A fantastic fishing trip out of Ocean City

May 20, 2023

May 15 was the opening day of black sea bass season in Delaware. I made my reservation on the head boat Angler out of Ocean City, Md., back in mid-February and spent the next four months worrying about the weather on the designated day. When the first reports came out about a week before my trip, they called for northwest winds at 15 to 20 knots. Then they changed to northeast at 10 to 15 knots with rain. As it turned out, we had absolutely beautiful weather with sunny skies and light winds until late afternoon when the usual sea breeze kicked up.

As usual when I fish out of Ocean City, I was up at 3:30 a.m. and on the road by 4. The drive down is such a joy. I don’t think I caught but one light in Delaware and maybe two in Ocean City.

I arrived at the dock around 5 and was far from the first. By the time I unloaded my gear and got in line, it was 5:15, and Capt. Chris started taking names and awarding boarding numbers at 5:30. I was No. 21.

At the boarding ladder, one of the mates took my cooler and duffle bag, and carried them to the bow where I like to fish. I headed to the cabin and secured a seat at one of the two tables. Before the boat left the dock at 6 a.m., I went to the bow and placed my two rods in holders opposite my favorite bench seat.

The next two-and-a-half hours were spent sailing to a place about seven or eight miles from the Del-Jersey-Land Reef. I could see it on the horizon, and it looked like the fleet off Omaha Beach on D-Day. We were never close to another boat, except for a 24-foot center console that we ran up on at one location.

On my first drop, I caught the largest sea bass of my fishing career. It weighed 2.7 pounds back at the dock. Just about every drop turned into fish on the line. The problem was there were too many under the 13-inch minimum size. Lots of them were between 12 and 13 inches, and I fear some of those went home with a few of the fishermen. 

I began fishing at 8:30 a.m. and never stopped until we headed for the dock at 2 p.m. Of course, I could not fish when the boat was moving, but that was the only break I had. The captain did everything he could to find us fish. He must have had a book of good numbers, because every place he stopped, we caught fish.

I had seen Norman Squid lures on sale and thought they would make great baits for sea bass and flounder. I had my heaviest one rigged and ready at the first drop, but it was too light and never touched bottom.

Not one to beat a dead horse, I grabbed my bottom rod, baited the top-bottom rig with squid and on the first drop brought up, as mentioned, a doubleheader with my personal best sea bass. One gentleman close to me kept trying to use a heavy Diamond Jig, but I never saw him catch anything with the lure. There were lots of variations on top-bottom rigs with plastics, feathers and other decorations, but just two plain hooks baited with boat-supplied squid worked as well as anything else.

In what seems to be a tradition, I got snagged on the bottom. Once again, the mate got me free, retied a new bottom rig and had me back fishing in less time than it takes to tell the story.

It was my good fortune to land in the center of a group of gentlemen who were a great help. Two were from Philadelphia, and they brought five friends from South Carolina. One of those gentlemen could have been an interior lineman for any NFL team. The gentleman next to me saw that I was hard of hearing and told me everything the captain said on the loudspeaker. When we got back to the dock, the large gentleman lifted everyone’s cooler and fishing equipment over the rail and onto the dock like they were empty. Being included in their group certainly made the day even more enjoyable.

I do enjoy fishing on head boats. Everyone is so accommodating, and you could be fishing next to a nuclear scientist, a preacher or an outdoor writer, and you’d never know. You are all on the same boat with the same objective: Catch fish and have fun. What could be better than that?


  • Eric Burnley is a Delaware native who has fished and hunted the state from an early age. Since 1978 he has written countless articles about hunting and fishing in Delaware and elsewhere along the Atlantic Coast. He has been the regional editor for several publications and was the founding editor of the Mid-Atlantic Fisherman magazine. Eric is the author of three books: Surf Fishing the Atlantic Coast, The Ultimate Guide to Striped Bass Fishing and Fishing Saltwater Baits. He and his wife Barbara live near Milton, Delaware. Eric can be reached at

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