by C.D. Dollar
It's All Bigger on Blue Water
As I soon discovered, everything about offshore fishing is bigger. The boats generally have more horsepower and often two engines. The reels, the test strength of the lines, the lures, the baits and the hooks - all bigger. Best of all, the fish are bigger -- and faster -- in blue water.
On a gray morning, I met John Widmayer at Fisherman's Marina just outside Ocean City, where he keeps his 36-foot Hatteras, Banshee. After earning his Coast Guard license a couple of years ago, Capt. Widmayer has made the transition from taking friends offshore to chartering his boat for clients. The trip I was on was a fun one, comprised of his cousin Frank and three other guys I hadn't met before, a motley crew indeed.
The most productive fishing grounds for big game species are where the Gulf Stream currents warm the water, roughly 50 miles offshore. Relatively calm seas made the three-hour run to the Rock Pile, an uncharted spot between Poor Man's and Baltimore canyons, uneventful. Widmayer said the bite had been good for dolphin (also called dorado or mahi) and yellowfin tuna, with decent numbers of wahoo and some white marlin.
Looking for a challenge, I brought my nine-weight fly rod to go after dolphin. Enticing a tuna to take a fly was out of my league and would burn up my reel in minutes. But once at the fishing grounds, we trolled ballyhoo and 'green machines' for a few hours, the net result totaling three dolphin in the box. Peanut dolphin (less than 10 pounds) caught on massive rods loaded with 30- and 50-pound test just didn't do it for me.
We found a small school of dolphins beneath a lobster buoy, broke out conventional rods and baited up. Dolphin, great sportfish and excellent table fare, are attracted to floating structures like buoys, pallets and flotsam. Lined across the transom, the other fishermen were voracious in their pursuit of these fish. Casting my fly rod proved tricky business as behind me the outriggers offered a potential mother-of-all-rat's-nests and to my left the other fishermen left little room for me to swing the big wand. But it was enough room.
A big green and white 4/0 Deceiver at the end of my 20-pound test leader brought a solid hookup that I lost at the transom, a brief yet mesmerizing taste of the action to come. We quickly found another school and I tied on an original creation of lead eyes, green and white feathers, monofilament and strands of flash material tied on a #3 hook. Certainly it would never be found in any professional tyers' vice, but you can't catch fish from the tying bench.
As I worked the fly, Widmayer shouted from the flying bridge, "He's looking, he wants it! Strip faster!" Two quick pulls, a pause, then a long, hard yank and bam! The dolphin struck the fly with crazed fury, peeling line so fast I was stunned into temporary paralysis. I recovered quickly enough to watch the fish race past me toward the bow like a comet as the sweet sound of line running off the reel played like a symphony.
Once past the bow, the dolphin reversed direction, then made several spectacular leaps toward ethereal heights, exploding through the ocean's surface in a magical rainbow of electric blues and neon greens and yellows. One final, long run was all that fighter had left, and I was able bring it aboard. The intensity of that fight made me hungry for more battles with bigger ocean gamefish.
The day had two other awesome highlights: a nice 50-pound yellowfin tuna fought and landed by David Jones; a family of porpoises swimming with the boat totally disinterested in the fake baits we offered, a sign of their unparalleled intelligence in the marine world. And what a world it is.
Fish Are Biting
The intense rockfish bite that had been delighting upper Bay anglers drifting eels around Pooles Island and Tea Kettle Shoals has slacked somewhat, according to DNR and recreational reports. Rob Jepson from Angler's says the rockfishing is a bit unpredictable and slow. But the bottom fishing for gray trout, jumbo spot and white perch is still strong at the mouth of the Chester River, many places in the Severn River, as well as off Hacketts, Tolleys and Thomas points. All over the upper Bay, schools of blues, rock and maybe some sea trout beneath offer spin and fly fishermen good sport.
The edges leading into Eastern Bay still have nice flounder, some rock and blues. The Hill has some keeper rock for chummers, and across the Bay trollers working from Parker's Creek to Cove Point can land larger rockfish in the 30-inch range. Fred Donovan of Rod 'n' Reel tells me that bluefish in the six- to 10-pound range are in good numbers for mid-Bay anglers and that the bottom fishing is holding up well. There are still a few Spanish mackerel around too.
Down the Bay, chummers score more on bluefish than rockfish at Mudleads, Middle Grounds, and off Point Lookout. The flats of upper Tangier Sound, and the holes around Smith, Bloodsworth and Fox islands have large spotted sea trout.
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VolumeVI Number 38
September 24-30, 1998
New Bay Times