Ocean City fishing charters have definitely earned their place on our must-visit fishing list. From skimming the shallows in search of summer Flounder
to exploring deep-water canyons for Sharks
, billfish, and Tuna, the town really has something for everyone. Throw in one of the most diverse and experienced fleets in the country, and you have the recipe for some seriously good fishing. It’s no wonder Saltwater Sportsman lists it as one of their all-time favorite fishing cities.
Ocean City has always had an important fishing fleet. Ocean City Inlet is Maryland’s only access point to the open waters of the Atlantic, making it a bottleneck for fish and anglers alike. The local bays are the dream breeding ground for big Flounder, Redfish, Tautog, and pretty much every other major inshore species. Head out past the inlet, and you are spoiled for choice of banks, wrecks, reefs, and canyons, each one deeper and more active than the last.
Head to town in any month from spring to fall and the toughest part of your trip will be choosing what to target. Ocean City’s fishing really is a case of “the flame that burns twice as bright”, though. Most of the local charter boats spend the winter fishing commercially or running charters down in Florida, and only operate here from April onward.
Ocean City Fishing Spots
Isle of Wight Bay
Found right on the city’s doorstep, the Isle of Wight Bay is your first point of call for tasty shallow-water species. Summer Flounder are the most important species in these calm, murky waters. Ocean City Flounder fishing is a great family option, with short trip times, beautiful scenery, and a ton of big, tasty fish to take away with you at the end.
A half day trip can cost you as little as $400 and will send you packing with plenty of freezer-fillers. Full day inshore trips waters are uncommon, as you will probably hit your limits well before the time is up, but if you really want to fill the boat, you can normally find a ¾ day for a little over the $500 mark.
Little & Great Gull Banks
Located just outside the inlet, these twin banks draw in a big mix of species as the year rolls on. The most important catches here are Bluefish and Striped Bass (known locally as Rockfish). Both species turn up in large numbers, making for great battles and some seriously good eating.
Striped Bass are a big deal around here. They are the state fish of Maryland, and while most of the Striper action happens in the Chesapeake Bay, there are still plenty of charters offering specialist “Rockfish trips” in November and December. These usually cost a bit more than the standard inshore rates due to their tight seasonality but they’re well worth the money when you head home loaded up with tasty fish.
Made up of a jumble of concrete piping and old wrecks, this artificial reef is an easy 12-mile hop from the inlet. From Tautog and Sea Bass to slammer Bluefish easily topping 20 pounds, it attracts a huge range of different species. The area is also home to several species of Shark. Hammerheads, Tigers, Bulls, Duskies, and even a few Blacktips from time to time – these grounds are perfect for sampling Ocean City Shark fishing without spending the whole day at sea. It is also a great spot for battling big fish when the winds kick up and ruin your fun offshore.
You may want to charter something a little bigger than you would use to fish the bays, especially if you all want to wrestle with Sharks. Luckily, the Ocean City Fishing Center hosts just about every size and style of boat you can think of, and even the 40-footers offer inshore trips around here. They may cost almost twice the price of the smallest center console, but you can get twice as many rods in the water and will definitely get twice the amount of equipment to play with.
Often ignored in favor of the deeper waters of the continental shelf, this steep bump has seen reliably good hookups for the best part of the century. Local anglers were battling White Marlin
here as far back as the ‘30s. Though Marlin may be rarer here these days, there are plenty of Yellowfin Tuna, Mahi Mahi, Wahoo, and King Mackerel over the summer months, as well as the biggest Bluefish you’re ever likely to find.
Jackspot is around 30 miles from shore, so you will need at least six hours on even the fastest boat in town if you want some decent fishing time. While this doesn’t quite count as “offshore” in the eyes of most Ocean City charter guides, you can find specialty wreck and Shark fishing trips starting at around $800.
Cutting deep tracks in the edge of the continental shelf, deep-water canyons are the bread and butter of the Ocean City deep sea fishing
scene. Baltimore Canyon plummets well over 100 fathoms at its deepest and is flanked by sheer walls which funnel big game pelagics right onto your hooks. Expect Blue and White Marlin, Bluefin, Yellowfin, and Bigeye Tuna, Mahi Mahi, Wahoo, and even Swordfish in the canyon’s deepest folds.
The canyons are all over 60 miles from town, so blue water trips are usually a minimum of 10 hours long, while overnight trips are very common. An entry-level 10-hour charter will cost you at least $1600, and overnight trips can cost double on some of the larger cruisers in town. We're talking 50-something feet of pure sportfishing pedigree, with the best crews, the latest equipment, and almost as importantly, the comfiest beds on the sea.
With such an established charter fleet and so many great species to target, it should come as no surprise that Ocean City has developed its own take on how to catch the area’s important species.
Nowhere is this more the case than out at the canyons. Ocean City Tuna fishing focuses on chunking, throwing out pound after pound of Butterfish alongside similar baits on big 8/0 circle hooks and heavy fluorocarbon leaders. If you want to battle the big White Marlin Ocean City is famous for, you will probably be using a surface teaser of dressed ballyhoo and blue-and-white Ilanders. You can also get lots of action by throwing a daisy-chain of pink squids into the mix.
Bluefish are another species which local anglers have put a lot of time and effort into catching. Heavy-action spinning gear rigged with 15-pound line and a couple of feet of fluorocarbon will let you pull in even the heaviest slammer Bluefish. Dangle a nice, oily lump of Bunker or Spot on the end while simultaneously chumming the water and the fishing gets almost too easy. You just need to drift lazily towards the fish and they take care of all the hard work of hooking themselves.
What to Bring
You will need a saltwater fishing license for anyone aged 16 or over. Ocean City charter boats usually provide these, especially on larger vessels. This is not always the case, though, so you should definitely check when you book.
The great thing about having such a diverse and established fleet is that you can find specialist fly fishing charters which stock all the fly gear you will need. If you prefer to bring your own – and, really, who doesn't? – you will be more than welcome to do so aboard most local charter boats.