Mark's Fishing Tales

Ocean City, MD

(Or - Food Poisoning at the Beach)

This trip was our last desperate attempt to catch fish in the surf this fall. Participants were Joel, his 9 year old son Michael, and my friend Rob.

The trip started out on shaky ground. There was a big cold front pushing through the area, which promised rain, wind and cold. As we left Joel's house (Joel, Michael and I - Rob was coming down later). We drove into a pounding rain storm. Eventually we drove through it and got ahead of the front. That is until we stopped for a burger in Cambridge and it caught back up. After Joel slid to a stop in the middle of an intersection, we decided I should drive for a while. We should have known we were going to have a weird weekend when the radio station we were listening to played a block of "Country Dick Montana and the Beat Farmers". Eventually we drove out of the storm again, and made it with no further hardships to OC.

After we get to Joel's parent's place (thanks Mr. & Mrs. Milano!) we settle in and crack open a few beers. I make a sandwich out of chicken salad, which I had brought along Joel (wisely in retrospect) chose to skip dinner more or less. Finally we crash out with the intent of getting up early and heading out to fish.

About 3 in the morning I wake up and I feel horrible. Looks like that chicken salad was a little… old. After I spend a few hours running back and forth to the bathroom, Joel finally wakes up and, of course, starts laughing at me, because apparently I'm green. Obviously I'm not doing any fishing for a little while.

Joel takes off with Michael and hits the tackle store for some bait and rigs and then heads to the 2nd street bulkhead to go fishing. I sleep and puke until about 1 PM, when I start feeling better and actually manage to eat some soup.

About 3 Joel and Michael come back with a good sized tautog in the bucket. Since I'm feeling better, we decide to feed Michael and head out again. We head down to the surf for a few hours, which was pointless, because there are 6-7 foot waves breaking out a good 40-50 yards, and we can't cast beyond the surf. We give up and head down to the 2nd street bulkhead where we spend the next several hours slowly freezing solid and losing rigs. Net catch: one spider crab. Finally we pack it in for the night.

The next morning, Sunday, Joel is awakened early by Michael, who has a fever. Looks like no fishing for the boy today. Joel stays in and tries to get Michael to eat something, while I head to the beach and do some casting. The surf's still big, but I manage to get out beyond it. Unfortunately, nothing is biting. As I'm walking back from the beach, Rob arrives, and we head up to the place to see what's up with Joel & co. Turns out Michael is really sick, and Joel has to stay in with him, so Rob and I head down to Assateague Island for some surf casting.

After stopping briefly at McDonalds for gut grenades, Rob and I drive down to the beach at Assateague, which is about the same as OC, only a little calmer. We spend a good part of the morning and afternoon surf casting there. I finally figure out how to use a mullet rig, and we actually catch one small (7") bluefish. Finally we get cold enough (wading into the surf barefoot in November is a mite chilling) and decide to pack it in and head elsewhere. After a brief phone call to Joel, we head into OC and check out the 40th street bulkhead (shallow and uninteresting) then head back to 2nd street. We fish for a few more hours, and catch nothing. Time to head back and regroup.

Back at the condo, Joel is slowly being driven insane by Nickelodeon (I never met anyone that could quote entire Barbie commercials verbatim). Michael is still sick, so Joel agrees to make dinner while Rob and I hit the surf for a while. No luck, so we head in, eat some dinner, then decide to keep Joel company for the rest of the evening (except for a brief trip down to the oceanic pier to check it out). I play some checkers with Michael (never ever play a kid something called "street checkers"). After staying up late with some beer (Rob brought along some of his homebrew - yummy!), we crash out, hopefully to get up early and head to the pier tomorrow.

The next morning, Rob and I get up, pack up and head out. Joel is going to pack up and head back with Michael, who's feeling a little better. Rob and I head down to the oceanic pier on 1st street, and start fishing. It's cold. Very very cold. With wind chill, it's got to be about 10 degrees. We spend about 2 hours there, catching 2 crabs and 2 skates. Finally we decide enough is enough, pack up and head for home.

Overall the trip was fun, aside from the food poisoning, cold weather and sick kid.

Panama City, FL

Well, this one was a solo trip for me. My parents had a place to stay, and I decided to take advantage of it.

I ended up doing most of my fishing at St. Andrews park right at the inlet to the bay. There's a rock jetty there, and the fishing was good. I busted more gear than you can imagine. The first day there I managed to hook a mackerel and land it. I also hooked up with what I think was a bonito, which I lost right at the jetty as I was bringing it in. The second day there was dead quiet. Nothing hitting. The last day there was insane. I hooked up with at least 10 fish, all big (black drum, redfish, mackerel, blues) and couldn't land one of them. Between the rocks (the entire channel is rock filled), and teeth every one of them ended up cutting loose. Really frustrating, but I guess that's the hazard of fishing with light gear (I was using a 6' spinning rig I normally use for bass with 10 lb. test line).

I also spent a couple evenings on the beach, and caught some whiting and assorted catfish. Unfortunately, most of the beaches in the area are gone because of last fall's hurricanes. Aside from St. Andrews, the beaches were about 10' wide...

Outer Banks, Rodanthe, NC

There's nothing like sitting down in a nice comfortable chair, wearing clothes that don't smell like bait, and having absolutely no sand on the floor to make you appreciate a good surf fishing trip. Unlike our last trip, we had gorgeous weather for this one. Daytime temperatures were in the low 70s and nights were in the high 40s. Good thing, because we were camping.

This trip started on a good note. We set out on time, and made it to the campground in time to settle in, and take care of all the stuff we needed to before we got down to real fishing. I needed to buy a surf rig, so our first stop was at Bill Sawyer's Place in Rodanthe, the bait & tackle shop right next to the campground. We caught Bill just as he was closing up for the night, but he opened back up for us and ended up talking to us for a good hour and a half about how he ended up in Rodanthe, and the history of the area in general. If you're in the area and want some good conversation, stop in and talk to Bill. Now Joel and I have this running joke about quitting our jobs as professional geeks and buying a bait shop somewhere on the coast. Well as we're talking to Bill, we notice this sign on the wall that says: "This property is for sale". We sort of looked at each other and started humming the theme music for the Twilight Zone.

Anyhow, after we made our purchases and head back to camp, we decided to go out for a little fishing before it got too late. We hit the beach with our gear, found a spot and set up camp. For the next three hours that was about all we accomplished. Finally, as we got grumpier and grumpier and the fish seemed less and less likely to bite, we decided to pack it in for the night, vowing to return the next day. We planned on getting up at about 5:00 and hitting the pier in Frisco.

So the next day dawns (of course the alarm clock doesn't go off, but with Joel's snoring, I wasn't really sleeping anyhow) and I get up and get ready to go, all the time trying to drag Joel out of bed. After about an hour or so of delay, he finally decides to drag his butt up and out to the showers. We end up getting out of the campground at about 8:30 and arrive at the pier about 9:00. Of course by this time, the fish have stopped biting for the day, a fact I remind Joel of every chance I get. Of course since I had only gotten about an hours sleep due to the noise factor, I was tired enough that pretty much everything I said seemed funny to me, so I had a great time even without catching fish. Finally after about six hours on the pier, we give up and decide to head back to camp and get some rest before we go out tonight.

When we get back to camp, Joel lays down, and I take a hike down to the beach to scope out a good spot for tonight's camping. While I'm down there, I find a good spot, but I also notice that people are actually catching fish. I run up to the cabin, and start yelling "The fish are here! The fish are here!" to Joel. At first he's unwilling to move, much less get up, but finally my "childish glee" convinces him we should go out. Back to the beach we go. We spend a good four hours out there, and I catch the first fish of the trip - a puffer. I also continuously remind Joel that we could have caught some fish this morning if he had gotten up on time. We eventually give up and head back to the cabin for dinner.

Now it's getting dark, and I decide I'm going to go out night fishing again. Joel is definitely NOT up for this (even though I told him the fish will be biting at night), so I leave him behind and head out to the waves again. Just after dark, the fish start biting, and I manage to catch a few. Unfortunately, because I haven't actually been surf fishing in about 18 years, I don't know what's what, and end up throwing back some really nice sized mullet and croaker. Ah well, better luck next time. About 12:30, the fish stop biting, so I pack it in and attempt to get some sleep while the chainsaw orchestra (a.k.a. Joel) snores accompaniment.

Sunday morning I'm up at 4:30, headed out to the beach, and Joel says "I'll be down in half an hour or so." I set up and immediately start catching some little blues. Six or eight blues and about an hour and a half later, there's still no sign of Joel, and I need some tackle (he was bringing the box). I decide to pack it in (fish were slowing down anyhow) and head back to the cabin to find Joel snoozing in bed. After giving him appropriate grief, we decide to head out to Oregon Inlet and do some fishing there.

We reach the inlet around low tide, and discover it's pretty much packed with seaweed. No one is having any luck, so we elect to move over to ocean side and surf cast there. We spend about three hours fishing, with no luck. By this time Joel is starting to get pissed off because he's not catching anything, and also because he's using 8 ounce weights and not holding bottom, while I'm doing fine with 3 ounces. We decide to head back and pay a visit to Bill again. Maybe he knows the answer. Bill says Joel's using too heavy a line (which is what we suspected was the problem). He fixes Joel up with new line on both his reels, and we head back to the cabin for dinner.

Now it's Sunday night, and we have no fish to show for our efforts, so we're getting desperate. We decide we'll go back out tonight, and fish from dusk till high tide (about 9:30 PM). We head out the door, loaded with gear, and Joel pulls on his chest waders, so he can wade out to cast. The whole way down to the beach, I'm telling Joel "I have a good feeling about this!" He doesn't believe me, until I remind him that we could have caught fish the other morning if he hadn't slept in. We get to the beach and find the spot where the blues were hitting the morning before. As soon as we get there, I bait up and cast. While we're setting up the rest of our stuff, and lighting the lantern, WHAM! I hook a fish. Pull it in and it's a good sized sea trout (it ends up being the best fish of the trip). As I'm reeling it in Joel tells me I was yelling like a madman, but I wouldn't know about that.

So we settle in to fish, and I start catching fish. First the sea trout, then a mullet, then more sea trout. Meanwhile Joel, sitting right next to me, is catching nothing. He starts to get even more pissed about not catching fish. Finally about 45 minutes after we get there, he hooks one, and loses it in the surf. Then he does it again. And again. By now, he's howling mad, and trying to figure out what he's doing stupid. After another 15 minutes he finally manages to hook a nice sized sea trout and bring it in. Now he's happy. On his next cast he wades out and just as he releases his cast, SLAP, a big wave knocks him on his ass. He comes staggering out of the water with his chest waders full to the knees, and every piece of clothing he brought along soaked through. After a brief conference he decides to head back and scavenge whatever garb he can from his and my bags. He starts off and I stay behind and catch fish. After about 10 minutes, I realize I have the cabin key. Oops. Fortunately, he gave up on the idea of changing and decides to come back and tough it out. We end up staying down there till about 12:30, catching fish off and on throughout.

The next morning, I once again get up at 4:30 and head to the beach without Joel for some fishing. The only thing I catch is a puffer, which seems a fitting end to the fishing on this trip, considering it was probably the same puffer I caught back on Saturday. After a couple of hours I give up on the fishing and head back to the cabin. We pack up and head for home. Another trip for the books. Of course there are numerous facts missing from this account, including wieners and beans, Hootie and the Blowfish, and coffee throughout, but these details are better experienced than told about. Maybe next time you can come along…

Finger Lakes, Hammondsport NY

So there we were, ready to head out the door on our great fishing trip to NY state, when the phone rang. Damn. It was the captain we had chartered with, and he tells us the weather forecast is for rain, heavy winds and thunder storms. What to do, what to do? To hell with it. We head out anyhow. Better to have tried and failed than never tried at all. Off we go up north on the oh so wonderful PA highway system (we won't mention the 45 minute backup on Rt. 83 will we?). Finally we reach our destination in Hammondsport NY. It's about 7 PM, and it's getting dark. Guess we better find a hotel.

Ooops. Looks like this weekend is also the annual Buckwheat Harvest Festival! Pretty cool, except there's not a hotel to be had. Drive around for quite a while as it gets darker and darker. Finally we find a really seedy hotel in Bath which has a room. Now, all we have to do is find a portable coffee pot so we'll actually be able to get up the next morning. Another hour long search finally uncovers one in a nearby KMart. Cool, grab some beers and head back. We're all set for the night. Let's see, we have to get up at 5AM, so we'll stay up till 2:30 bullshitting, then try to sleep.

The next day dawns windy and wet. Light rain, and heavy winds. We head for the marina and meet Captain Marty and 1st mate Tommy. They say we'll go out, but they can't guarantee how long we'll be able to stay out. Out we go. It's windy and cold and wet, but we have a good time and even catch a few fish. Then we have to turn around and make a trolling run down the other side of the lake. Unfortunately, the trolling motor won't turn the boat against the wind, and the waves and chop are getting heavier and heavier. We decide to pack it in.

After we get back in and ice the fish, we elect to go out and do some bass fishing. We head up to Dresden and hike out into the woods near a power plant. A mile through the soaking wet brush, but it's not raining any more. We fish for about 45 minutes and catch 2 3" bass. Then it starts to rain. Really really really rain. We look at each other and decide to pack it in and GTHOOH.

Now it's Saturday night, and we have to get up at 5 again to go out on the boat tomorrow. Once more we decide it would be a good idea to get 2 hours sleep. The next morning dawns clear and cold, and we head back out with Capt. Marty and Mate Tommy. It's much more pleasant, but the heavy winds and rains have stirred up the lake, so we only catch a few fish again. Ah well, better luck next time.

So it's about 10 Sunday when we head back to DC. After a pleasant 7 hour drive we arrive home, tired, sleepless, and with few fish to show for our efforts, but it was a damn fun trip.