Start a new tradition with charter boat fishing
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.