Home Drifting Easy - Fishing Tips Early Season Fishing in Ocean City MD
Early Season Fishing in Ocean City MD

“I’m here early in the season. Usually I come in the summertime. What’s different?”

Springtime tactics can differ from summertime. The water is colder and the fish are a little slower. There’s not quite as much variety. The little scrappy fish like spot and croaker aren’t around yet, so you need to concentrate on the fish that are here.

Flounder are biting for sure and when I talk to serious flounder fishermen, the biggest mistake flounder anglers make in the early part of the season is to grab the rod and try to set the hook too fast. Since the water is colder, the fish move slower. Sometimes they mouth the bait for a bit before grabbing the hook. Anglers in boats will often find that the rod holder is their best friend. Use a rod with a soft rod tip like an Ugly Stik. When you see the rod tip bending over with the weight of a flounder, pick it up and set the hook.

Flounder can turn off if the water temperatures get too cold. Early season flounder anglers find that the outgoing tide has warmer water then the incoming tide. Thus, the beginning of the outgoing tide is a very popular tide in the spring as well as the last few hours of the outgoing. One or two hours before dead low tide is also good. Flounder fishing tends to be better on sunny days. The sun warms the water in the back bays and can raise the water temperatures by over 10 degrees! Overcast days can be unproductive. A good tide too early in the morning can be unproductive if the water temps are on the “edge.”

Spring flounder fishing can be really good in the upper reaches of the bay, like the area around the Route 90 Bridge or in the bay behind Assateague near Frontier Town between Buoys 8 thru 13. The upper reaches of the bay are good because the water temperatures are warmer in these areas. If you don’t have a boat and want to get into some of this action, the bay party boats advertised in the Coastal Fisherman are a good way to go. Even if you are a new angler with a new boat, a few trips out on these party boats is a good learning experience.

“What rigs and baits should I use?”

Well, the usual high/low or long-leadered single flounder rigs always work well. We find that in the spring, colors like pink and orange are more popular than they are in the middle of summer. Anglers typically use live minnows hooked through the lips or frozen shiners hooked through the eyes. During summer, a strip of squid hooked alongside a minnow or shiner always works well. It also works well in the spring, but there are a lot of skates in the bay that can also be attracted to squid! To avoid them, it’s better to tip your minnow or shiner with a gulp swimming mullet, a 3-inch curltail grub or even a strip of Fishbite bloodworm. (Fishbite bloodworm looks really red in the water and makes an excellent trailer bait.

“I hear there are tautog biting!”

Yes, in the spring and fall we have a nice tautog run. Tautog are also around in the summertime, but nothing like they are in the spring and fall. Anglers HAVE to use some kind of crustacean to catch tautog, so trying to catch them with minnows and squid is basically a waste of time unless you accidently snag one.
Green crabs and sand fleas (or mole crabs) are the baits most tackle shops sell. You can also use clams or shrimp. You need to fish for tautog in rocky, snaggy areas like the inlets, the 2nd thru 4th Street Bulkhead, near the draw of the Rt. 50 Bridge, at the end of the left hand corner of the Oceanic Pier and at the end of 5th and 6th Streets. Anglers in boats fish the inlet rocks and along the rocks just offshore of the entrance of the Commercial Harbor and the area around Homer Gudelsky Park. The new size limit is 16-inches and you better be careful that the tautog measures up when fishing in a public area.

Tautog feed best early in the morning and just before dark, especially the larger ones. If you catch the time of day with a slacking tide, your chances increase! The beginning of the outgoing tide has been the best tide so far this spring. A low, outgoing tide usually is also good.

The one thing about early springtime fishing is that it’s not a time to take the kids up to Northside Park to catch Norfolk spot. They just aren’t in yet! Crabbing is good, but if you want to give the kids some action catching “just anything” you really need to fish the 9th Street Pier or the Oceanic Pier. Early spring will see blowfish, snapper blues, skates and maybe little sea bass at some point. Just like in the summer, a little piece of squid and worm or artificial Fishbite worm, will usually catch you something!

“How about blues and stripers!”

These fish are usually haunting the Oceanic Pier, the Inlets and the Route 50 Bridge. Especially towards evening, lures such as Gotcha Plugs, Spec Rigs and soft bodies rigged on lead heads will hook blues and stripers. Halfway into the incoming tide, at high tide and at the very beginning of the outgoing tide is usually best.

“Is surf fishing any good?”

My goodness, the surf in May can give us action on big stripers, black drum, decent sized blues, sharks and skates. We don’t have those scrappy little summertime fish like spot and kingfish, so don’t waste too much time with small hooks and bloodworms. You are better off with a larger hook with cut bunker, mullet or mackerel when trying to catch a trophy striper. Of course, this can be “hit or miss,” so if the kids just want to catch “anything”, get a medium-sized high/low bluefish rig and bait up with some box squid. There are always dog sharks and skates, a chance at a snapper blue and maybe some blowfish!

Springtime fishing…. a little different than summer, but still, it’s fishing!

Good fishing….

Sue Foster is an outdoor writer and co-owner of Oyster Bay Tackle in Ocean City, MD and Fenwick Tackle in Fenwick, DE.