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Drifting Easy Fishing Tips

Sue Foster began writing her Drifting Easy fishing advice column for Coastal Fisherman magazine in 1978. Her first article appeared on May 19, 1978 while Sue was still working for Jim Motsko at Paul's Tackle Shop on Talbot Street in Ocean City. When Sue and her family opened Oyster Bay Tackle in the spring of 1980, Sue continued her weekly column, typing on an old blue portable manual typewriter. Sue cared about her readers, using a writing style that was one of clarity and simplicity. As the decades passed, Sue's readership grew, and many Coastal Fishermen readers looked forward to her weekly tips. Her customers appreciated her advice and she loved hearing back from people about how they successfully used her advice. Sue wrote hundreds of articles for Drifting Easy for more than 36 years until her passing in 2014. Below is a sampling of Sue's more popular articles that she began posting on our website more than a decade ago.

Don't Over Cast Fishing Ocean City, Maryland

Sue Foster | Saturday, July 26, 2014

“Don’t over cast!” is a line we say very often in our tackle stores, especially in the summertime.

So many anglers think that the fish are “way out there!”, but sometimes they are, shhh…“right there…”. In the Florida Keys, the water is crystal clear much of the time and you can see the fish. I slip outside quietly in the mornings and look down into the water and see the fish swimming around the pilings by the bulkhead. You can see five and six pounders cruising by the gas pumps at the marina. When I fish the Long Key Bridge, I look straight down into the water and see the larger fish hanging close to the underwater cement pylons that hold up the bridge. Fish like structure!

In the surf there is natural structure. Just beyond the crest of the first crashing wave is usually a natural dip in the ocean floor. This is where the little baby clams, sand crabs, worms and other good things for fish to eat are naturally being stirred up. In the summer, when surfcasters usually catch panfish such as kingfish, spot and croaker, this is where you want to concentrate on casting. Don’t over cast! Often times the fish are right at your feet!

Using a quality medium-weight graphite rod, no heavier than 2 to 6 ounces and no longer than 8 to 9 foot in length, you can have an absolute ball flipping out with a kingfish rig baited with Fishbite Bloodworms or real bloodworms, combined with a little strip of cut bait such as box squid, bunker fillet or a strip of fresh spot you can catch in the surf. Use a sinker that barely holds the bottom such as a two or three ounce pyramid sinker.

The surf is not the only place where you don’t want to overcast. The bulkhead between 2nd and 4th Street is a popular area to fish because it is easy to get to. It is also a free fishing zone, meaning that you do not have to buy a fishing license to fish this area. You just have to call the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and get a free registry number: 1-855-855-3906.

The problem most vacationers have with the bulkhead area is snags. The bottom just off the bulkhead has rocks, cement slabs, riprap and a huge drop off. All this structure attracts fish! Just look at the boats fishing this area trying to get close to the bulkhead!

The first thing many vacationers do when they get to the bulkhead is to bait up and cast out. No! Don’t do it unless the tide is slacking, which only happens for about 45 minutes every six hours. If you cast out during a hard running tide, the current will take your rig up current and get you hung up in the underwater drop off. What you have at the bulkhead is this. Straight down is fairly deep water, 10 to 15 feet deep. About 8 to 10 feet out is a drop off to the main channel that is 30 feet deep. This huge “drop off” is just full of fishing debris that just increases the chances of getting snagged. If you just flip out your rig just a little, and keep your bait stationary on the bottom, you will catch fish and not get hung up very often.

The Ocean Pier is another place where you sometimes don’t have to cast! Most anglers go to the end of the Pier, bait up and cast out as far as they can. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that and sometimes you may get into some really good fishing with croaker, trout or blues. You may also tangle with some pretty good-sized sharks and rays. Unlike the Bulkhead, there’s not too many snags or hard current to make this tactic not worth trying. BUT, if you are only catching sharks and skates, and the casting off the end of the pier isn’t working for you, try walking back towards the shore break and flipping your rig just beyond the crest of the waves. You can cast a little bit or even a lot, but you’re not necessarily casting way out into the ocean. You’re casting towards the crest of the waves. Try different places along the pier till you find a spot where the fish are biting. Sometimes the fish are hanging straight down by the pilings. I fished there one day last year and caught dozens of pompano fishing straight down by the pilings, about ¾ of the way out on the pier with just small hooks and Fishbite bloodworms.

You can catch anything on the Ocean Pier that you can from the surf. Use a kingfish rig and bloodworms or FishBite Bloodworms with a little strip of cut bait, just like you would from the surf. Use a pyramid sinker as well.

The Route 50 Bridge is another place you don’t have to cast way out to catch fish. Sometimes it works, but other times it doesn’t. If you watch really good flounder fishermen, they float their rigs out with bobbers, or they cast sideways (as opposed to straight out) and work their rigs back in. I’ve had good luck jigging Spec Rigs with a 2-ounce sinker attached, baited with strip baits close to the pilings of the bridge! I also like to cast towards the underwater sandbars and let the baited rig fall off the bar and into the deeper water. That’s usually a sideways cast.

Sometimes casting out as far as you can is a good thing to do. The 9th Street Pier can produce some good flounder fishing for anglers casting off the left hand corner as far as they can and slowly retrieving in. Other times, you can cast too far and over cast the fish like in the surf in the summer time. Some locations, you can cast too far and get yourself into ugly snags, especially when the tide takes your rigs where you don’t want them to go. Never be afraid to try casting as far as you can. BUT, if it’s not working, try fishing in close. Sometimes, the fish are… RIGHT THERE!

Good fishing…

Unusual Fish Caught In Ocean City, Maryland

Sue Foster | Thursday, July 24, 2014

Somebody sent me a picture of a strange looking fish they caught in the bay last week. It was a houndfish, or also called a needlefish. It got me to thinking about all the weird fish we can catch here that we don’t think of as “normal” Ocean City fare.

The last couple of years, we’ve seen quite a few of those houndfish. They are long, skinny and silver like a Garfish with a snout full of sharp teeth. When we are fishing in the Florida Keys, we see these fish jumping out of the water in huge schools. I still have a little scar on my right hand from one that I caught off the Duck Key Bridge in Florida. It fell off the hook, and I unwisely grabbed the fish by the tail (with a rag) to throw it back overboard. It whipped around and latched on to my hand with those nasty rows of teeth and blood was spurting everywhere! It wasn’t that big of a fish but I should have given it more respect and grabbed it securely behind the head - a lesson learned the hard way!

Houndfish are more prevalent in southern waters, but in the summer we see them as far north as New Jersey. The formal name of this fish is Tylosurus Crocodilus and they are sometimes called crocodile needlefish. One of fifty different species of needlefish, houndfish are among the largest. They can get as long as five feet and weigh up to 10 pounds. Wow, that’s a big houndfish! They feed on smaller baitfish and usually hang in schools. They are actually edible. Their meat has a slight blueish green tint, similar to a ballyhoo, which is also edible. I have never tried one, but I’m sure it’s fine! They tend to grab any kind of cut bait you throw at them and generally like a moving target. In many parts along the coast, they are considered a gamefish and even a tablefish, so if you happen to hook one of these feisty jumping fish, have fun, but be careful!

It’s been the year of the pufferfish and we certainly saw a good number of northern puffers this past spring and we’ll continue to see them throughout the summer.

Mixed in with the northern puffers was an interesting pufferfish called a burrfish. If you go to the Maryland Department of Resources website they have a whole page dedicated to the striped burrfish, which is common in the Chesapeake and coastal bays. Generally they are small, not getting much over 10-inches, but one was captured in a seine survey in the coastal bays that measured 12-inches.

The striped burrfish (Chilomycterus Schoepfii) is a pufferfish with yellow to brown markings on top and white, yellow and even black colorings on their bellies. They have several black or brownish stripes and spines that cover their whole head giving them the look of a porcupine. Their eyes are bright blue/green. They are usually found in grass beds but are believed to spawn offshore. Maybe that’s why we saw them in the surf this year! We are advised not to eat them. They are found from Brazil to New England. It’s weird we saw so many of them this year. I don’t remember ever seeing one around here when I grew up. Of course, I don’t ever remember seeing a houndfish either!

We had a lot of cold water in the surf early this summer and anglers were catching a fish we often call a ling, or more correctly a red hake. They are easily identified by their long pelvic fins, which look like long, white streamers. They have a small barbel on their chin and are reddish, muddy or olive brown in color. Their bottom can be white, gray or yellowish. Their color is designed to pick up the color of the bottom. They are soft to the feel (sometimes we actually call them slimy!) and they eat little crabs, shrimp, clams and worms. In the surf, more of them are actually caught at night. They feed at night because their pelvic fins and chin barbels actually sense the presence of prey so they do not need light to feed. Anglers generally catch them while they are fishing for kingfish, croaker and spot with kingfish rigs, small hooks and worms and/or cut bait. After dark, cut bait generally works the best. Good old-fashioned box squid will also catch them if they are there! Red hake can weigh up to six pounds when you are fishing for them on a party boat, but in the surf they generally run small, about the size of a whiting or less. There’s no size limit for red hake, so it’s just an “eye ball” decision of whether you want to bother filleting one or not. They have pure white meat and fillet best if they have been chilled on ice for a while. If you’re not interested in eating them, let them go so Captain Monty on the head boat, “Morning Star” can catch them offshore when they grow up!!!

There’s so many different fish that anglers catch “once in a while” in Ocean City. We get out the Fish ID book and try to figure out what they are. We get different kinds of jacks, commonly caught in Florida. There are lizardfish, sea robins, oyster toads and pompano. We are always identifying the prehistoric looking Northern Stargazer. This fish has eyes on top of its large head and a large upward facing mouth. (Everything they have is gazing at the stars!) They are blackish brown in color with white spots. They have two spines that can give you an electric shock, so this is a fish you do not want to touch! At Oyster Bay Tackle, we have taken pictures of Stargazers that have weighed up to 6 pounds. Usually people catch them in the surf, but sometimes we get one caught in the bay. They say they are edible but I’d let them go!

You never know what you might catch in Ocean City. If you’re not sure what it is, snap a picture and send it to your favorite tackle store or to the Coastal Fisherman for an ID!

Good fishing….

Where Can We Go Clamming Around Here In Ocean City, Maryland?

Sue Foster | Thursday, July 17, 2014

When I’m deciding what to write about each week, I think about the questions I get asked while I’m working in my store. I had a lot of people asking about clamming last week, probably because it got so hot and the idea of walking around in the water with a clam rake seemed like a cool thing to do!

There are only so many places where you can clam from the shore in the Ocean City area. Starting from the north, you can clam behind Northside Park at 125th Street. Keep in mind that the park is closed a few days before and after the Fourth of July so they can prepare and take down the fireworks. The clams here are generally large chowder clams and you have to wade way out in the water to find them, generally out past the end of the pier during a low tide.

The next place you can find some clams is at the Isle of Wight Park that is located in the middle of the Route 90 Bridge at 62nd Street. There is an observation pier there that anglers fish and crab from as well. Once you get to the pier, you need to walk the edge of the marsh back towards Ocean City and clam near the rocks near the foot of the Rt. 90 Bridge. You want to clam at extreme low tide there as well.

Behind the Convention Center at 41st Street is another popular clamming area. Walk down the steps into the water and head towards the right. There are clams around the marshes, around the rocks and clams if you walk way out at low tide. It does get picked over in the summer, but clams move around and you can find some if you work and hunt!

I like to wade in the water and try to see the bottom and look for little key holes in the sand or mud. Dig your rake where you see the holes and hopefully you’ll find some clams. Where you find one clam there is usually more!

Assateague Island has several places you can clam. One of the best areas is a place where there is no parking. What you have to do is park on the west side of the Verrazano Bridge and walk your stuff across the bridge (there’s a walk way.) Clam on the South East side of the Bridge. Walk away from the Bridge as there is a drop off close to the Bridge Pilings! There is a huge flat of area that holds a lot of clams. This is a popular area for boats to pull up and clam as well. The water is usually churned up here, so you don’t see much on the bottom, so blind clamming will have to be the choice.

What I do to make it less like work is to drag the rake behind me and wait till I here a “clink.” Then I turn around and dig and it will either be a clam or a shell. Once you find one clam, you can dig in earnest and there are likely more clams in the same spot.

Keep in mind that this is a wetlands environment. Biting flies can be unmerciful during a west wind. I wouldn’t even go there if the wind is from the west. I’ve heard of families getting there, and turning right around and leaving after 10 minutes!

If you like Assateague but don’t like that walk, there are clamming areas on the bayside within the National Park area. You will need to take a right and go into the National Park, pay an entrance fee at the tollbooth, and drive to the clamming areas. (Old Ferry Landing Road is one of the roads to turn off for clamming. Look for the signs with a clam on it!) Boaters anchor close to this area as well and jump out and clam. There is lots of area to walk and clam.

The neat thing about Assateague is you can see the wild ponies and deer and have a picnic lunch and really make a day of it in the park. Getting away from the traffic of Ocean City for a day can certainly give you a break. Just buy or rent a couple clam rakes, take a bucket or bag (those nylon mesh beach bags work great) to hold your clams, and wade around and have fun! Just don’t forget the bug spray!

“Do I need a license to clam in Maryland?”

No, you do not. But if you go to Delaware, you do need a license to clam. In Delaware the clamming locations are:

"Holt's Landing" is a very good clamming area. It is part of the Delaware Seashore State Park and is located off Rt. 26. You go north into Delaware to Bethany and make a left on Rt. 26. Follow the signs. You make a right in Clarksville and follow the signs. Visit the Fenwick-Bethany Chamber of Commerce to get a map before finding this area as it does involve a little trip into the country. You can also clam around the Cape Henelopen Pier in Lewes. You have to pay to get into the Cape Henlopen State Park.

Some people clam just south of the Indian River Inlet, but you must park on the side of the road and walk across the marsh. Always clam at low tide.

“I have a boat. Where’s the best place to clam in Ocean City?”

In the Ocean City bay, the clamming is very good on the sand bar just offshore of Bahia Marina at 22nd Street. Many vacationers rent a boat for a couple of hours and clam there.

The large sand bar just North of the Route 50 Bridge holds lots of clams as well. Most of the clams are on the southwest section of that bar. Stay just offshore of the bird sanctuary signs. Some anglers call this “Bird Island.” If you have a larger boat it is best to come around to the island from the East channel. It is 4 or 5 feet right next to the southern most end of the green island. Come around the west side of it and head towards the sand bar. Anchor anywhere in there, hop overboard, and walk towards the sandy bar. There are clams all in there and you want to start raking as soon as your feet hit the bottom! There are clams on the sand bar just offshore of Hooper’s Crab House just North of the Route 50 Bridge. There’s not as many as on the other islands, but it is a quick hop, skip and a jump for the boats docked at Hooper’s.

Have fun, wear tennis shoes, and good clamming….

I'll Take A Box Of Squid Please - Using Squid For Bait

Sue Foster | Thursday, July 10, 2014

No matter what’s biting and who’s catching what, some people just like to use squid no matter where they go. I like to use squid myself, but I always use it in combination with some other kind of bait. If I use squid, I like the good old box squid (calamari) rather than the cleaned and cut variety. The only time I like using cleaned and cut squid is when I’m fishing offshore in deep water and need the bait to stay on the hook for a long time, or if I’m using it for a trailer with a live minnow for flounder. I personally think fish like the smell and texture of real, American calamari!

“I like to use squid when I go surf fishing!”

In the summertime, there’s a lot of little fish out there such as kingfish, spot and croaker. If you use squid by itself, cut the box squid into small strips or triangles of bait and hook it up on a kingfish rig that is made with size #6 hooks. (I like the rigs made with wide gap hooks.) Leave the skin on the squid when fishing for pan fish. We call this “dirty squid.” You can cut the squid out of the box when it is still half frozen and put it on the hook. Don’t use a piece too big unless you are fishing for sharks!

Now, instead of just using a strip of squid on your hook, buy yourself a package of Fishbites Bag O’Worms Bloodworm artificial bait. No matter whether you are fishing in the surf or the bay, anytime you are using small to medium-sized hooks with squid, a little strip of the fake bloodworm on the same hook will double or even triple your odds of catching fish!

If you are fishing in the bay in places like Northside Park at 125th Street, Isle of Wight at 62nd Street, Convention Hall at 41st Street, or in any of the canals in North Ocean City, a box of squid is OK as a supplemental bait, but you would be so much better off with some kind of worm!

Real bloodworms on a size #6 or #8 freshwater type hook on a high/low rig is the very best set-up to use in the backwaters. In the canals and other shallow water areas, the fare is Norfolk spot, sand perch, and maybe croaker. These fish much prefer a worm rather than squid, so either skip the squid entirely or use a very tiny piece of squid on your hook with some kind of worm. If you’re squeamish about using real bloodworms, or simply don’t want to pay the price (usually over $10 per dozen), use the Fishbite Bag O’Worm Bloodworm or just use night crawlers! Nightcrawlers are just big earthworms and spot and other small panfish like them just fine. If they turn white and wash out, just put on a new piece. If you’re fishing for spot, a nightcrawler will catch you way more spot than squid!

“So what fish REALLY like squid?”

Croaker if they are running on the larger end, snapper blues, sea bass offshore, sea trout, little throwback sea bass from the shore, sharks, rays, skates and flounder. If you use squid to catch flounder, you want to cut the squid into an attractive strip of bait and let it trail off the hook. Peel off the skin. It’s still best to use the squid strip in combination with a frozen shiner hooked through the eye or a live minnow hooked through the lips. If you are targeting sea trout, squid strips can work great, but they need to be cut like you are fishing for flounder. Cut them in neat strips about 1 ½ to 2-inches long and tapered at the end. Hook them once and let them dangle. Flounder and sea trout are enticed by the “look” of the squid just as much as they are enticed by the bait itself. Jig the bait “up and down” and squid strips look like two little lures bouncing up and down. Globbing a ball of squid on the hook just won’t have this effect. A shark, ray, skate or crab might be attracted, but a flounder or trout will probably swim on by!

“What’s with the cut and marinated squid I can buy?”

It’s OK and we sell tons of it in our stores, but it comes from big thick squids that are imported from China. The strips are cut with a machine and placed in a little tub with shedder crab oil. There’s no skin and it’s clean to use, but usually you have to cut it into smaller pieces for small fish. The problem is that it doesn’t flutter on the hook as well because it’s thick. If you are fishing for flounder and want to trail a piece of squid beside your minnow or shiner it’s simple to use. If you want a thick, durable bait to trail off your bucktail, it’s a choice. If you’re shark or ray fishing at night on the beach, it’s easy. (I’d rather put a whole Calamari squid on the hook for sharks.) If you’re offshore fishing in very deep water for sea bass or flounder, it holds on the hook well. Just keep it jigging up and down for flounder. Jig, jig, stop… jig, jig, stop….

“I’d like a box of squid please…. and a pack of shiners to go with it for flounder.”

“I’d like a box of squid please… and a bag of FishBite Bloodworms to go surf fishing.”

“I’d like a box of squid please… and a pack of bloodworms for the kids to play around in the canal and catch spot.”

“I’d like a box of squid please… and a bait knife so I can cut it up into nice attractive strips of bait.”

Good fishing….

When Does Fishing Start? What's Biting In Ocean City, Maryland

Sue Foster | Monday, March 31, 2014

Brrrr”. It’s winter and we’re reading the winter edition of the Coastal Fisherman and looking at pictures of trophy fish. Most anglers spend many waking hours thinking about trying to catch one of those trophies in the spring! Others just dream of “pullage” and any action will suffice. That first tug of a fish after a long winter of waiting is like a dream come true! When can I try fishing in the spring? What fish start biting first?

I’ve been in the tackle business for over 30 years and I can tell you that when the first warm day comes around, anglers want to go fishing. But it’s not about the warmth of the air, it’s all about the temperature of the water! In the fall, the water temperature “slowly” gets cooler as the weather gets colder and the days get shorter. It’s the same in the spring. As the days get warmer and longer, the water temperature slowly rises. Unfortunately, it doesn’t happen in one day!

“So when does it start?”

Every year is different, but the first fish are usually caught inshore in March or early April. I looked back on my fishing reports last year to see that the first tautog caught in the Indian River Inlet was on March 18th. The first stripers in the Delaware Bay were boated the same week. March 21st saw some white perch “inland.” Ocean City didn’t see any action until the first week of April when the first summer flounder was caught in the bay and skates were caught in the surf.

Even if you hate to catch skates, it is a good sign in the spring. After the first reports of “skates” we usually see other fish follow! I noted after last year’s early Easter weekend of “skates” and not much else that the water temperature in the ocean was a cold 44 degrees. (I use Station 44009 that is just offshore in the ocean around the MD/DE line.)

Speaking of the ocean, when anglers inshore were casting their hearts out and coming up empty, anglers going out on the party boats were catching some pretty nice tautog. That’s right! Anglers can catch fish out in the ocean earlier in the season than fishing in the bay or surf. That’s because the fish in the ocean are living in slightly warmer water. Plus, they don’t come inshore until the waters warm up a little and their inner clocks tell them to move. In fact, anglers on party boats caught tautog for almost the entire winter. So if you get really bad, bad fishing fever, bundle up and make a reservation on an ocean-going party boat. In the dead of the winter, it can still be “hit or miss” but sometimes fishing fever is like a disease, and you either “got to get over it” or “go fishing!” If you hold that fishing fever off until spring, the tautog bite on the party boats started to get really good around the first week of April last year!

Last spring was cold and it seemed like it took forever for inshore action to start. During the first week of April, when the ocean temperatures finally reached that magic temperature of 46 degrees, anglers caught the first tautog from the Route 50 Bridge, but anglers in Ocean City were “still” waiting for a report of the second flounder!!! Anglers fishing in the Indian River Inlet were starting to catch flounder in earnest and they also had some reports of “short” stripers from the Inlet and more tautog. For some reason the Indian River Inlet in Delaware sees fish about a week before we see them in Ocean City!

The second week of April, when the ocean water temperature reached 48 degrees, we finally saw some serious action. The first kingfish (whiting) was caught in the surf. Surfcasters off Assateague Island landed black drum and skates. Some flounder were caught in the bay and more tautog were around. Anglers fishing off the Oceanic Pier finally saw some action with tautog and skates and short stripers were caught off the beach in Delaware.

By the last week in April we finally had some keeper stripers in the Ocean City surf along with the first bluefish and more kingfish. Black drum were biting on Assateague and sharks and blowfish showed up as well. Flounder fishing finally picked up! Water temperatures were hovering around 49 degrees out in the ocean.

The first week of May gave us the really magic water temperature of 50 degrees. That’s when almost everything will bite. When the weather was cooperating, we had good flounder and tautog catches and almost everything was active in the surf. We couldn’t always get to the surf because of the near constant northeast wind, but the fish were there!

By mid-May the water temps were in the mid-50’s and we had croaker, kingfish, blues, tautog, flounder and keeper stripers in the surf, from the Route 50 Bridge and in the Inlets.

When the fishing fever bites me I always have a dilemma in the spring. What direction should I go? Surf fishing for stripers, kingfish, and whatever… or go on the bayside? And then, if I go on the bayside, should I fish for flounder with live minnows and shiners or should I try catching tautog with green crabs or sand fleas? What to do… what to do!

OK, this is what I do when I don’t want to flip a coin! I look at the marine forecast and see what direction the wind is going to blow from. If it’s going to be calm and I’m off for a whole day, I seriously consider hopping on a party boat. If the wind is going to blow hard from a westerly direction, then I know that sitting at the bulkhead at 2nd and 3rd Street the wind will be right in my face, so I decide to fish from the surf, which will be calm out in front and the wind will be at my back. If the wind is going to be northeast and over 10 miles an hour, I’m going to the bulkhead! It can be warm and toasty down there, and freezing on the beach!

Tide and sun are a very big consideration in the spring when fishing for flounder and tautog. Solar warming from the sun can mean the difference between catching and “nada”. Flounder like an optimal water temperature of between 62 and 66 degrees. They like for the water temperature to be at least 56 degrees for a decent “bite.”

An incoming tide from the ocean can be 10 degrees colder than an outgoing tide that has been warmed up by the sun in the far reaches of the bay. That’s why we get flounder “up the bays” first! Anglers in boats catch them a week before anglers fishing from the shore. You can find the warmest water first up by the Route 90 Bridge, on the flats north of the Thorofare, down south by the Assateague Bridge, offshore of Frontier Town and around the marshes by the “duck blind” behind Assateague. Both the high and low ends of the outgoing tide are the best tides be fished in the early part of the season.

The same is true for tautog fishing for us anglers hanging out at the bulkhead between 2nd and 4th Streets, at the Route 50 Bridge, in the Inlets and the Oceanic Pier. The first of the outgoing and the last of the outgoing tide will give you the warmest water. If the sun has been out that day, even better! Tautog are one of the first fish in the bay to catch, but you need a water temperature of at least 44 degrees to catch one. If the water temperature falls below 40 degrees, it’s hard to get one to bite. When these fish are “really on the temperature edge” your best bet is a late afternoon outgoing tide when the sun has been out all day. (Hint: Don’t go home too early. Sometimes the largest tautog bite right before dark!)

“When should I come down for the spring striper run?”

Well, we get this question all the time. Again, every year is different, but usually we get a good run during the month of May.

Stripers will start biting when the water is around 45 degrees but many good surf anglers tell us that their optimal spring water temperature is between 50 and 56 degrees. This usually happens in May and coincides with a serious striper migration. Stripers that winter in the deep waters off Virginia and North Carolina head north and go up into the rivers to spawn and feed on herring and shad. After the spawn, they leave the rivers and hang out in our bays and surf until the water temperatures get too warm. Then they head north, into New England and even Maine. Schoolie stripers hang close to where they were born for a couple years, while the larger spawning stripers move on. That’s why we get big stripers in the spring and fall, and mostly smaller stripers the rest of the season.

Seventy percent of the migrating stripers are from the Chesapeake Bay area and rivers flowing into it. But lots of stripers also come from the Delaware Bay and its tributaries. So anglers on the Delmarva Coast have stripers from both areas. Be ready, but know that we can’t give you an exact date when the stripers will bite! You can bet it will be sometime in May!

If you miss the stripers, there’s other fish to catch. Bluefish notoriously run one week either side of Mother’s Day. We also have black drum, kingfish, flounder and tautog. Oh a fisherman’s dream in the middle of winter!

Anglers can’t wait for that first tug of the season. Some anglers continue to fish all winter long hoping for a bite or two. If the weather is mild it’s possible to catch fish into the winter, but by February it’s usually pretty quiet.

Can’t wait till spring? Well, you’re not alone!!!

Good fishing….

2013 Season... What Was The Year Like?

Sue Foster | Wednesday, September 18, 2013

2013 Fishing Season... What was the year like? What are anglers saying?

It’s the last Coastal Fisherman of the season! What was this year like? What are anglers saying?

Like always, I’ve had customers say it was the worst year they’ve ever had, while others say it was great!

It was a slow start and a chilly spring. I know our business was pretty quiet this spring and so were others. We were happy to have a 16-inch flounder size and figured we’d really mug up on keeper flounder this summer. We even spent time worrying what would happen if we over-caught our quota by the middle of the summer. Well, we didn’t have to worry about that!

Once flounder started biting in the bay, we had a pretty fair year of catching them, but nothing like we expected. We had some really good days fishing in the bay, some so-so days, and some terrible days. Averaging it all out, I’d say it was an OK bay flounder season but nothing spectacular. With a 16-inch size limit, we should have been limiting out every day!

Some people thought that a certain percentage of flounder stayed offshore because of the cold spring and never came into the bay. That’s making sense now, because suddenly flounder catches have been fantastic offshore on artificial reef sites. The further offshore, the larger the fish. Ocean-going party boats have been really happy about that because offshore sea bass fishing got slow towards the end of the summer, and the croaker run has not been what we’d like to see.

Speaking of croaker, usually we have a nice run of them in the bay towards the end of July that lasts into the mid-to-third week of August. This didn’t happen this year. Occasionally anglers would get into some croaker, but they were running really small. We had some action out at Russell’s Reef towards the end of the season, so maybe they’ll turn on yet. I think it’s too late to turn on in the bay though… but maybe.

A lot of the local anglers living around the Route 54 Bridge had a surprise summer of catching big croaker and puppy drum right out their back door! Anglers were weighing in puppy drum all summer from those areas up there. Last week, we started seeing some of these puppy drum catches around the pilings of the Rt. 50 Bridge. My prediction is that it will be a good fall for catching puppy drum along with a mix of black drum from the Rt. 50 Bridge, Inlet, Oceanic Pier, Ocean Pier, and from the surf. Last fall, we had a really good drum run in the surf in October and November.

Speaking of the surf, we had one of the best years I ever remember in history of kingfish catches. (That’s Northern and Southern Whiting!) We’ve been in business since 1980 and I have never sold so many bloodworms and Fishbite bloodworms in a single summer. Anglers that had never caught a fish in the surf could easily catch kingfish and Norfolk spot. Bluefish were almost non-existent and the only things big in the surf were sharks and skates. If anglers were happy catching small pan fish, they were happy, happy, happy!

Our striper run in the surf this year was not what it was in the past. Usually we have a good run in May. It was only fair, probably because of the weather. Hopefully we’ll have a good run this fall. Anglers last week had some surprise catches of early stripers from the surf in Fenwick Island and Inlet fishermen said they saw schools of small stripers breaking the surface in the inlet. That’s a good sign.

We did have an excellent black drum run on Assateague this spring! Anglers were using orange Fishbites and sand fleas. Hopefully we’ll see some more of them this fall.

Bluefish started biting in the surf the first week of September. They were also chomping at Gotcha Plugs tossed from the Route 50 Bridge. Let’s hope they stick around and give anglers some action in the surf and from the piers. The summer itself was slow on bluefish from the Rt. 50 Bridge at night. Usually, we can’t keep Gotcha Plugs on the shelf, and besides a few weeks in the early summer, the bluefish action was quiet. The Gotcha Plugs were getting dusty along with the big swimming shad lures for stripers. Night action was mostly small to medium-sized sea trout (weakfish) and shad with a few schoolie stripers mixed in. We sold a lot of Spec Rigs!!!

Speaking of trout, they seem to be coming back. We had a lot of reports from the Oceanic Pier all summer long that the trout were biting. Towards the end of the summer, some good-sized ones were being caught. Since anglers can only keep one, it’s more of a “sport” than a fish fry. Delaware anglers saw quite a few as well. I caught half dozen small ones from the Ocean Pier last week and an angler called me up to say he caught some in the surf.

Spot! We had some big spot in the bay and surf this year. Eating-sized spot! Many anglers were disappointed that the spot were not small enough for flounder fishing. With fall coming up, they’ll be just fine for striper fishing!

A lot of youngsters were happy with the spot, small croakers and other panfish such as ocean perch and small flounder that were caught from the Northside Park at 125th Street. Many a child caught their first fish up there. Crabbing was decent in that area also until about mid-August when it slowed down. Usually crabbing picks back up in mid-September until October when the crabs start migrating.

Speaking of Northside Park, it’s a free fishing zone so anglers fishing there with their children did not have to buy a fishing license. So is the 2nd through 4th Street Bulkhead along with the Oceanic Pier and the Ocean Pier. Ocean City is blessed to have these four areas where anglers do not have to buy a license. As long as the two pay piers are manned, they are free zones. (You do have to pay to get on the piers.) A lot of vacationers that want to “try” fishing frequent these areas.

As anticipated, we had a tremendous flow of vacationers from New Jersey and New York this year that were here for the first time. Many of the beaches up north were still damaged by Hurricane Sandy and many anglers and vacationers came to Ocean City, MD for the first time. I’d like to thank the Town Of Ocean City for promoting our area. They did a great job and we stayed busy all summer once the weather straightened out.

Speaking of thanking people, I’d like to thank Larry Jock for putting out the best fishing newspaper ever. I’d like to thank all my readers and all my customers for patronizing our stores. I’d especially like to thank all my employees who worked especially hard this busy season.

Good fishing…

It’s Transition Time In Ocean City, Maryland…Fall Fishing

Sue Foster | Wednesday, September 11, 2013

As the summer winds down and the days get shorter fishing starts to change. Some of your old haunts aren’t producing. Some of your good summer baits aren’t working. It’s time to change some of your fishing tactics to the fall mode. It’s transition time….

“Flounder” are still here, but they are gearing up for the migration out into the ocean. In fact, many of the larger flounder are already out there. Many anglers with bigger boats are mugging up on some tasty flounder fillets by drifting over the popular artificial reef sites such as the African Queen, Great Eastern and even Fenwick Shoals. Even the inshore reefs, such as Russell’s Reef, have been producing flounder.

Anglers are drifting high/low rigs with success when the current is moving. When the current is slacking, anglers are really doing well with Spro bucktail jigs baited up with a 5-inch Gulp! artificial bait, a long strip of squid, or better yet, fresh fillet of flounder, croaker, sea robin, dolphin, mullet, bluefish or spot. Basically any kind of fresh fillet of fish (with the skin on) will make a great “strip” bait for flounder offshore.

If you can’t get offshore, flounder are still in the bay. You just have to play their migration game. Fishing the tides becomes very important. The last hour of the high, incoming tide and the first hour of the high, outgoing tide will catch you most of the keepers. Fish close to the Route 50 Bridge as the flounder are moving towards the inlet. Denny Blessing of Oyster Bay Tackle caught four keeper flounder last week, all within a one-hour time frame!

Flounder “stack up” close to the Rt. 50 Bridge as the tide starts to go out. There are rocks and shallower areas right under the bridge, and as they try to get out towards the inlet, the flounder look for the deeper channels. The main East Channel, under the draw of the Bridge, is the biggest opening. That’s why we see so many pictures of big flounder caught “near the Cement Plant” or in front of the “Lazy Lizard”! (That’s the bar/restaurant on First Street.)

The Inlet itself produces some pretty good catches of flounder when the tide is slacking. The Oceanic Pier usually has some abundant catches of flounder this time of year, as all these fish move around the corner to head offshore. Sometimes, many of these fish are small. You just have to weed through them. Fish the slacking tides, and use big baits to catch bigger flounder. Local anglers spend hours castnetting bait such as peanut bunker and live mullet. Live spot are caught on hook and line with tiny hooks and bloodworms or Fishbite bloodworms.

Anglers from the shore work the Route 50 Bridge, the Bulkhead from 2nd through 4th Street and the 9th Street Pier to catch keeper flounder on their way out of the bay. The current runs so hard in some of these great flounder producing areas that the only way you can catch them is to fish the slacking tides. Fishing at low tide works too!

Areas of slower, moving tides such as the Route 90 Bridge, Thorofare and the Convention Hall Channel can suddenly become a “dead” zone for flounder catches. Everything seems to move to the Rt. 50 Bridge/Inlet area in the East Channel!

“How about the surf!”

All summer long we caught kingfish, spot and small croaker with bloodworms and Fishbite bloodworms on small hooks. Suddenly as schools of baitfish migrate down the coast, these fish can all but disappear in a heartbeat. Suddenly, we have feisty snapper bluefish to take their place. Anglers switch from kingfish rigs to bluefish rigs and start catching them. A finger mullet rig baited with a whole finger mullet works great as the season changes. It’s transition time!

You can still take along the small rigs and bloodworms, but be sure to take along some cut bait as well! Box squid, mullet, spot and bunker all make excellent cut bait in the surf. Keeper flounder can be caught in the surf this time of year. Take your favorite flounder rig, put on a pyramid sinker and cast out as far as you can. Bait up with nice strips of cut bait, and ever so slowly, bump your rig back in towards the shore. I’ve even had luck with a mullet rig. I take off, or break off, the float and use it floatless. Cast the mullet rig out, and slowly retrieve in towards the shore. Flounder like clean water and a little dip or slough in the beach.

Puppy drum will show up in the surf this time of year and stick around until late November. We had a great run on them last year. They like a simple high/low rig, no floats and cut bait. They will also take bloodworms, clam, peelers and Fishbite clam, or crab in the orange or chartreuse colors. Many anglers last year did great using sand crabs they dug up on the beach and combined them with a piece of orange or chartreuse Fishbite. Others hung a 3 or 4-inch strip of Fishbite on the hook, then put on a chunk of clam, and then hooked the other end of the Fishbite on the hook. This helps hold the soft clam on the hook since the Fishbite has mesh. This works for any kind of surf bait that is hard to keep on the hook such as sand crabs, peeler crab, bunker and clam.

What a great idea!

Many anglers think that just because Labor Day arrives, the big stripers should be in the surf. We wish this was the case, but you have to wait a while for them. Usually, in October and November, we’ll see them. Meanwhile, there will be some schoolies around and maybe a keeper or two. Most of the keepers will be around the Route 50 Bridge at night, the Indian River Inlet and the Ocean City Inlet. It’s time to use those large, live spot that are too big for the flounder. Live eels, live mullet and even a handful of live sand fleas floated out into the inlet will catch you stripers!

Transition time! The tautog that were small all summer long, increase in size and come back around to the Inlet, Rt. 50 Bridge, the bulkhead at 2nd thru 4th Streets, the end of 6th Street, the Oceanic Pier and even the 9th Street Pier. They like sections of green crab or sand fleas. They’ll also take clam or shrimp. This time of year, anglers are torn whether to fish for flounder or tautog. Well, the tautog fishing only gets better, while the flounder fishing will slow down after mid-October. Pick one, and GO FOR IT!

It’s transition time… to fall fishing…enjoy!

Fishing And Crabbing 101 In Ocean City, Maryland

Sue Foster | Wednesday, September 04, 2013

There were a lot of people in town last week that had never been to Ocean City and had never even been fishing or crabbing before. It’s great to see new people join the sport of fishing and crabbing! Many took up the sport because the weather was too cloudy to sit on the beach all day and the kids were driving them crazy. Regardless, if one enjoys the sport and has a good time, they may come back and do it again!

“Is it expensive?”

It’s only as expensive as you make it. Many vacationers come into our stores to rent a rod and reel because they do not want to buy one. But by the time you rent a rod and reel for 3 or 4 days, it’s nearly the same price as owning one. You can buy a small bay outfit for not much more than a 20-dollar bill. You can buy a surf fishing outfit in the range of two, 20-dollar bills!

I’ve been asked over the phone exactly what it would cost to rent a rod and go fishing for a day. I’ve been asked that question so many times that I’ve gotten out the calculator and figured it out, trying to go on the high side so no one would be upset if it cost less than my quote. A surf rod and reel rental, two rigs and sinkers and two kinds of bait that includes bloodworms (the most expensive bait) would run around $35. I hate to sell someone just one rig. What if you get all the way out to the beach and fling it off on a bad cast? Then you have to get in your car, drive to a tackle store, find a parking place, go into the store, wait in line and buy another rig. That’s a lot of work to save $5 bucks!

To rent a rod to fish in the bay you will spend slightly less than the $35. It could be more like $27 to $30 if you buy two kinds of bait that aren’t bloodworms and three rigs with sinkers. Buying extra rigs to fish in the bay is more important than extra rigs in the surf because there are more snags. I always suggest three rigs per person unless you are fishing at Northside Park that has few snags. Then I suggest two rigs.

If you rent a rod and reel from a tackle store, prepare to leave a deposit of either cash or credit card. Just because it is rental equipment does not mean you shouldn’t take care of it! Please don’t wash or drop a rental rod in the sand or ocean. (We provide sand spikes with our surf rentals in our stores.) Washing off a sandy reel in the ocean to get rid of the evidence before returning it to the tackle store will cause the reel not to work within a few days. The clerk will know right away that the reel is full of sand when he cranks the reel to make sure it’s ok. You can hear the grinding sound of gears and sand!

That being said, if you decide to buy an inexpensive rod and reel to get you through a half-week of fishing vacation, it’s important to take care of it by not dropping or washing it in the ocean or bay. That’s the number one, most important advice we try to give everyone in our tackle stores. If you go surf fishing, or any place where there’s sand (like Homer Gudelsky Park) or down by the Inlet, you want to invest in a sand spike so your reel doesn’t fall in the sand.

I had a customer tell me that I was “sucking his wallet dry” when I suggested a sand spike to go along with his $40 surf outfit he was buying. I was just trying to give him sound advice and help him protect his investment. GEEEZ!

Whether you are renting or buying a rod and reel, my second most important advice is to ask questions. If you have never fished and do not know how to use it, there are no manuals in the box that tell you how. In fact, these days, most inexpensive combinations come pre-mounted (rod and reel already put together) and there’s no box at all! The tackle store clerk can tie on a snap swivel, clip on a sinker and show you how to operate the rod and reel. If it’s busy, you may have to wait while other customers are being waited on, but it would be worth your time to learn before going out on the beach or pier totally clueless. We’d much rather show you before you go than straighten up a big snarl of line later. You’ve lost fishing time and are frustrated and that’s not the experience we want you to have!

Ask us! That’s what we are there for!

I was working in one of my stores a couple weeks ago. It was a very busy day in August and I had myself and two other employees behind the counter, both of which are avid fishermen. A customer came in and started asking every customer he saw how to fish and what to use. Many were very helpful and were giving him lots of advice, some of which had me shaking my head. I finally, politely, took the man by the hand and introduced him to one of my star employees that knew everything the man needed to know. He spent a half hour with him and helped him out tenfold. Later, after carefully listening to customers talking to both of us and other customers, I realized that some people are afraid that the employee will “pile them up” with unnecessary items to make a big sale. That was why they were asking other customers and not my employees or myself. I had one customer thank us last week for not “piling me up with a bunch of junk!” Well, I can speak for most tackle stores in the Ocean City area and we just want people to go fishing, enjoy the experience and come again. Overselling is not part of what we do. Don’t be afraid to ask us!

Many people ask us about renting crabbing equipment. Some stores might rent crabbing stuff, but we do not because it’s just so inexpensive to buy. Crab lines, bait and a net can be bought for a 20-dollar bill. A couple of really good traps, line and bait can be bought for around 30 bucks. And yes, most tackle shops sell chicken necks. You don’t have to go to the grocery store!

Good fishing and crabbing….

What Kind Of Shark Did I Catch And Release?

Sue Foster | Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Identifying sharks can be very hard. The sharks we see most in our area are dogfish, dusky, sandbar, sand tiger, blacktip and spinner sharks. Most people that catch a shark release them and that is definitely the best thing to do! Most are protected species and young sharks are hard to tell apart.

Smooth dogfish sharks don’t have sharp teeth like other species of sharks. They have smooth, short pavement-type teeth. They grow to around 4-feet long with slender bodies, blunt noses and two large spineless dorsal fins. They are grayish in color with white bellies. In the summer, there are a lot of very small smooth dogfish sharks in the surf for kids to catch. Since they don’t have sharp teeth, you can catch them on any kind of rig, even a little kingfish rig!

Dusky sharks are one of the many protected sharks. They are called “dusky” because they actually have a dusky odor to them. Back in the old days, when you could actually keep one to eat, you’d have to soak the meat in lemon water to get the smell out. Releasing them is fine with me! Dusky sharks get to be pretty good-sized and fight hard.

Dusky sharks are brown to blue-gray to dark gray on top and white on the bottom. They definitely have teeth! The first dorsal fin is over, or just beyond the pectoral fin and is fairly large. The second dorsal fin is small. A light strip extends from the pelvic fin to the head along its body. Dusky sharks can get up to 8-feet long.

It’s hard to tell a dusky shark from a sandbar shark, especially when they are young. Its dorsal fin is set very high on the shark’s body and is triangular in shape. Sandbar sharks have heavy-set bodies and rounded snouts that are shorter than the average shark's snout.

When dusky and sandbar sharks are in the 3 to 4-foot range, they are almost impossible to tell apart in the water. I have quoted this from the NOAA Fisheries Service, Northeast Fisheries Science Center: “There are differences in the shape, size and location of the fins, although these features are subtle. The dusky's fins are proportionately smaller and swept back, whereas the fins of the sandbar are broader and the first dorsal is higher and originates further forward. The two sharks are easily separable when the skin is viewed through a 10X hand magnifier. The scales on the dusky shark are overlapping and shingle-like, while those on the sandbar shark are separated and more like cobblestones.”

Well, unless you take a 10X magnifying glass to the beach, you may not be able to tell the young sharks apart. As they get older and larger, they are easier to tell apart. NOAA continues to explain, “At 5 to 6-feet, the dusky is a trimmer shark than the sandbar, with sickle-shaped fins and a longer, lower caudal fin. The first dorsal fin on a 5-foot dusky is further back and more rounded than on one of 3-4 feet. The overall shape of the sandbar shark is less changeable with size, although the fins become slightly broader and the girth is proportionately larger than a dusky of the same size. Otherwise, sandbars keep the same husky shape from juvenile to adult.”

Well, after studying this, now I understand why I haven’t been able to tell these younger sharks apart by looking at cell phone pictures! Regardless, both species are protected, so carefully release them back into the surf!

Sandbar sharks eat fish, rays and crabs. Ever wonder what eats sharks? Other sharks! Sandbars main predators are tiger sharks and sometimes great white sharks!

“What about sand tiger sharks!”

Well, they certainly have a mouthful of teeth! Their teeth are dagger shaped and always visible. In other words, you don’t have to pry their mouth open to see their teeth! One very identifying feature of the sand tiger shark is that both of their dorsal fins are the same size. Their eyes are small. The color of the sand tiger shark is bronze with a white belly and red spots on their sides. Though sand tigers are scary looking, they shy away from humans when swimming in the wild. They eat fish but are not interested in people! Still, be very careful when extracting a hook. These sharks are also protected, so release them carefully.

“Spinner sharks!”

Spinner sharks jump right out of the water when hooked, making them very exciting to catch. If you hook a shark and it jumps totally out of the water, will it be a spinner shark? Well, it could be, or it might be a black tip shark. Both of these sharks jump out of the water and both have black on their fins! The main way to tell them apart is that the spinner shark has black pigment on its anal fin and the black tip shark does not. The black tip’s dorsal fin is larger and more forward than the spinner shark. The dorsal fin is positioned just over the trailing pectoral fins.

A spinner shark’s dorsal fin is further back on the shark’s body.

“What’s the best way for a novice to catch a shark?”

Go out at dusk and fish after dark. Buy a good, pre-made shark rig with a surf float to keep the bait off the bottom. Use a 4 to 5-ounce pyramid or storm sinker to keep the rig out there. Cast out as far as you can with a big chunk of bunker, mackerel, spot or any head from any small fish or bait fish. Then you wait…. pullage is coming.

Sharks are fun to catch, and most are difficult to ID when they are young. Do your best to get a good picture on your cell phone and then carefully release your shark back into the ocean. You can Google search it later. We do care about the sharks, but we care much more about your fingers, legs and toes! Always be extremely careful when extracting a hook from a thrashing shark!

Good sharking…

Taking The Kids Fishing In Ocean City, Maryland

Sue Foster | Wednesday, August 21, 2013

"The kids just want to catch anything!”

We hear that all the time in the tackle store. Vacationers just want to give their children the experience of catching and releasing a saltwater fish of some kind.

If the children are really young, in the four to six-year old range, it’s best to take them fishing in the bay. Northside Park has given many a child their first fishing experience. Go to your tide table and calculate when the tide will be high and buy some bloodworms, night crawlers, or artificial Fishbite bloodworms. Buy or make a rig with size #6 or #8 hooks, a 1 oz. bass cast sinker and walk out on the Pier. Northside Park is a free fishing zone as well, so adults can fish with their kids without worrying about getting a ticket!

If the kids are older and want to catch something bigger than a spot, take them to the 9th Street Pier, the Bulkhead from 2nd to 4th Street, the Oceanic Pier, the Ocean Pier or the Route 50 Bridge. You can catch little fish OR you can catch bigger fish from these areas.

I had a family in last week that rented two rods and reels and went to 9th Street for a couple of hours. They were just elated to catch a couple of skates. The kids had a ball.

Now if you and I went fishing, and caught two skates, we might be disappointed, but if you are from some inland state and your kids have caught nothing but a little sunny in a small pond, a hard-pulling, running skate could be exciting!

So if the kids want to catch anything, even if it’s small, stick to the size #6 hooks baited with the worms. If you’re after slightly bigger fare, go to size #4 hooks and bait up with shiners or squid strips. I like to use the box squid and cut it up into little strips. Then you can catch little sea bass, bluefish or flounder. If you want the kids to catch a flounder, get some high/low flounder rigs with size #2 hooks and use live minnows, shiners and squid strips. The hook will be small enough to still catch something else.

If you take the kids to the Bulkhead at 2nd through 4th streets, tell them to fish straight down, because they will get hung up if they cast way out. It’s just the way it is down there!

Kids just LOVE to catch sand sharks! You can catch them from the Ocean Pier or you can always catch them casting from the beach. Surf fishing is fun for the family because there are no snags, there’s plenty room for the kids to run around if they get bored with fishing and it’s easy to do as long as the ocean is not too rough! (If the waves are too big, go to the bayside.)

Get yourself an 8 to 10-foot rod and reel combo, a medium-sized, high/low bluefish rig and a box of squid and the kids are ready to catch a sand shark! You don’t need to get some huge hook and a chunk of raw fish to catch these smaller sand sharks! Put on a three to four-ounce pyramid sinker and cast out just beyond the crest of the wave. Go early in the morning, or better yet for sharks, go to the beach at 5:30 PM when the lifeguards go off duty and fish until dark or even after dark. Sand sharks, also called dogfish, do not have sharp teeth. Their skin is like sand paper and they are very strong for their size. Little kids love to pet them before you release them. Be sure to check out the sharks and make sure they are sand sharks and not another variety with teeth that are usually larger and you want to treat with respect!

Be sure to use a sand spike on the beach. At our tackle shop, we see so many vacationers come back in with their reels not working because they get full of sand. The sand doesn’t come from just falling in the dry sand, it also comes from submerging the reel in the wash where there’s a lot of sand being churned up by the waves. Whenever you get a fish, put the rod in the sand spike, and then deal with the fish. Vacationers get excited, the reel goes into the ocean, and problems arise!

“We don’t care about catching a sand shark!”

Then get yourself some bloodworms or artificial Fishbite bloodworms and buy a pre-made kingfish rig made with size #6 or #8 hooks and a 2 to 3 oz. pyramid sinker and cast in close. Anglers can even use a bay rod on a calm day. An eight or nine foot rod is perfect. Fish in close and you will catch spot, kingfish and croaker. Small, young children are just tickled to death to catch spot in the surf and fishing for them keeps them very active. The parents may have to cast out for the young kids. Tell them to hold the rod or simply put it in the sand spike and wait for the bite. Some people put a set of rod bells on the end of the rod and wait for the bell to ring! Sounds silly but it works!

“My older boy wants to catch a bigger shark!”

Well, get a longer surf rod, a single-leadered bluefish or shark rig made with a Styrofoam surf float to keep the bait off the bottom and cast out as far as you can with a chunk of mackerel, bunker or whole calamari squid. You can also use a chunk of fresh spot you caught on one of the smaller rods. You may also catch a big ray and these get HUGE! Be very careful if you get a bigger shark close to the beach. Bigger sharks have teeth! Be sure to carry pliers with you, and not a little short pair!

Good fishing!