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Vol 48 | WINTER ISSUE | Jan 1, 2023

2022 Delmarva Year in Review Chum Lines Ship to Shore How to Catch Tautog Flounder Fishing in the Surf Fishing Glossary The Galley Issue Photos
Fishing Glossary

Article by Larry Budd

As most of our reader know, we use a lot of terminology and some slang to describe equipment, fish, locations, etcetera! We do get questions on these so we thought a Glossary would be interesting. It is not a complete list by any imagination, so if you have a term to add, email it to us at CoastalFisherman@comcast.net!!

What Did They Mean?

Fattie/Flattie - Usually referring to a flounder or fluke.

Bailer Dolphin - This phrase is used to describe a small dolphin, usually in the 2 to 5 pounds range and small enough to lift into the boat by grabbing the leader.

Ballyhoo - The ballyhoo is a baitfish of the halfbeak family and are frequently used as cut bait and for trolling purposes by saltwater sportsmen.  Ballyhoo are distributed in tropical-warm temperate latitudes on both sides of the Atlantic in Florida where they inhabit shallow bank areas or grassflats associated with coral reefs.

Calcutta - Fishing tournaments of all kinds create opportunities for anglers to not only participate in these events for a set guaranteed prize money, but to also invest in specific categories based on their interest or ability to invest!  These additional categories above and beyond the tournament entrance fees are commonly called Calcuttas.  For example you can enter the White Marlin Open for a relatively small entrance fee and then enter the Calcuttas that you want.  There are also Small Boat Calcuttas to allow smaller boats to compete against each other.  Likewise there are options for heaviest fish by species (Tuna, Marlin, Dolphin, etc), daily catch, most billfish releases and some sizable Winner Take All choices.  Most of these are funded by the anglers or bats paying the specific Calcutta fees.  These fees can add up if a boat wanted to enter all Calcuttas in a tournament, or go ‘across the board’ as it is called.  The combined totals can exceed $50,000 for the larger events.

CBBT - Shorthand for the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel.

Chains - Like spreader bars, a Daisey chain is a combination of lures run sequentially in line.  Unlike bars, these chains only have a single line or chain.  

Chunking - This is a type of fishing whereby baitfish is cut into pieces and tossed over the side to attack fish.  There are slight variations by species targeted, but the concept is to create a ‘slick’ of bait to attract the fish to the boat versus trolling for them.  This is a popular method for tuna fishing certain times of the year in the Delmarva area and usually results in enormous amounts of butter fish being put into the Poor Man’s Canyon!  In this method, pieces of butter fish are put overboard with only 1 have a hook in it.  As they sink and the tuna snap up the feast, eventually one hits the piece with a hook.  It is very exciting to see tuna swarming behind a boat at anchor in a frenzy and can make for exciting multiple hookups.

Convict - Convict is a nickname for sheepshead given to them due to their notable stripes!

Covered Up - this term refers to when a boat has fish on all the hooks they have in the water. 

Cut Bait - While we try to specify what bait is being used, sometimes we are only told ‘Cut Bait’.  This is simply any fish cut to size to fit the rig or hook.  Common types in our area are bunker, mullet or spot.

Deep Dropping - Deep dropping is exactly what it sounds like.  Dropping that bait DEEP. Deep dropping can be distinguished from bottom fishing when you are dropping baits deeper than 300 feet. Most anglers who deep drop and have a good depth sounder or good location coordinates so that they can find an abundance of tasty bottom fish.  Often used in reference to swordfishing.

Dink 20 or 30 - This refers to smaller reel sizes and bait (typically a naked ballyhoo).  Reels ranging from 1000 - 3500 (aka 10 to 35) are typically used to target smaller fish and most often white marlin on our area.  Reels over 4000 or ’40’ are made for larger fish.  So we will remark if a large fish like a tuna is caught on one of these smaller ‘Dink’ reels as it makes landing the fish much harder.

Doormat - Large flounder are often referred to as ‘doormats’ due to their size and flat profile.  While subjective, we use a 26” minimum for the moniker.  Actual doormats that look like flounder are available at many local stores for those so inclined!

ESVA - Acronym for the Eastern Shore of Virginia.

Flotsam - This is a term for floating debris on the ocean surface.  This can be anything from natural items like weed lines or logs to artificial items like buckets, buoys, coolers, etc.  Why they matter is certain fish like to be under these items for shade or to chase the baitfish.  For us most notably that would be mahi.

Gaffer - A ‘gaffer’ fish is one considered large enough to use a gaff to get it into the boat.  It is usually used to differentiate or highlight that the fish caught is larger and is used often when referencing mahi.  

Grander - Used in reference to a fish caught that is over a thousand pounds, usually in reference to marlin.  For example the 1,135 lb. blue marlin caught by the “Billfisher” during the 30th Annual MidAtlantic was a true ‘grander’!

Green Machine - The Green Machine is a classic offshore trolling lure which tempts virtually every pelagic in the ocean and tops the list of big winners.  The original Green Machine offered by Sevenstrand consisted of a clear plastic bullet head with green beads inside, followed by a green glitter-flecked skirt. The company changed hands several times and there are a million knock-offs out there today. You’ll find versions ranging from 8 to 12 inches, but ask just about any old-timer and he’ll tell you that the original is still the best.

Gulp - We often refer to baits used in shorthand versus the products full names.  One of the most popular brands of artificial baits comes from Berkley Fishing.  While they offer a broad range of offerings for many species, their family of Gulp! Soft baits are the go to for many in our area.  Flounder fisherman for example love the Gulp Swimming Mullets and use several colors and sizes to see what is working on any specific day.  We try to get details on color and type of Gulp used, but some captains consider that information state secrets! 

Ilander - Iland is a brand name for a family of trolling lures made by L & S Tackle with metal heads, artificial etyes and colored skirts.  They come in several models, sizes and color variations and while there is a specific model ‘The Ilander’, any one is commonly referred to an Ilander.  This is why we try to specify model or color when possible.

Jigging - The practice of fishing with a jig, a type of weighted fishing lure. A jig consists of a heavy metal (typically lead) sinker with an attached fish hook that is usually obscured inside a soft lure or feather-like decorations. Jigs are intended to create a jerky, vertical “jumping” motion to attract fish.

Kite Fishing -  Offshore kite fishing is a sport fishing technique used to keep live bait on the surface of the water to attract and catch surface feeding predators. It is used in Florida along the Atlantic coast and in the Caribbean for sailfish. It is also used for blackfin and yellowfin tuna, dolphin or mahi-mahi, wahoo, black grouper, and yellowtail snapper.  It involves a kite from which a drop line hangs, attached to a lure or bait. The kite is flown over the surface of a body of water, and the bait floats near the waterline until taken by a fish. The kite then drops immediately, signaling to the fisherman that the bait has been taken, and the fish can then be hauled in. 

Knothead - This is a nickname for black sea bass due to the pronounce lump in the top of their heads.

Limit - This expression is used when a private or charter boat catches the allowed amount of fish by the state for federal creel limits.  Often used in reference to tuna catches as well as sea bass, but can apply to any species with a creel limit.

Linesider - Nickname for rockfish.

Loran Lines and #’s - Fisherman still refer to popular fishing locations using numbers from a legacy navigational system called Loran-C for LOng RAnge Navigation.  During this systems operation run from the 1950’s to 2010, Loran lines were included on most charts (see image below) and were used to reference fishing or catch locations versus an actual longitude and latitude, thus providing a location, but not exact!  Since the system went off line these lines have been dropped from most charts, however historical charts are still available from the Office of Coast Survey.

Man in the Brown Suit - This is a traditional name for the fish cobia.

Naked Ballyhoo - A naked ballyhoo is just that, a ballyhoo rigged with no other lure or skirt.

Furuno Omni or Sonar - While not a new technology, Sonar has been used in commercial fishing for a several years.  Advancements in technology and pricing have however expanded the usage for recreational users, even though the cost to install one can run over $100,000.  This allows for the boat to effectively ‘see’ it’s target and trajectory in the water.  The device lowers an array below the boat like an upside down periscope and can operate at speeds up to 16 knots.

Otter Tails - We often refer to baits used in shorthand versus the products full names.  One of the newer brands over the past couple of years comes from local company SquidNation and their ‘Otter’ family of artificial baits including Tails, Tubes and Spoons.  Flounder fishermen for example love the Otter Tails for their effectiveness and durability, and use several colors and sizes to see what is working on any specific day.

“Outside” the Canyon - Often Captains reference a catch as being outside of a specific canyon, for example ‘outside the Washington Canyon’.  This means the boat has moved east of the canyon proper.  Additionally depending on what inlet the boat departed from, ‘outside’ could mean Northeast or Southeast of the canyon depending on their approach.  This is why we try to get depth information and other location indicators to help narrow down a location.

Over - Some regulations, mainly with tuna, allow anglers to catch a certain amount of fish under a certain length and a different number for fish over a number.  So for example in 2022, the Federal Size & Creel Limits for bluefin tuna allow for one fish to be kept per vessel that are 47” to 73” in length.  The are referred to as ‘overs’.

Peanut Mahi - Peanut dolphin are the small, hand sized juveniles.

Pitch Bait - A ‘Pitch Bait’ is as it sounds, a rod, reel and bait already rigged and ready to pitch in the water when a fish shows up!  These can use live or dead baits and are often used when an unexpected fish shows up that won’t take a lure already in the water, or pops up around a spreader bar or dredge.

Release - Modern sport fisherman are leaders in the conservation efforts for the species found inshore and offshore with many fishermen fishing for sport and ‘releasing’ most of what they catch.  In our context this phrase mainly refers to marlin caught and released.  Most billfish tournaments have a release only Calcutta or are release only events, so when we mention a boat or angler had ‘x’ releases that means they were able to hook a fish and get it to the boat and document that the crew had the fish under control in the water or got the leader to the tip of the rod.  Once the specific criteria is met, then the fish is released unharmed.

Roy Rig - The ‘Roy Rig’ is a lure developed by avid local fisherman Big Bird Cropper.  Over his years of fishing he has modified a jig head and shank to maximize impact on flounder, sea trout and bluefish. 

Schooler or Schoolie Fish - In general these are smaller fish of a species, so for example a schoolie striper would be a small or sublegal fish (currently under 28”).

Skirt - A ‘Skirt’ is typically a lure with a heavy head with colored ribbons or fibers flowing from the head.  If held upright the ribbons can look like a skirt.  So when we mention for example a ‘Skirted’ Ballyhoo, that is a ballyhoo that has had some type of lure attached in front of the head to add weight and the skirt covers part of the bait.

The Slot - When a state or federal regulation only allows a fish to be kept if it is between a minimum or maximum size.  For example, rockfish in Maryland for 2022 may only be kept if they were 28” or more, but no more than 35”.  So a phase like “Gina caught a rockfish at the top of the ‘slot’ “ would mean her fish was toward the 35” maximum.

Squidnation - Squidnation is a company with headquarters in Maryland that makes a variety of lures, artificial baits and equipment.  They are often referenced by boats that use their spreader bars or chains or for the use of their artificial baits in the Otter Tails family.

Sterling - Sterling is a manufacturer of spreader bars, dredges, daisy chains and other items like the Joe Shute Lure.

Stretch Lure - There are many companies that make ‘stretch’ lures with the most notable being Manns Bait Co.  Stretch Lures are some of the most effective lipped trolling lures because these lures to get down to where the fish are and are great for a variety of saltwater species from stripers and bluefish to big game fish like tuna and marlin.  A model number usually follows the name such as a ‘Stretch 20’.  As the model number increases, so does the size of the lure and its depth range.

Throwback Ratio - This phrase refers to the ratio of how many fish you need to catch to retain a certain amount of legal size fish. For example for sea bass or flounder we might say the ration was 5:1, or 5 fish caught for every keeper.

Tax Man - a phrase used when a fish is on the hook but a shark takes some or all of the fish before it can be brought to the boat.  Usually happens in southern waters/canyons and most notably with tuna.

Top & Bottom Rig - The top and bottom rig is one of the most universal rigs used by Anglers up and down the East Coast and throughout the Chesapeake Bay. It is a simple rig mainly for bottom fishing, but it can yield great results.  While they can come in many variations, the basic concept is a rig with a weight to reach the bottom with 2 lines that trail above it with lures or bait.  IE a ‘top’ bait and a ‘bottom’ bait.  This dual system can entice fish on or near the bottom since it offers 2 hooks at different levels.

Trolling Pattern locations - Sometime we mention what line a fish hit on the boats trolling pattern.  For example a lot of tuna have hit on a ‘widetracker’.  Other names include Flat Line, Long Line, Shotgun and Way Back.  An example with other names are in the image above.

Under - Some regulations, mainly with tuna, allow anglers to catch a certain amount of fish under a certain length and a different number for fish over a number.  So for example in 2022, the Federal Size & Creel Limits for bluefin tuna allow for two fish to be kept per vessel that are 27” to <47” in length.  The are referred to as ‘unders’.

Canyon Wall - This term is used when captains report fishing on the edges of the canyons, typically described as the west or the one closest to shore or the outer east wall.

Widetracker - This refers to a type of spreader or tracker bar that is designed to move outwards to the port or starboard to get the lures ‘wide’ in the spread.  They can move as far as 30’ outwards from a normal spreader bars patterns and put the lures into cleaner water outside of a boats wake.  They have proven very effective for tuna in the last several years.

X for Y on Bites - We often report tuna catches and marlin releases using a phrase like … ”Charter Boat “Boss Hogg” went 4 for 5 on white marlin today”.  This basically tells us they hooked 5 marlin for the day and got 4 to the boat.  The 5th most likely was able to jump off the hook or the tackle failed.  For tuna the expression has a slightly different meaning.  As tuna travel in schools, it is common for a boat to hook up with multiple tunas at the same time.  So for this example a boat could have 5 tuna hooked and boat 3, or they went 3 for 5.  Fighting that many tuna at the same time makes it difficult to keep the lines clear and so sometime some break off.

Fishing Locations

800 Square - This popular fishing location is at the intersection of two old Loran C lines, the 41800 & 26800.  These old Loran lines are referenced by the last 3 numbers vs the all five, so this area is referred to as the 800x800 or 800 Square.  It is located in the Washington Canyon.

2nd Street Bulkhead/Chicago Avenue - A popular spot to get access to the Ocean City East Channel from land is the bulkhead & walkway that parallels the water from 2nd Street north to 4th Street.  The road adjacent is Chicago Avenue.  There are rocks to deal with, but for the angler that can manage them this can be a productive spot.

Artificial and Natural Reefs - These terms are most often used by party boat captains who prefer not to divulge their fishing spots! 

Bass Grounds - Large schools of this game fish will lay claim to this area as the Bass Grounds, which is located about 12 miles due east of Ocean City Inlet. This particular spot has always been popular for anglers seeking sea bass and tautog, both of which congregate within the submerged rubble of an artificial reef.

Bass Pots - pots used to catch sea bass and have buoys to mark them on the surface that fish can congregate under.

East & West Channels in OC - The main East Channel is the deep channel on the east side of the Ocean City bay between the draw of the Route 50 Bridge north to 14th Street. The gray townhouses at 14th Street are part of the Harbor Island Residential Complete.

DA or ‘A’ Buoy - This marker is about 14 miles slightly south east from the Indian River Inlet and is one of the markers for commercial traffic headed into the Delaware Bay.   Just 2 miles north of this marker are a series of lumps that can rise up to a depth of only 8 fathoms surrounded by depths ranging from 10 to 14 fathoms.  The areas hosts an array of coral reefs and wrecks.

Delaware Light or Lightship - Heading out of the Indian River Inlet on a course of 120 DEGREES for about 20 miles will get you to this former location of an actual Lightship.  It is now a large floating platform acting as both a light and transmitter for commercial traffic headed into the Delaware Bay.  The floating platform attracts tiny baitfish, small dolphin, various species of shark and lots of bluefish.

Fathom Lines - We will sometimes mention a Fathom Line in describing a catch location.  Nautical charts will show these fathom lines that follow a certain depth.  For example the 100 Fathom line or Natural 100 follows the outer edge of between the offshore canyons and outlines the canyons themselves.  It is roughly the continental shelf.  There are also fathom lines at 10, 20, 30 & 50.

Fenwick Ditch - The Fenwick Ditch connects the northern Assawoman Bay with the Little Assawoman Bay.  The northern end is a productive fishing spot.

Hambone - The Hambone is just approximately 30 miles due east of Ocean City Inlet. This lump rises to within 19 fathoms of the ocean’s surface with surrounding depths plummeting to 27 fathoms, thus forming an offshore oasis for a multitude of species.

Hot Dog - Among the most popular summer hotspots for a wide range of species is the Hot Dog. This 18-fathom lump is situated approximately 35 miles due east of Ocean City Inlet and is surrounded by depths ranging from 24 to 37 fathoms.

Ice Breaker Pier - This a the northern most breakwater in the DE Bay north of Cape Henlopen and is known for tog and sheepshead.

Jack Spot - The Jack Spot is a vast uprising from the ocean’s floor that ascends to within 8 fathoms of the surface. The surrounding depths rapidly fall off to 17 fathoms, thereby the half-mile-long structure is similar to an oasis in the midst of otherwise bleak bottom. 

Massey’s Ditch - Massey’s Ditch is located just northwest of the Indian River Inlet and is at the eastern tip of the Long Neck, DE peninsula.  There is a Massey’s Landing Public Boat ramp on the ditch.

Ocean City Airport - While many catch reports reference this Municipal Airport that is approximately 5 miles south of the Rt. 50 Bridge as the crow flies, the flounder are actually caught in the Sinepuxent Bay located to the east.  From the bay you can see the approach lights and part of the runway.

Ocean City Commercial Harbor - Almost directly west from the Ocean City Inlet is a harbor for several commercial fishing and offshore work.  When referred to as a fishing location, in general that means the mouth of the harbor outside of the long pier or at the entrance to Sunset Marina wrapping around north around the Martha’s Landing community.

Old Grounds - The Old Grounds is a popular fishing area due to its productivity and relative closeness.  It is about 15 east south east of the Indian River Inlet.

Outer and Inner Walls - These are two rock breakwaters outside of the Roosevelt Inlets at Lewes, DE. The Outer Wall is the longest with the ocean on one side and the bay on the other. The Inner Wall is further west and has the bay on both sides. These are noted for tog and sheepshead.

Rt. 50 Bridge - This is probably obvious as is the bridge that connects the Ocean City peninsula with the western side of the Ocean City Bay.  The bridge has sidewalks on the both sides that allow anglers to fish the pilings that support the bridge.  It is a great location for flounder, bluefish and small rockfish and you can find angler fishing at almost any hour of the day!

Stinky Beach - On the west side of the bay and just south of the Rt. 50 Bridge you will see a sandy beach where vacationers are fishing or just sunbathing. This is Homer Gudelsky Park (Some locals still call it by it’s old name, Stinky Beach). It’s real deep here and there are some holes that go down to 40 feet. There are lots of potential for snags, but some real nice flounder are caught here. Tautog are there too if you use live or frozen sand fleas.

Thorofare - The Thorofare sees a lot of flounder!  It is located on the west side of the Ocean City Bay, just offshore of a residential area called Captain’s Hill. It’s deep next to the houses and just offshore there’s a yellow house where locals say they catch a lot of big flounder. Going north, you will see Buoy #6 and from there you can follow the marshes back just offshore of a development called Isle of Wight to Buoy #16. By the time you hit #16 you are almost opposite Ocean Pines and can see the Route 90 Bridge in the distance.

VFW Slough - this is channel located in the southern part of the Indian River Bay and garners it’s name for being just off shore of the VFW Post 7234 at the northern tip of Cedar Neck Rd.  It is known for flounder and for being difficult to navigate due to shallow waters on the approach and shifting sands. §

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