Start a new tra­di­tion with char­ter boat fish­ing

Maryland Independent - - Sports - Jamie Drake

My fa­vorite kind of fish­ing has al­ways been deep sea fish­ing in Ocean City. It’s some­thing my whole fam­ily did at least once ev­ery sum­mer when I was grow­ing up. It re­ally made an im­pres­sion on me.

As a kid, I al­ways dreamed of liv­ing in Ocean City dur­ing the sum­mers off from col­lege and serv­ing as a mate aboard one of those boats. Spend­ing the day in the sun and smelling like salt­wa­ter and fish sounded like a pretty good way to earn a lit­tle cash. But my life took a dif­fer­ent turn, and I ended up spend­ing the sum­mers on de­stroy­ers or air­craft car­ri­ers in­stead, rarely en­joy­ing the sun or tast­ing the salt breeze as I had en­vi­sioned as a kid.

Now, when­ever my own fam­ily is go­ing to be in Ocean City, I make sure to book a trip on a head­boat. You might won­der where the term head­boat comes from. While head­boat has noth­ing to do with the fact that “head” is the nau­ti­cal term for toi­let, rest as­sured head­boats have first-rate bath­room fa­cil­i­ties on­board. Head­boat just means that each per­son pays their own way, by the head. There is a cap on the num­ber of peo­ple who can go on each trip, so it’s im­por­tant to book your spot in ad­vance. You might be able to walk up and get a spot dur­ing the week, but the week­ends are usu­ally quite busy all sum­mer long.

A few weeks ago, I had the chance to take my two el­dest daugh­ters out on a head­boat. Since it was the first fish­ing trip for one of them, we opted to go out in the bay in­stead of the ocean. The ride is calmer and if you’re prone to sea­sick­ness or don’t know if you are, it might be a good first choice.

If you get queasy while read­ing in a mov­ing car, you might want to con­sider tak­ing some Dra­mamine be­fore an out­ing on a head­boat. Usu­ally the ride out to the first fish­ing spot is OK for most peo­ple, but once the ship’s mo­tor stops and the boat starts rock­ing on the waves, queasi­ness can hit. Fresh air, look­ing out at the hori­zon, and stay­ing amid ships can help keep sea­sick­ness at bay. On days when the sea is re­ally rough, quite a few peo­ple usu­ally end up spend­ing the trip laid out in the cabin and I’m fairly cer­tain they wished they’d taken some Dra­mamine.

Last month we went out on the Bay Bee, a boat that I’d been out fish­ing on as a kid my­self, from the Ocean City Fish­ing Cen­ter. It’s right out­side Ocean City proper, on the other side of the U.S. 50 Bridge. The floun­der fish­ing in the Sinepux­ent and As­sawoman bays was slow that day, but it was early in the sea­son. There were a few other fam­i­lies out that day, too, and while only two keep­ers were caught amongst us all, there were plenty of smiles to go around. My kids had a great ex­pe­ri­ence and learned a lot. We got in some good bird­watch­ing and en­joyed pic­turesque views of As­sateague from the wa­ter.

The trip was about four hours, a de­cent amount of time for a se­ri­ous fish­er­man and not too long for a child. Trips leave twice a day, at 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. The cost is $30 for adults and $20 for chil­dren. The nice thing about these head­boat trips is that you don’t need any equip­ment of your own. You can pay a lit­tle ex­tra to rent a fish­ing rod, just $5, and all you’ll need to pro­vide is a cooler for your fish.

If it’s ocean fish­ing you’re in­ter­ested in, I can rec­om­mend the Ocean Princess for a truly ex­cel­lent reef and wreck ex­pe­ri­ence. I took my old­est daugh­ter out last year and we had a good time catch­ing sea bass. The Ocean Princess is docked on the Ocean City side of the U.S. 50 Bridge, two blocks south of the bridge on Dorch­ester Street. The cost is $43 per adult and $22 per child. Rod rental is also $5.

The mates on­board these head­boats will help you with just about ev­ery­thing, from bait­ing your line to land­ing your fish and tak­ing it off the line. And they’ll get you a new rod and un­tan­gle the mess later when lines get crossed so you don’t have to miss out on any fish­ing time. They will also hap­pily an­swer any ques­tions you have about just about any­thing, from the boat’s his­tory to how to pick the best bait to good places to get a nice fish din­ner in town if you don’t catch quite enough on your trip. It’s cus­tom­ary to tip 15 per­cent of the price of your ticket, but the ser­vice is

usu­ally so ex­cep­tional I like to give a lit­tle more. Of­ten­times the mates will fil­let your catch for a small fee or tips, too.

If you want to book a char­ter next time you’re in Ocean City, the num­ber to call to make reser­va­tions on the Bay Bee is 410-213-1121 and 410-2896226 for the Ocean Princess. The week­end trips can book up fast, so you’ll want to call at least a week or two ahead of when you’ll be in Ocean City.

Last year my dad wrote a col­umn for Mother’s Day urg­ing ever yone to take their mom out fish­ing. It’s such a bit­ter­sweet feel­ing re­mem­ber­ing how I thought that col­umn was slightly corny. Lit­tle did I know I’d have only about a month left of time to spend

with my dad be­fore he passed.

Fa­ther’s Day is this upcoming Sun­day, and while a new shirt or tie is of course ap­pre­ci­ated by dad, why not start a new tra­di­tion this year and take him fish­ing? My dad al­ways urged

read­ers to spend time with the ones we love, es­pe­cially out­doors, and Fa­ther’s Day is the per­fect time to go fish­ing.

But, truly, you don’t need a hol­i­day as a rea­son to start a new fam­ily tra­di­tion. Next time you’re in

Ocean City, set aside four hours to take the fam­ily out on the bay or ocean. Even if you don’t catch a fish, you’re pretty much guar­an­teed to catch some rays and make a lot of mem­o­ries, and those are go­ing to last a life­time. It doesn’t take a lot of money (or hon­estly even a lot of skill), just a lit­tle bit of time, and the time we spend with loved ones is the most im­por­tant time of all.

jamiedrake­out­doors@ out­look.com

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