Home Drifting Easy - Fishing Tips How late in the season do the fish bite?
How late in the season do the fish bite?

“How late in the season do the fish bite?”

Every species of fish is different. Some fish stick around and tolerate
colder water temperatures than others. Fish tend to leave the bay first and
hang around the inlets and surf. Also, the further offshore you go, the
warmer the temperatures may be on the bottom.

“What leaves the bays first?”

Croaker, that were so plentiful in July and the beginning of August start
leaving the bay in mid-August. It’s not that they are gone from our waters,
just our bay waters. Anglers continue to catch them into November offshore
on the shoals. Inshore shoals such as Little Gull Shoal, Big Gull Shoal, and
the artificial reef offshore of 28th Street will continue to see croaker
into November. They, along with small sea trout and flounder can be at any
of these locations until around Thanksgiving. As the season gets colder,
more and more horn dog sharks are mixed in with the “good” fish. (A horn dog
shark is actually quite tasty to eat!)

Spot start leaving the bay in October. That’s not a big deal for anglers
catching them for fun or to eat. But many anglers catch small spot to use
for bait. Anglers will continue to catch some here and there in creek type
environments but the days when you will be able to go out and catch 50 on
hook and line will be over by November. Anglers with boats on the water buy
a wire “pen” and catch spot and hold them for later. Big stripers will be
eating spot long after they are gone. So save some now, for later, and you
will be glad you did. Hide or lock up your cage, as “stolen spot” is
something we hear about in the tackle stores all the time!

Grey Trout, that fish we didn’t hear a whole lot about this year usually
leave the bay by Thanksgiving. The back-bay areas, such as the Thorofare,
will generally “dry up” on trout by the end of October. In years past, the
Thorofare was an excellent late September early October location to catch
some nice ones.

The area around the Route 50 Bridge, the inlet, the Oceanic Pier at night,
and the surf will see a few trout until around Thanksgiving. The surf, right
at dusk was always my favorite time to catch trout. Cast into clean clear
water with a nice fresh strip of mullet or spot. Cast out and then drag the
bait in slowly. Don’t worry about there not being as many trout as there
used to. The same technique will also catch flounder, lingcod, kingfish,
puppy drum, and stripers.

If you are offshore Ocean City in a boat, use squid strips and jig up and
down for trout while letting out line. You can also catch flounder and
croaker that way. When you keep your bait bouncing, you will catch less
sharks and skates. That’s important in the fall!

Flounder! Now that’s an important fall fish. Generally, the flounder exodus
begins mid to the end of September, peaks by mid-October, and stragglers are
caught until around the first week to mid-November in the bay. Flounder,
offshore on the shoals, can be caught into the first week of December.

Flounder that have been hiding in the bay all season start migrating out of
the bay. The very end of the incoming tide and the beginning of the outgoing
tide is when you want to fish for them. Sometimes the last of the low
outgoing will also work this time of year. As the season progresses towards
the end, places like the Thorofare are “done.” You need to get down there in
the main east channel (from 14th Street to the draw of the bridge) on the
incoming tide. On the outgoing tide you can fish from the draw of the bridge
to the Oceanic Pier and through the inlet.

The Route 50 Bridge has rocks piled up around the pilings for stability. It
is shallower underneath the Bridge than it is just offshore of it. The
flounder come out of the back- bay, hit this wall of rocks, and sometimes
don’t know what to do! It takes them a little while to figure out how to
get out the inlet so the fisherman on the Bridge and the boats fishing close
to the Bridge have a good time catching these feeding flounder when the tide
slacks up enough to work these waters!

These fish feed heavy for about an hour or so on the slacking tides. When
the tide is running hard, you may just be picking up small ones here and
there. If you have large live bait (live spot, live finger mullet, live
peanut bunker, small live lizard fish, etc….) fish them when the tide is
slacking and that’s when you’ll have the chance to catch a doormat!
Hint: Give the flounder a chance to swallow these larger baits.

Stripers! That’s what anglers wait for. The fall run of stripers. These fish
will bite in earnest from October into December. Sometimes we have stripers
up till Christmas. Stripers probably hang around longer than any of the
other fish. Anglers fish live eels, live spot, live mullet, and live bunker
in the main east channel, the inlet, and just outside the inlet. Stripers
can also be on the “shoals” offshore, but anglers are not allowed to keep
them unless they are fishing within 3-miles of the beach. (Federal law.)

At night, from the Route 50 Bridge, anglers use the live bait or lures such
as swimming shad lures to catch the stripers. Striper tide? Incoming (half
way in) up to high tide and just starting out is the best striper tide. One
hour either side of low tide will also work in the inlet.

Stripers also hit the surf in October, November, and into the first week or
two of December. Bunker, cut spot, cut mullet fished on rigs (WITHOUT)
floats work best.
(This bait will also works for red drum that bite from mid-September until
mid-October.) Anglers also use lures at dusk and dawn. Sometimes, around
Thanksgiving, we have stripers breaking close to shore. That’s when a metal
spoon or plug will work.

Bluefish! In the bay and inlet, bluefish can be a nuisance, especially if
you are fishing with expensive live spot. When you bring in your live bait
and it is bit in half, it is a bluefish. (Flounder and stripers crush the
bait but leave it intact- thus you can tell what kind of bite you had!)

Bluefish biting in the surf is welcome in the fall. Anglers catch them from
September until the first week or so of December. Usually the first major
storm after Thanksgiving sends them south.

The end of September into October sees smaller blues with a few big ones
mixed in. They are plentiful when they are smaller and become more illusive
as we come into November and the beginning of December. It’s then that we
have a run of the larger blues with stripers mixed in. It’s more “hit or
miss” but there’s the chance of getting into a school of 8 to 16 pound
bluefish. The best baits for bluefish are whole finger mullet on a finger
mullet rig.

Blues can also be taken at the inlets on bucktails and spoons. At the
Oceanic Pier at night, Got-cha Plugs are good.

Tautog is a big fishery in Ocean City and Indian River from October through
around Thanksgiving. A few are caught beyond that into December. When they
first start biting, they will bite at any tide. When the water gets colder,
around Thanksgiving, they will only bite on the change of tide. Any kind of
crab will work- sections of hard crab, green crab, or fresh or frozen sand
fleas. The inlets, the Rt. 50 Bridge around the draw, and the bulkhead along
2nd through 4th Streets will see the tautog action.

Party boats? September through November is a great time to catch some
trophy sea bass and some nice tautog. You do have to pick your days and
watch the weather this time of year. As the season progresses, more sharks
are out there, and hey! A big slammer bluefish can come along and eat your
sea bass right in half if you are not quick getting it in!

Good fishing….