Fishing at Ocean City, MD: All You Need to Know
Apr 14, 2021 | 10 minute read
Reading Time: 10 minutes

If a city’s name mentions water, there’s a good chance that it boasts some fine angling opportunities. But few places come close to Ocean City, Maryland. This small city comes alive during the fishing season, when the population swells from a mere 7,000 or so to over 300,000. And for good reason too! Fishing at Ocean City can see you tackle Fluke in the bay, Rockfish on the reefs, or White Marlin in the deepwater “Jackspot.” In short, you’re in for a fishing frenzy!

An aerial view of Ocean City with the beach and Atlantic Ocean on the right

In this guide, we’ll introduce you to some of the top catches when fishing at Ocean City. We’ll also give you a lowdown of some of the best spots, techniques, and tell you all you need to know about rules and regulations. By the time you’re done reading, you’ll understand why so many anglers flock here to get a piece of the action. And who knows, maybe even you’ll be grabbing your rod and reel. So let’s get started!

What can I catch while fishing at Ocean City, MD?

The main thing that makes a prolific fishery is the fish themselves of course. So let’s see what makes Ocean City fishing great. From the shallow inshore waters, across the productive reefs, and all the way out to the deep sea honey holes, there’s a wealth of creatures waiting to catch your attention. To get through all of them, we’d need an encyclopedia, but here are the top catches.

Fluke

A woman holds a Fluke while back on shore after fishing out of Ocean City

Summer Fluke – or Flounder, to give them their proper name – are a mainstay of any fishing grounds where they can be found. These delicious creatures are ideal for filling the cooler and giving you some great rewards. They’re not so tough to catch, so they’re ideal for beginners and families to get in on the action, and you can find them from the inlet to the shore. Hunt the flats, sandbars, and creeks, dragging your line along the seabed, and you’re sure to attract their bite.

This species hits its peak in summer, as their name would suggest, but you can find them year-round if you’re lucky. However, coming in peak season will give you the best shot. And the best bit? They inhabit the same waters as some other prized fish. Target Redfish, Black Drum, Spotted Seatrout, and many more inshore, and you could head home with a real mixed bag.

Rockfish

A family of anglers hold their Rockfish caught fishing at Ocean City

Another fish that goes by a nickname is Maryland’s state fish. Rockfish – or Striped Bass, as it’s known everywhere except on the East Coast – is a favorite prey of anglers of all skill levels. Growing to incredible sizes, they can put on an impressive fight, too. And, there are loads of them in these waters year-round! That means you can try your luck time and time again.

While the Chesapeake Bay is the best-known Rockfish habitat in Maryland, the inshore and nearshore waters out of Ocean City still have plenty to offer. Hit the Isle of Wight Bay for smaller specimens or venture just 12 miles out to the aptly-named “Bass Grounds.” Here, a trophy-sized monster just may be biting. Just like with Flounder, Rockfish are also backed by a star-studded supporting cast. Land Black Seabass, Tautog, Bluefish, and much more on the same trip.

Sharks

Three anglers hold a Shark caught while night fishing

If you’re heading out to the Bass Grounds, then there’s a fine chance that you’ll come across some of the ocean’s biggest predators. Maryland’s nearshore and offshore waters are known for their Shark fishing qualities. Numerous powerful species swim around looking for meat. Hammerheads, Bulls, Tigers, Duskies, Blacktip, and Mako Sharks are sure to sink their teeth into your bait, so get ready for a serious battle.

With so many Sharks perusing these waters, there’s always the chance of one ending up on your line. However, summer and late fall/early winter are peak seasons. This is when you can head out to the nearshore banks and Bass Grounds, and get your fill of Rockfish along with these monster creatures. Just beware, though, most Shark fishing out of Ocean City is purely catch and release.

Tuna

A group of anglers hold some Tuna caught while fishing offshore in the Atlantic

Wherever you find Tuna, you can bet that they’re pretty close to the top of every angler’s wish list. Their meat qualities need no introduction, but you should also know that their propensity to put up a fight, coupled with their size, makes them one of the most sought-after fish on any deep sea fishing adventure. Get ready to troll the open waters before leaping into action at the sound of the screeching reels. Then, you’ll really test your strength in order to land a tasty treat.

Of course, it won’t always be Tuna on the end of your line. Mahi Mahi and Wahoo are impressive consolation prizes, as they all tend to come to Ocean City around the same time. That’s summer, where Yellowfin, Blacktip, Bigeye, and oversized Bluefins all come to Maryland’s offshore waters. You’ll also get a second shot at Bluefins in October, if the conditions allow. But beware, you’ll need a big boat and plenty of time to make the most of them all.

Marlin

Four anglers hold a large Marlin caught in the deep waters offshore

Only one fish can top Tuna to the crown of top catch while fishing at Ocean City – Marlin. President Roosevelt even bestowed the title “White Marlin Capital of the World” upon the town, which is quite an honor! But it’s not undeserved. While the White Marlin Open – the largest Billfish tournament in the world – takes place here, there’s plenty in the way of Marlin action for the amateur angler. You just have to head offshore and cast your line.

White and Blue Marlin pass by the East Coast in summer, with Sailfish joining the party, too. Each of these creatures promises to put up an immense fight to get off the end of your line. Heck, Marlin even leap out of the water to try and escape your clutches! Take advantage of the good weather and head out to the canyons approaching the continental shelf. An Ocean City Marlin fishing adventure promises to be the trip of a lifetime.

How to Go Fishing at Ocean City, MD

A city with such a reputation for fishing like Ocean City should surely make the most of it. And boy, does it! You’re never far from a prime fishing spot, nor will you need much effort to get your fish on. Whether on the beaches, a pier, or aboard a purpose-built fishing vessel, you can always land something worth writing home about.

Shore Fishing at Ocean City, MD

Two anglers cast from shore into the nearshore waters

If you ask someone who’s never been fishing before what they think it looks like, you can bet they’ll answer something similar to shore fishing. Bring a cooler full of snacks and another for the catch, and set up camp for the day. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the fun of fishing, with the possibility of landing some real prized fish.

Although that’s not all that’s possible here. Sure, you could park yourself in a riverside park next to the Isle of Wight Bay. You could even hit the beach and cast from a deck chair. But you could also try actively casting and using your skills to entice the bite, before relying on your strength to reel something in. Fly fish for Bull Red Drums, drag your line across the bottom for Flukes, or cast time and time again for Bluefish and Rockfish nearshore. Everything is possible!

Ocean City, MD Pier Fishing

A view of Ocean City fishing pier from the beach

Another great way to get your fish on from dry land is by heading to a fishing pier. Thankfully, there’s plenty to choose from in Ocean City. Whether you’re looking for some inshore critters bay-side or if you want to target some of the bigger creatures in the Atlantic’s nearshore waters, there’s a fishing pier for you. Bring your own gear or rent some from the tackle shops nearby, and away you go.

Piers, naturally, give you a bit of an edge over the fish. You’ll have a vantage point to spot your prey, and the angle of your line will mean easier reeling in. However, there’s also another advantage. The structure underwater attracts algae and plenty of other nutrients that bait fish and larger creatures feed on, so you’ll get a melting pot of your favorite species. Spend your day going after all Ocean City’s prized fish against the stunning backdrop of the beach or town.

Ocean City, MD Head Boat Fishing

A group of smiling anglers hold their catches aboard an Ocean City head boat

Serious anglers, however, will want to get out on the water and explore a range of honey holes. If you’re on your own or on a budget, or feel like going with a big group of friends, a head boat could do just the trick. Ocean City boasts plenty of large vessels that can cater to all your needs. Join an open party boat or hire the whole vessel for you and some friends.

These boats provide plenty of fun as you join with like-minded anglers, exploring the riches of Ocean City. And, they explore all of the waters that make this city such a fishing paradise. Whether you want a Flounder for dinner, fancy landing an oversized Rockfish, or even want a life-changing battle with a Shark, there’s a head boat for you. And that’s something that can’t be said for most other East Coast fisheries.

Ocean City, MD Fishing Charters

A fishing charter from Ocean City speeds offshore

However, if you’ve got the money to spare, nothing quite beats a fishing charter from Ocean City. With all the gear provided, you just have to worry about what matters most – the fishing. You can try out everything from bottom fishing to trolling aboard one. And they come in all shapes and sizes! Take advantage of a personalized experience that you’ll remember for the rest of your life.

Needless to say, you’ll need a fishing charter to get offshore to experience the White Marlin magic. But they’re also just as good inshore and nearshore. Your professional captain will teach you all the tricks of the trade and will know all the sweet spots. And, if the fish aren’t biting, you just turn on the engine and go elsewhere. Sound good? You bet it is! A charter is your best bet to fill the cooler and head home satisfied.

Ocean City, MD Fishing Spots

The sun sets behind a fishing pier in Northside Park, Ocean City

So you know what you can catch and how to go about getting it, but where exactly should you go? No matter if you’re fishing on foot or with a professional, you deserve to know where the honey holes are. And, fortunately, there’s no shortage of them in Ocean City. Here’s our pick of the best:

  • Ocean City Inlet South Jetty: The lure of an inlet to the Isle of Wight Bay should be too much to resist for the fish and anglers, anyway. But when you add a drop-off just beyond the south jetty, there’s even more thrown into the mix, such as Tautog and Sheepshead.
  • Oceanic Pier: Just across the inlet from the South Jetty, the Oceanic Pier gives you access to the productive waterway of the inlet. It’s a true place for aficionados, with everything needed for a successful day’s fishing.
  • Route 90 Bridge: The flats of the Assawoman Bay are ideal for wading and getting your fill of inshore fish. Head under this busy bypass, and join the many locals who’ll be looking to fill their freezers with Flounder, Bluefish, Spot, and much more.
  • Northside Park: At the northern end of town, this relatively undiscovered spot is a real angler’s haven. Hop aboard a charter from here, or just set up camp in the park and escape the hustle and bustle even when the season hits, and explore the riches of the Assawoman Bay.
  • Bass Grounds: Just 12 miles out of downtown, this nearshore fishing spot is exactly what it advertises, and more again. This is Maryland’s second-best Rockfishing spot (after the Chesapeake Bay) but with the added bonus of Sharks biting, too!
  • The “Jackspot”: Ocean City earned its reputation as the White Marlin Capital of the World thanks to this honey hole. While you’ll need to go further out to get these beasts these days, there’s still plenty of Tuna, Mackerel, and Mahi Mahi in this spot just 30 miles from shore.
  • Baltimore Canyon: The deepest spot of this underwater divot reaches 100 fathoms, meaning that it’s a great habitat for all the Atlantic’s big game creatures. Blue and White Marlin and even Swordfish are available here, with things just getting better the closer to the continental shelf you get.

Ocean City, MD Fishing Tournaments

A city like Ocean City didn’t just build up a reputation and let it disappear. It actually makes use of its incredible fishery to attract anglers from all over the world. The city’s fishing tournaments are legendary, starting with the world’s largest Billfish tournament. With over $6 million in prize money, the White Marlin Open is very lucrative, and anglers from all over can compete in categories for all Ocean City’s deep sea favorites.

But that’s not all. There are Bluefish, Mako Shark, Blue Marlin, and Tuna tournaments, along with competitions for children, women, and many more. If you fancy testing your skills, then there are few better places in the world to do it than Ocean City. Find out the long list of tournaments you can enter here.

Anything else?

An infographic with Maryland's state flag stating Ocean City Rules and Regulations: What You Need to Know

Before you grab for your rod and reel and start planning your trip to Ocean City, you’ll want to know about rules and regulations. Every angler over the age of 16 will need a fishing license, although most charters will cover this, as will fishing piers that have an entry fee.

Most fish are also subject to strict regulations, with bag and size limits, and some seasons. For example, Tautog are protected for six weeks from mid-May through June, while Black Seabass season is only open from the middle of May. These are subject to change, though, so you should consult with Maryland’s DNR and their Fishing and Crabbing Guide.

And You’re Good to Go!

A view of Ocean City from the jetties at the southern end of town

Hopefully, we’ve managed to do Ocean City justice. But the only way you’ll ever truly find out is by visiting and casting a line yourself! Hit the Isle of Wight or Assawoman Bays, or explore the inlet for some inshore delicacies. Head nearshore and get in on the Rockfish action. Or head to the deep sea fishing grounds offshore and battle a monster. You’ll never get bored when fishing at Ocean City!

And now over to you. Have you ever been fishing at Ocean City, MD? How was it? Let us know in the comments below.

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