Vol 37 | Num 20 | Sep 12, 2012
Article by Sue Foster
I did something different on my day off last week. I fished the Ocean Pier. I haven’t fished the Ocean Pier since I was a little girl when my dad used to take me up there real early in the morning or in the evenings after his work. I remember him talking about stripers and one time he caught a real big Norfolk spot, which I had never seen before. He showed me its golden belly and told me it was an ocean spot, a real good eating fish.
The Ocean Pier is located at the north end of the Hugh T. Cropper Inlet Parking Lot, which is at the southern most point of Ocean City at Wicomico Street and the ocean. Parking is $2.50 per hour. After Labor Day it drops to $1.50 per hour and after October 16th it is free. If you are after less expensive parking, you’ll have to find a place to park on a side street or another pay parking lot. For convenience, you can’t beat the Inlet Parking Lot where you can walk right up the ramp and be fishing in a couple of minutes.
The fee to get on the pier is $7.00. The Pier has a blanket fishing license so you don’t need a fishing license or free registry to fish. You only have to fill out a little form with your name, address and telephone number. It’s as simple as that. They are open until 10:00 PM in season. After Labor Day, the Pier still opens early, but doesn’t stay open as long. You can call 410-289-6033 to get their hours.
Anyway, it was a weekday in late August when Ocean City was winding down so I figured it wouldn’t be too crowded. I had heard anglers were catching Norfolk spot and croaker, so I took along a box of squid, bloodworms, Fishbite bloodworms and frozen shrimp. I got there a little after 7 AM and the tide was just starting out. Several men were already at the end of the pier, so I decided to try what my dad used to teach me when I was a little girl.
He’d tell me not to fish at the end of the pier, but to cast just where the waves were getting ready to break on the beach. I put on a pre-made Sea Striker Kingfish rig with the pretty polka-dotted balls and size #6 hooks, and baited up with bloodworm and a little strip of squid. Well, the fish were not large by any means, but they were active. I caught bait-sized spot on almost every cast, along with some tiny bluefish, small flounder, a little jack of some kind and small kingfish. Well, the tide was already on its way out, and it was a west wind, so it wasn’t the best conditions for kings and larger blue, but I gave it a shot. If I had a small child along with a light rod and just wanted to catch anything it sure would have been fun!
Anyway, I kept several of the spot to fillet and strip up if some larger fish came along. I tried some different casts along the pier and even tried a Gulp! artificial bait on a lead head near the wash. I have heard over the years that anglers catch flounder and stripers in the later part of the summer and into the fall this way. I watched the guys at the end of the pier catch some dog sharks, sting rays and some croaker. When there was room, I wandered to the end of the pier with my fresh caught spot and casted as far as I could from the end of the pier. I was still using the kingfish rig with a 2-ounce pyramid sinker baited with bloodworm and a little strip of spot. Once it hit the bottom, I slowly bounced it in and caught croaker after croaker for several hours. The tide was coming in so that was a good tide. I released them all, but most made the 9-inch legal size.
I also caught one decent sized bluefish and wished I had brought some finger mullet and whole finger mullet rigs to try. I know this works good on this pier when the decent size blues are running. I caught a baby black drum, three short sea trout, some more tiny, tiny bluefish and a baby flounder.
It was interesting to see the families come out with the little ones and fish. The railing was pretty high for the real small kids, but dad would hook a fish and the kids would crank the handle of the reels. The rental outfits from the tackle store were too heavy for the small kids to hold, but they were happy to crank the handle. Most were using squid and they did catch a few fish, but some were trying to use pieces too big, like putting a whole squid head on the hook instead of a strip of squid. Bouncing the rig back in along the bottom and holding the rod was more effective than just letting it sit. The fish and crabs would eat all the bait off if you didn’t keep it moving! My lightweight rod and reel set-up was way more sensitive and easier to use than the rental outfits, but I imagine when patrons catch big stingrays and sand sharks the owners of the pier need hefty rental outfits to hold up over the summer.
Of course, the kids were screaming and overjoyed to see a spider crab or a stingray, so all that fancy fishing jazz didn’t matter for them anyway! I noticed that most families fished for an average of 45 minutes to an hour before going off to do something else. I also noticed, while I was there, that no one kept any of the legal fish (spot and croaker).
I talked to a few people that fished the pier last week and they go there to catch sand sharks and rays and say the croaker have been biting. One man said he saw someone hook a pretty good sized puppy drum that fell off in the water. The man behind the counter said a young girl caught a 19-inch croaker the day before.
There weren’t very many snags except at the very end where the old part of the pier must be down below. The pier used to be longer back in the day, but got shorter as several hurricanes have damaged it over the years.
You can find some information about the Pier on the website at www.ocfishingpier.com or on their Facebook page. If you really want to check it out, you’ll just have to walk up there and pay $.50 for a walk thru!
Sue Foster is an outdoor writer and owner of Oyster Bay Tackle in Ocean City, MD and Fenwick Tackle in Fenwick, DE.