Just 20 miles south of Annapolis and a short drive from the metropolitan Washington, D.C. area is Deale, Maryland, a small town who’s residents seem to care about little else than fishing. Deale sits on the western edge of the Chesapeake Bay in an area known as “South County”, where boaters and anglers mix with easy grace, all taking life one wave or bite at a time. Some of the popular areas include Sharp’s Island Wreck, the Summer Gooses, Hog Point, and Hooper’s Island. When the eastern side of the bay is crowded there are also many small islands and flats to fish. Fortunately Deale is home to more than a fair share of local guides and charters, who are happy to take you quickly and comfortably to the right places.
Several small and two large full-service marinas in the Deale area serve a fleet that includes more than 40 charter fishing boats. Shipwright Harbor features 250 protected deep water slips and recreational facilities for anglers, boaters, and families to enjoy the visit – as long as it takes. The marina is open all year, seven days a week, offers water taxi service in season to local restaurants and other locations, and is home to more than a few capable, professional fishing charter boats. Another popular local marina is the award-winning Herrington Harbour North, home to a full complement of amenities, and less than an hour’s drive from Washington or Baltimore. This is the closest marina to Washington, D.C. on the Chesapeake, and in addition to state-of-the-art facilities, it hosts a number of upper-scale charters. The majority of charters operating out of Deale run from Happy Harbor, a traditional and pleasant marina, with restaurants, bars, music stores and entertaining Bluegrass jam sessions. Happy Harbor is popular with the locals and is not to be missed if you haven’t any other plans. Half-day and full-day trips into Chesapeake Bay are available utilizing techniques of trolling, chumming, and bottom fishing for Rockfish and other local favorites. Most charter fishing boats leaving Deale concentrate exclusively in the bay, but with so much business available more than a few offer full-day and overnight trips offshore into deeper Atlantic waters. This abundance of charters also makes the recreational fishing industry in Deale quite competitive, and thus affordable.
Light tackle is preferred when landing good sizes of the fish in Chesapeake Bay, especially to increase the excitement during battle. March is early Perch season and for Rockfish it’s catch and release; a good time to warm up for the trophy sizes that fill the bay between April and May. April through December is when the big Blues show up, along with Black Drum, Croakers, Halibut, and White Perch. Later in the year good numbers of large Trout are popular catches in the same areas; as are the state fish: Stripers. Whether trolling for trophy Striped Bass, Rockfish, Blues, Trout, and Mackerel, or bottom fishing for Perch and Hardhead, these trips can accommodate small and large groups of people, with everyone filling limits of fish and enjoyment on the bay. Offshore charters troll and chunk farther out for larger species, like Bluefin, Yellowfin, and Bigeye Tuna, Dolphin, and Wahoo. These trips last longer due to the distance between Deale and the ocean, but are always well worth the extra time. The Atlantic waters outside the Bay and Ocean City are known as some of the best fishing grounds for White Marlin. These beasts, along with Blue Marlin, Swordfish, are the favorite quarry from June through October. The end of summer also features great chances to land some of the many species of Shark that prowl offshore, including Mako, Thresher, Blue Whaler, and Hammerheads.
Fishing permits are not required on Chesapeake Bay or in the waters off the coast of Maryland, though limits are enforced at appropriate times of the seasons and on particular charters. With the ocean so close, any temptation to reach further away for larger, gamier deep-sea fish can be quickly cured by the number of available charters operating out of Deale. That is, if you can pull yourself away from having so much fun and success on the bay.