B Buoys, OC Inlet to Stinky Beach and the mouth of the DE Bay. Lots of blues and rockfish to be had in the Indian River Inlet and Rt. 50 Bridge at night. Beaches were closed due to the storm.

August 19, 2020 - Trish Walsh made the cover with a 149 lb. allison/yellowfin tuna she caught on the “Big Stick” in the Poor Man’s Canyon in 1000 fathoms. This would have been the week of the Poor Girls Open, but it was cancelled given many participants were cancer surviors and more susceptible to COVID. The new “Rebels Release” ladies’ tournament was launched. The white marlin bite slowed a bit and was scattered, but the blue marlin bite increased. The “Rhonda’s Osprey” had a Billfish Grand Slam catching a sailfish, white and blue marlin in one day in the Baltimore Canyon. Bull mahi were in the Poor Man’s, cobia and king mackerel at the Fenwick Shoals.

The Old Grounds was the place for large keeper flounder, other keeper at the OC Inlet and the Oceanic Fishing Pier. Red and black drum were found at the outer wall in the DE Bay and the sea bass just kept coming off the wrecks!

August 26, 2020 - The MidAtlantic tournament hit Ocean City this week with 114 local boats entered and over $4M in payouts. A 126.5” and 815 lb. blue marlin caught in the Washington Canyon by the “Griffin” during the tournament was on the cover. Another large blue was caught earlier but was disqualified due to a shark bite in the tail as it was boated. The “Blood Money” brought a huge 91 lb. white marlin to the scale from the norther tip of the Washington Canyon. Lots of whites were brought to the scales from the southern canyons. “Reel Character” boated a 381 lb. blue marlin caught just 30 miles offshore. Mahi had moved into the area in large numbers, inshore at the Rockpile and the southern canyons for nice bulls with several over 30 lbs. The tuna action remained mainly yellowfin from chunking at the Hotdog and the Hambone. Not much offshore action outside the tournament because everyone was in it!

Hotspot for flounder nearshore was Site 10. Both bays and the Indian River Inlet offered many options for keeper catches. Headboats Angler, Judith M, Judy V and Fisherman’s Wharf all reported strong catches of sea bass and flounder at ocean structures.

September 2, 2020 - A couple of themes for this week, weather kept many boats from going out, crews were recovering from the MidAtlantic and the dolphin were going crazy. No better example of that then “That’s Right” on the cover with 45 mahi on the dock they caught in the Baltimore Canyon. Actually, they were everywhere, inshore and off. White marlin were being caught up and down the line from the Wilmington to the Norfolk in single digits. “Work Release” out of Indian River released a blue marlin in the Baltimore, estimated at 300 lbs. Tuna was finally slowing down to single digit catches. A couple unusual for 2020 longfins were boated from the Poor Man’s and the Sausages. Nice sheepshead were being caught in DE at the Outer Wall and in MD off the inlet rocks. Flounder were hard to find in the bays, anglers had to move around a lot to find a few keepers. Nearshore had better results at Site 10 and the Old Grounds.

September 9, 2020 - It was the 63rd Labor Day White Marlin Tournament by the marlin club. “Buckshot” was on the cover for their 1st and only white marlin, 3rd place tuna and 1st place mahi. The had another trip outside of the tournament releasing 5 at the Rockpile. Weather once again impacted the weekend and tournament making it pretty rough for those that went out. White marlin were found at the Rockpile and the Wilmington and Washington Canyons. Longfin tuna finally arrived in larger numbers with many from the Wilmington Canyon. The “Marli” caught their limit of 18 and “Boss Hogg” had 10. Captains had gone back to the troll for yellowfin tuna. They were still here in the southern canyons. Mahi was still hot, but mainly juveniles at the Hotdog, Del-Jersey and Twin Wrecks. The cobia and mackerel were close to shore with catches at the Indian River inlet to the OC inlet. Nice wahoo were being found in the Baltimore Canyon, “Stollaway” caught a very nice 73”, 69.2 lb. wahoo there. Lastly the flounder fishing was hit or miss, but when you did get a hit it was a biggie. In MD, the East Channel, Thorofare and Rt. 50 bridge produced, nearshore was the African Queen and the Bass Grounds. North in DE it was Site 10 & 11 and the Indian River Inlet.

September 16, 2020 - The Bahia Marina Flounder Pounder Tournament had finally arrived. Winner Rich Daiker was on the cover with the giant 8.9 lb. doormat he caught with live bunker on the outgoing tide near the Rt. 50 bridge. Well above the 3 pounders that tied for 2nd. This was a surprise as the warmer water had slowed the bay flounder bite. The nearshore wrecks like Del-Jersey, Site 10, Old Grounds and the Indian River Inlet were still yielding fatties. Evan Falgowski boated a 32”, 11.5 lb. flounder at a Delaware wreck he would not identify! The marlin bite slowed with only a few singles released in the southern canyons. Larger mahi over 20 lbs. were caught nearshore at the Jack Spot and Del-Jersey. Many captains switched to deep dropping for swords and tilefish in the Poor Man’s Canyon in 700+ fathoms. Nice drum and tiggerfish catches were reported at the Outer Wall in DE. The Indian River Inlet and bay produced some nice keeper rockfish and the cobia bite continued at the Fenwick Shoal.

September 23, 2020 - Our last issue for the 2020 season showed the shift to deep dropping with a swordfish on the cover from the “Sea Hag”. This 422.5 lb. sword was caught in 150 fathoms in the Washington Canyon on squid and artificial eel. Weather and wind plagued September and this week was no exception. Some boats did brave the elements offshore. The “Cabana” headed to the Washington in 220 fathoms and landed 3 swordfish up to 200 lbs., a 222 lb. bigeye tuna and over 20 mahi! Other swords were found in the Baltimore as well as golden tilefish. Sea bass would just not quit with keepers still coming up from wrecks with depths over 120 feet. Sheepshead were plentiful at the OC Inlet Jetties and the Outer Wall in DE. Flounder fishing was tough in the bay, but keepers could still be had in many spots in the Fenwick Shoal and the Jack Spot. §

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