By Brandon White
On August 17,1933 meteorologists first discovered a low pressure of concern in the central Atlantic Ocean just east of the Windward Islands. Over the next several days meteorologists watched as the low organized into a hurricane #8 for the year and started tracking northwest on a collision course with the mid Atlantic coast. On August 21, 1933 the storm was approximately 150 miles southeast of Bermuda with sustained winds of
64mph. Concerns grew as the storm continued its west-northwest heading for North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland in its sights. At 4pm on August 22 the US Weather Bureau issued a bulletin predicting landfall in North Carolina the following morning. On the morning of August 23rd at 9:20am the hurricane made landfall just north of Cape Henry with sustained winds over 70mph. Twenty-four hours later the storm known as the Chesapeake-Potomac Hurricane had made its way north up the Chesapeake Bay and tore through Virginia and Maryland. The storm devastated the region creating an eleven foot storm surge along the Potomac, Washington, D.C. recorded over 6” of rain, Baltimore over 10” of rain, the storm killed thirty people, caused over $27 million in damages (that’s equivalent to over $368 million in today’s dollars) and as significant as all of this changed Maryland offshore fishing forever by opening the inlet between Ocean City, MD and Assateague Island.
Previous to the storm of 1933 little offshore fishing took place along the Maryland coast for no other reason then lack of bigger boat access. It did not take long for anglers to take advantage of the opportunity to fish the ocean that the inlet now provided. In the summer of 1934, less then a year after the storm hit, Capt. John Mickle from Florida traveled to Maryland and caught the first recorded white marlin. Word travels fast among anglers about good fishing and it did not take long for word to spread about the opportunity to catch white marlin; with that news offshore fishing aficionados began making their way to Ocean City, MD (OC). On July 29, 1939 one hundred and seventy-one (171) white marlin were boated twenty-two miles southeast of the OC Inlet in a spot now known and as the Jack Spot, named after the early OC pioneer captain Jack Townsend. It’s said that this was the single largest days catch ever recorded worldwide at the time and with that historic catch Ocean City became known as the White Marlin Capital of the World.
In the years that followed anglers came from all over the world to experience the spectacular white marling fishing that Ocean City offered. Spectacular bites happened from 1969-1971 when the OC Marlin Club, the preeminent offshore fishing club of OC, records show a total of 6,811 marlin caught, an average of 2,270 a year. While White Marlin fishing remained strong in the years since, no three-year period has reached those epic numbers. Although we may have seen the first year of a series of golden years in the modern era of OC marlin fishing beginning with last years 2010 season when the OC Marlin Club records show 2,548 marlin releases. The leading boat for the season was the Billfisher, captained by John Duffy, setting a new OC record for releases in a season with two hundred and sixty-six releases. More amazingly on August 30, 2010 the offshore fleet experienced the best single day marlin bite since 1939 when several boats broke the single day release record previously set at twenty-seven (27) releases; the Billfisher led the way with fifty-seven releases (57), the Cervesa followed with thirty-three (33) while the Makara, captained by Billy Gerlach came in a close third with thirty-two (32) releases. It was a day where when an angler looked out among the fleet there where nothing but multiple tight lines on each boat with dancing marlin on the surface. Surely a day that will not be forgotten by those who were offshore that day and hopefully a sign of the great fishing to come in the following years.
Ocean City hosts several offshore fishing tournaments with the largest being the White Marlin Open which typically takes place in August each year. The tournament was started in 1974 by tournament director Tom Motsko and has grown into one of the richest purse tournaments in the world where a winning white marlin can bring in over $1 million in prize money. The 2010 White Marlin Open was the 37th and had over 255 boats with a total payout among all the species of $2,130,232, the largest white marlin was 97.5lbs caught by Brian Roberts on the Shelly II which paid out $856,507 and the largest blue marlin weighted in at a whopping 1010.5lbs by James Kontos aboard the Let it Ride which brought in winnings of $423,040. Even if you do not fish the tournament you can join the fun by gathering at the weigh in station each afternoon, while enjoying a refreshing beverage, to see what fish are brought to the scales.
The nice thing about the offshore fishing in Ocean City, MD is that you do not need to own a modern day multi-million dollar sportfisher, smaller boats can easily reach good fishing in places like the Jack Spot on calm days and if canyon fishing is your thing in popular locations such as the Washington, Baltimore and Wilmington canyons, you can charter an offshore boat at places like Sunset Marina with ease. If 2010 indicates the spectacular marlin fishing to come over the next several years, you’ll want to get out there and join in on the fun one way or the other, I hope to see you out there with a tight line!
Ocean City Offshore Tackle Shops
AllTackle.com, 12826-B Ocean Gateway, 1-866-465-8862
Ocean Bay Tackle, 116th St & Jamestown, 410-524-3433
Sunset Provisions, 12911 Sunset Ave, 410-213-0081
Ocean City Public Boat Ramps
O.C. Commercial Harbor, 12806 Sunset Ave.
87th Street (Bering Road) Bayside, Ocean City
The parking of boat trailers is prohibited in the Little Salisbury area of Ocean City (87th St., Bering Road). Trailer parking is available at the 100th St. Municipal Parking Lot for a fee.
Ocean City Marinas and Charter Operations
Bahia Marina, 22nd St. & the Bay 410-289-7438
Bayside Marina, West Rt. 50 Bridge 410-213-2277
Fisherman’s Marina, West OC 410-213-2478
Harbour Island Marina, 14th St. & Bay 410-289-3511
Ocean City Marina, Dorchester St. & Bay, 410-289-6720
Ocean City Fishing Center, West Rt. 50 Bridge 410-213-1121
Sunset Marina (Captain’s Point) 410-213-9600
Talbot Street Pier, Talbot St. & Bay 410-289-9125
White Marlin Marina, Somerset St. & Bay 410-289-6470
William Bunting Dock, Talbot St. & Bay 410-289-7424