Big Bird Cropper & Shawn Flaherty Win 2022 OC Inshore Classic

By Scott Lenox

Big Bird Cropper & Shawn Flaherty Win 2022 OC Inshore Classic

Hit the vid for all of the Hook sunglass styles available at Atlantic Tackle!

I just got back from the Ocean City Marlin Club where we held our awards for the 6th Annual Ocean City Inshore Classic and it was an absolute blast!  We had a great event this year with 53 boats and tonight we wrote checks for over $23,000 in prize money.  There was some great food, some good fun and a lot of terrific memories made.  Thank you all for an awesome event!  Here’s who won what….

Rockfish Division

1st and 2nd Place – Lost Time – 13.6 and 10.4 pounds $8,880

3rd Place – Playdate – 9.6 pounds.  $585

Flounder Division

1st Place – Gunther & Sons – 5.8 pounds. $6,007

2nd Place – On the Run – 4.4 pounds *$871.20 Total

3rd Place – Reel Quick – 4 pounds  *$2,711 Total

Tautog Division

1st Place – Bait R’ Up – 5.2 pounds  $2,383

2nd Place – Sporty – 4.2 pounds  $2,027.80

3rd Place – Reel Quick – 3.2 pounds *$2,711 Total

Open Division

1st Place – Reel Quick – 4.2 pound sheepshead *$2,711 Total

2nd Place – On the Run – 4.2 pound bluefish  *$871.20 Total

3rd Place – Reel Lucky – 3.8 pound sheepshead. $140

Jr Angler

Logan Moyer – 8.2 pound rockfish

And many thanks to our awesome sponsors!!!

Away from the tournament there was some more decent fishing for flounder in the east channel and in the OC inlet.  Captain Jason Mumford of Lucky Break Charters had two more nice keeper flounder today.

Captain Wayne Blanks of Bayside Guide Service had five keeper flounder on this morning’s trip.

Stacey caught these two fat keepers while fishing with Rich Daiker this afternoon.

He wasn’t in the tournament, but Dave Walker weighed in this huge triggerfish at the OC Inshore Classic scales.  Dave was fishing with Captain Bill Brown on the Gulf Stream when he landed this 5.6 pound bruiser.

Captain Willie Zimmerman of the RoShamBo had two swordfish today and a limit of blueline tilefish.

Captain Chris Mizurak of the Angler reported a slow start, but good fishing by the end of the day with some sea bass and a couple of flounder.

The Judith M out of Bahia Marina had a nice day on the ocean today with loads of sea bass around the rail.

The Ocean Princess with Captain Victor Bunting had a great day of bottom fishing today with sea bass, flounder and triggerfish in the mix.

Captain Monty Hawkins of the Morning Star had a great day at sea with a couple of early visitors ending up in the fish box.

Caught the tail end of this morning’s sunrise splendor as we cleared the inlet. Rhonda & Lisa did the deed on our reef blocks – scored a bullseye at Dr. Berger’s Reef. 

Winds were a bit more rambunctious than anticipated, but calmed down as the morning wore on. Came a nice day as forecasted.  

My first trip since Ian passed slowly through; I had to hunt a while before finding sea bass in number worth stopping on. Sure were some nice fish, just not in grand supply. After grinding away at it all day I had several clients nearing a limit of seriously plump sea bass. 

As I had thought, flounder were not willing. They surely must be on our region’s rocks and wrecks for their spawning season. We only saw one short all day even though Zig & Bernie gave it the devil.

In the “December come early” department we had a few nice scup today. Ian must have given them the spurs. They should be way up the beach still. 

And, strangest of all, we had three nice blackfish and a ‘keepa’ today. 

Whuuuut? 

Yup.. 

I theorize the water’s been so clouded on the bottom by the thick algae deitrus that collects on the seafloor in our era; tog and fluke cannot see to eat. When stirred up by heavy seas this ‘marine snow’ can reduce visibility to zero in the worst of weather – even for weeks – before resettling. 

Able to see and smell at least a little today; tog were hungry. 

And, though I wish it weren’t so, not one was a canidate for tagging. Everyone who caught em today would have been glad to put a yellow ALS tag in it and let it swim away — and my crew glad to do it. All these tog were, I thought, prolapsed beyond survivable limits – their intestines visibly blown out by deep water pressure – ruptured. We tried to tag the largest of them – and the only one that didn’t blow out – but it had no strength left. 

Sure is an odd thing. I’ve tagged hundreds and hundreds of tog at those depths (over a thousand?) Have gotten returns to nearly 30 inches. Somedays in winter we’ll have excellent success. Other days? Not so much.. 

With sea bass we know they can adjust their air bladder for feeding to even 60 feet off the bottom. When all’s well and they’re feeding on krill far off the bottom, we can catch and release em even in 150 feet without having to vent them. Venting cbass is simply using a hollow needle to release built up gases far faster than they can naturally. It allows them to go down swiftly rather than baking in the sun. I have had em swim back down of their own accord even to 8 minutes of float time – naturally reacclimating their air bladder until they could overcome buoyancy associated with being caught in 120’ of water — but never on a hot calm day.

If it’s hot and slick calm with no waves washing over them as they float away, the sun will warm their body a sudden 40 degrees or more.. I would think no animal can stand it. On those days we must vent – especially if they’re feeding deep. (Oyyyy! If they’re in 100 feet of water on a scorching hot, calm day; but feeding on krill 30+ feet up, we won’t need to vent. It’s as if they’re in 70’ of water. If in 100 feet and hunkered down, holding tight to a reef to ambush butterfish or sand eels, we’ll have to vent all our releases over 11 inches. Smaller sea bass do fine without venting at most any depth.) 

Though we have sea bass figured out pretty good, I’ve yet to understand tautog to where I can predict release mortality before we see the result of catching them. I’ve also yet to successfully vent them. Releasing at depth works, however—forcing them to a depth where they decompress works. 

More on that as tog season begins – and  this year a bit earlier than it should. 

NOAA cleverly noted Virginia’s Private Boat landings shot up from about 1,200 average in most Nov/Decembers to 250,000 fish in two of the last theee years. (No, of course that didn’t actually happen. That is, however, what their “Best Scientific Information“ shows.  What a mess) Naturally NOAA spotted this evil ‘overfishing’ on their computer screens when few VA Private Boats are actually fishing; and far fewer still are targeting sea bass. NOAA forced MAFMC managers to shut down all of DelMarVa for the last three weeks of December because of private boat catch that didn’t happen. 

I’ve been fighting that nonsense since 1998.. 

No regulation happens in a vacuum. Closing sea bass must raise fishing pressure elsewhere. In this case we’ll target tautog. I’d sooner double the pressure on sea bass rather than raise it even a tiny bit on tautog   ..but then my sense of our fisheries isn’t driven by NOAA recreational catch data with no hope of even being close to accurate. 

We’ll see. 

Yet again I have landed at management’s highest reaches with good evidence of their catch data’s failings. I’m told they’re meeting weekly to bring an argument before Commerce. 

At least 4 times I’ve fairly well convinced fisheries of recreational catch data’s lunacy – the argument gets into the Dept of Commerce and vaporizes. 

Over and over — even under Congressional orders. 

No names. 

No explanation. 

The work “falls off a desk”. 

Communications with NOAA fisheries dies 

..and with it, hope of fisheries science and management moving ahead dies too. 

I believe this is the fifth administration I’ve begged for sanity in recreational catch estimates with. 

It is looking stronger than ever, honestly. But there’s a long history of failure to overcome. 

When small boats from NY no longer catch more sea bass in a few weeks than all commercial trawl & trap, plus all party & charter boats – all combined and all across an entire year, then perhaps managers will start to get a feel for the truth of our catch. 

Been a long road. 

Cheers 

Monty 

Check out our YouTube for the “dredging” technique used at the route 50 bridge!

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