I wasn’t sure I wanted to catch anything but I knew I wanted to try my hand at fishing in the ocean.
I wanted to get up early, head out to sea, cast a rod and wait for that little nibble that lets you know something is on your hook.
In Ocean City, as in ocean resorts everywhere there are party boats, (AKA head boats) ready to take out the seasoned vet and the newbie like me. We found a link to the Judith M, liked the way it looked, the price ($40 for a half day, $5 to rent a rod), and the schedule. You have to stop by Bahia Marina on 22nd Street and the bay and get a ticket —no online ordering or even phone reservations.
Our trip was sold out but the boat wasn’t crowded. Anglers (and tanglers) lined up along both sides of the boat for the 60-90 minute ride out to sea, their fishing poles ready for the day. Experienced fishermen knew to bring a rag to wipe off the slime from the bait or to help handle the slippery fish as they were unhooked. Some brought coolers, confident they were taking home dinner. Some brought lunch. And sunscreen and a hat.
The ride out is worth the trip whether you catch anything or not. We went 11 miles off shore, stopping in some of the prettiest blue-green water I’ve seen. It’s not the grey-green you see from the beach and not the turquoise of the Caribbean. And it was clear enough to see the silver flash of fish swimming nearby.
The captain stops when he sees fish on his fishfinder, a sonar gizmo. Then the action begins. You drop your hook (sorry, no casting.) and wait for a bite. That little tug on the pole is thrilling every time.
All around me people were bringing up mostly croakers (Once you hear them, you understand their name). One kid caught a foot-long sand shark, also known as a dogfish. Anybody who caught a sleek bluefish knew they had a fight on their hands. They weren’t coming in peacefully.
I signed on for the fish pool, optimistic I’d land something big. Hah! I caught six croakers before I quit to hang out on the sundeck. Until then I was so busy with my own fishing rod, I never really saw what folks on the other side of the boat were catching.
Mates were aboard to assist with bringing in the fish, helping untangle the birds nests of fishing line and keep you supplied with bait. Thank goodness for them. They were busy all morning.
The day was sunny and hot, the breeze stiff and cool. The 75-foot Judith M. rose and fell gently over the big swells as seagulls swooped overhead. The fishing came to an end quickly. But we still had a 90-minute trip back to the dock. Nice to sit back, enjoy the weather and the conversation, happy in a successful day of fishing.
© Text and photos Mary K. Tilghman