A case can be made that the luckiest fisherman in the world are the ones who live in spots like Ocean City and Chincoteague, not because they have access to big game fish in the ocean but because they're close to flounder.
Flounder provide some of the most consistent fishing you'll find anywhere. They're so good to eat that they make up for anything they lack in sporting appeal, and the angler who is willing to spend the time to figure out where they are and when can carve out six months a year of fishing and eating delights for himself.
Last week Ocean City's angling newsletter reported a catch of an 11-pound, 2-ounce flatfish in Sinepuxent Bay. That floormat size is rare, But there's nothing rare about a total catch of 20 pounds or more of flounder in a day, and the angler never has to leave the calm waters of the bay.
Bottom-feeding flounder are not wedded to the sunup-sundown feeding syndrome that can make seaside vacations a disaster for the fisherman's wife, either. They respond to tides rather than times.
The best flounder fishing seems to be anytime when the tides are running in or out. Usually the fish won't bite at slack high water or slack low. The faster the tide is running the better the action, which means the hour or two before and after high or low water is best.
That makes a lot of good fishing time.
And flounder have the longest season of just about any fish. They are in Ocean City early in May and the good fishing will run through September this year, according to Lloyd Lewis, who runs the Talbot Street Pier.
"They catch them right here off the end of my pier," Lewis said. But the best fishing method is drifting, where the angler powers against the tide, then cuts his motor, drops bait and weight overboard and drifts back across the sandy bars in the bay.
Live minnows are favored almost universally and the common method for hooking the bait fish is through the lips.
It all makes for an easy and profitable fishing experience. Rent a skiff for $10 or $12, rig any kind of rod and reel with a single-or double-hook bottom outfit and two or three ounces of lead, hook up a shiner and away you go.
There are those who don't care to fish any other way. Gordon Goold of Chatham, N.Y. is one. He takes an extended vacation every year at Block Island, R.I., where he drills wells whenever he can get the work and spends his evenings chasing flatfish, which are called fluke up there.
Goold's schedule puts him out just before sundown. It's unclear whether he plans it that way or it plans him that way. In either case it makes for magnificient scene.
The ocean swells roll in to Block Island Sound as the sun dips slowly through the haze and smog of New York, which seems light years away. Goold's 18-foot runabout rolls silently as it drifts along.
Sailboats are hurrying through the dusk to the entrance to the island's Great Salt Pond. The anglers can feel the sandy bottom thrumming through the lines and the fiberglass rods.
And from time to time they feel the sharp jerk of the line that signals the end of the road for the struggling minnow. The flatfish bite rapaciously and come up slowly, battling with their bulk the force of the angler's cranking.
Goold rarely is skunked, and usually the evening ends with six or eight heavy fluke in the thick mesh of a gunny sack.
Then it's home through the gathering blackness, trolling a riggered reel almost as an afterthought, should a bluefish stray by.
Goold filets the fluke perfectly and effortlessly on an oak board under a gooseneck lamp behind his shingled cottage, a magnificent end to a magnificent evening.