The big bottom-fishing boats haven't been out of the Taibot Street pier in Ocean City for weeks. "Been blowing too bad," said the voice that answered the phone.
Anyway, the voice wondered, what's the point in going out on a cold sea after fish that aren't there? "Cod?" it asked, "they're not even catching them up north. All we've got is a few black sea bass."
But there are cod up north, it turns out. The fleet at Bogan's Basin in Brielle, N.J., has been bringing back good catches each trip after it started running weekend cod and pollock fishing voyages three weeks ago.
"Mostly cod," said Sue Bogan. The Bogans should know. Unlike their Southern neighbors, they haven't missed a fishing day all fail and winter, with one exception. "We didn't run a night trip Chritmas Eve and we were closed Christmas Day," Bogan said."But that was sceduled."
The cod and pollock trips are only a tiny part of the Bogan's business. Their winter bread and butter voyages are the four-times-daily mackerel and whiting trips also bringing home excellent catches. "Mostly whiting," said Bogan.
It seems odd that ocean fishing is thundering along full bore 150 miles north at Brielle and other spots along the Jersey shore but is shut down in Maryland. It's supposed to be colder up there.
It is colder. But that can't slow the Bogans or their colleagues, who have a hard-hearted, New York-oriented, year-round clientele that won't take "Sorry" for an answer.
They demand service. The Bogans have so much business that they keep a fleet of four boats running all winter from early morning until way after dark.
Full-day whiting and mackeral trips start weekdays at 7:30 a.m., 6:30 on the weekends. Night trips leave the dock everyday of the week at 7 p.m. There are half-day trips every day at 8 a.m. and 2 p.m., and the cod and pollock trips depart the basin weekend mornings about 7.
The Bogans are almost legends around the Jersey shore because of their consistency in going out in any kind of weather.
Their boats have metal deep-vee hulls and run from 95 feet to about 125 feet in length. They don't roll much in heavy going, which is not to say that a rough day with the Bogans is any picnic.
I've fished twice with them in the last two years and wasn't disappointed either time. The whiting trip two years ago was in the dead of winter. Half the day I clutched the heated rail on the Jamaica II to keep my hands from freezing. (The rail has hot water running through it.) The rest of the time I was reeling in scrappy two-pound whiting, delectable table fish.
The second trip, last year, was for cod and pollock on an extreme off-shore trip, of which the Bogans run three or four a year. We left the dock at 2 a.m. and hit the fishing grounds 100 miles offshore about dawn. Capt. Howard Bogan moved from spot to spot during the day, anchoring over wrecked ships where the fish congregate.
We hauled so many big cod and pollock up from the 200-foot depths that the decks were littered with them, and we went home with scads of delicious fresh fish.
If that sounds like an endorsement, it is. It is not to say that the Bogans' competitors in Point Pleasant, Atlantic Highlands and Belmar aren't as good. They may be. I can't say because I haven't tried them.
The Bogans have been in business since the 1930s, though, and when I went looking for a boat to fish on offshore in the dead of winter, that record of historical perserverance sounded good.
Headboats are a strange phenomenon. They apeal to a sturdy group, usually hard-working manual laborers who want something for the table, as well as sport, to show for the day.The three are inexpensive, which again explains the appeal.
The result is that some seemingly tough customers sign on. They look tough, anyway, and I guess they are. But in headboating from Boston Harbor to Key West, I have yet to enconter my first unpleasant incident with another angler aboard a headboat.
The important thing to keep in mind about headboat fishing is to go on weekdays, or whenever it looks like no one else will. Thirty or 40 anglers aboard one boat can create some monumental line foulups and theyalways occur with the fish biting the best. CAPTION: Picture, Winter angler ties into a cod off Briele, N.J. proving cold-weather luck can be good. By Angus Philips-The Washington Post