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Mid-Atlantic Top Family (Fishing) Vacations

Mid-Atlantic Top Family (Fishing) Vacations

Here are six top-rated places to wet your line while keeping your non-fishing family members entertained as well. Is one of these picks near you?

Photo by Ron Sinfelt

By Gary Diamond

It's that time of year again. The youngsters are out of school, and weather conditions have finally warmed to the point where shorts, T-shirts and sneakers are considered everyday attire. And you've worked long and hard and planned your two weeks of paid vacation time to do anything you wish. Ah yes, summer has finally arrived!

If you're an avid recreational angler, right now is a wonderful time of year. This is when trophy-sized fish can be caught in both fresh water and salt water, and you don't have to be an expert to catch them. Yep, you have two weeks to go anywhere you wish, and spend each waking moment fishing over your favorite hotspot. This is going to be a wonderful vacation.

Hold on now! The only way something like this will ever happen is if you decide to change your marital status on your income tax return. As long as you continue to check the box that says "married" and continue to claim your children as dependents, those vacations will not be solely dedicated to the pure enjoyment of your favorite pastime. Sure, you can't think of anything better to do for two glorious weeks of summer, but you can bet your bottom dollar that your spouse and youngsters have other things in mind.

Fortunately, there are places where everyone in the family can enjoy two weeks of fun and excitement doing things they're been waiting for all year. Ironically, these locations can also provide the family's angler(s) with lots of excellent fishing opportunities for everything from panfish to big-game species. Leave the laptop computers and video games at home, pack up the car with a good selection of summer clothing, some fishing tackle and if you have one, hook up the boat. It's vacation time!

Maryland's Deep Creek Lake
This is the time of year when the entire world seems to migrate east, almost like lemmings marching to the sea. All of the interstate highways will be jammed to capacity with carloads of people who are trying to get away from it all. Unfortunately, that mad rush they're trying to escape from is the same mad rush of gridlock traffic they're battling on their way to the seashore resorts.

When they finally arrive, they'll be joined by throngs of people who are clambering to claim the last few square inches of beach. If you really wish to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life, then head in the opposite direction.


Nestled in the mountains of Garrett County is one of the state's most picturesque impoundments: Deep Creek Lake. The lake's clear, cold waters hold incredible numbers of large trout, some tipping the scales at more than 5 pounds. But the trout are not the only attraction here. The state's largest bluegills can be found swarming in the shallows of nearly every cove, locations where novice anglers can catch them as fast as their bait hits bottom.

Throughout June and into mid-July, these highly aggressive fish will be on the prowl, engulfing just about anything that happens to be within range. Bottom-fished night crawlers, small crawfish, hellgrammites and mealworms are all productive when fished in proximity to nesting areas.

Fly rod anglers can also get in on the action. Sinking fly lines ranging from 5 to 7 weight are ideally suited for this type of fishing, especially when an ugly nymph is tied to the end of a 6-foot leader. The drabbest-looking flies, imitations that most trout anglers would keep hidden from fly-tying aficionados, are the most effective at luring the largest bluegills.

When you grow tired of catching bluegills, there are lots of chunky largemouth bass, broad-shouldered bronzebacks, yellow perch, chain pickerel, walleyes and even a few big northern pike to hold your interest. Keep in mind, however, that the best fishing always takes place early and late in the day, times when water skiers and swimmers are not actively engaged in their favorite pastime.

By 10 a.m., the air will be filled with the sound of personal watercraft, which thereby eliminates the solitude of the morning's fishing activity. By now the youngsters will be up and about, had their breakfast and ready to do anything exciting.

If they're looking for adventure, try exploring Garrett County's high country by mountain biking over several miles of ski trails that provide visitors with incredible vistas from lofty peaks. If peddling up a mountain is a bit too physical, you can always ride to the mountaintop on the ski lifts at Wisp Resort, then take a leisurely hike back to the resort for lunch.

A few hours of peddling through the mountains will work up a pretty good appetite, which is easily satisfied by a quick stop at one of the more than 50 area restaurants. Many of the eateries overlook the lake's pristine waters, and some offer patio or deck dining during the day and evening, thereby allowing you to enjoy the best of both worlds: outstanding cuisine and fresh, mountain air.

Deep Creek Lake State Park, located on the lake's north shore, is nearly 2,000 acres, and has more than six miles of hiker/biker trails, a public fishing pier, a beach for swimmers, 112 campsites and limited hookups for motor-homes (approximately 30 sites). If you plan to visit the park after Memorial Day, be sure to make advance reservations at (888) 432-2267 or you can also make reservations on the Web at publiclands/western/deepcreeklake/html. Campers also have use of overnight mooring facilities at no additional charge. Daily charges for camping ranges $20 to $30 and there is a daily park entry fee of $3 per car for off hours, and $3 per person from 8 a.m. till 4 p.m., for daily park usage. A season pass is available for $75.

A pontoon boat tour runs from the park's piers daily, providing visitors with a water-view of the entire lake. The park's new Discovery Center, which opened just a few years ago, offers interpretive programs and exhibits for both adults and youngsters during the summer months.

If you want something a bit on the wild side, the Youghiogheny River's Scenic and Wild River trips have fast become one of the most challenging and exciting whitewater river events in the eastern United States. Approximately 20 Class IV and V rapids provide experienced rafters and kayakers with an incredible ride on the wild side. There are also a number of whitewater guides available in both Maryland and nearby Pennsylvania's segments of the river.

Ocean City, Maryland
Maryland's seaside resort has lots of activities for children of all ages to enjoy. What it offers to avid recreational angle

rs is almost beyond description. Shore-bound anglers will find striped bass, flounder and weakfish available beneath the U.S. Route 50 bridge. More than a few of these stripers will range from 32 to 40 inches. Weakfish to 5 pounds, similar size flounder, and even a few keeper tautogs are also available from the bridge, as well as in the fast-moving waters just around the corner at Ocean City Inlet.

Headboat anglers enjoyed an incredible season during 2003, catching enormous numbers of seabass to 7 pounds, tautog to 10 pounds, croaker to 3 pounds and slammer bluefish to 15 pounds. The season's largest bluefish hit a struggling seabass being pulled to the surface. The big bluefish tipped the scales at just less than 22 pounds.

There are a number of things for the youngsters to enjoy, and obviously many of the boardwalk attractions are aimed directly at individuals in their teenage years.

There are a number of private campgrounds located throughout the area; however, one of the largest and most modern facilities can be found at Assateague Island State Park and Assateague Island National Seashore Park. The park offers visitors the opportunity to get a firsthand look at herds of wild ponies that roam freely over much of the island's dunes. This is also a great place for bird watching, and exploring the extensive shoreline in search of shells and sand dollars, which frequently wash ashore during storms.

The island has 322 campsites, two miles of ocean frontage, hiker/biker trails, pavilions, picnic tables, hookups for motor homes and a launch ramp that will handle boats to 25 feet. National Geographic Traveler rated it among the best 50 state parks in the nation. The only drawback to camping at any seaside island is the insects, which in this particular location come in the form of black flies, greenhead files, mosquitoes and gnats. Insect repellent is a must, especially if the wind is blowing from any westerly direction.

Rehoboth Beach, Delaware
Delaware's Seashore State Park offers the entire family a wealth of outdoor activities, including surfing, swimming, camping, picnicking and fishing. Just a short distance north of the park is where you'll find the city limits of Rehoboth Beach, a seaside resort that has many of the same features of Ocean City, but on a much smaller scale.

The north end of town is where youngsters can peruse all of the town's boardwalk attractions, visit all the quaint shops that sell everything from seashells to custom T-shirts, or hit the arcades with their vast arrays of video games.

The Rehoboth Beach bandstand on the boardwalk and Rehoboth Avenue is the site of many shows and activities during the summer. The bandstand includes bench seating available on a first-come, first-served basis. If you can't find a seat, you can always stand and watch and listen to an incredible array of local bands playing everything from bluegrass to rock and roll. Through the entire summer, there's something going on at the bandstand.

When it's time to eat, you'll discover a wealth of restaurants ranging from fast food to exclusive. Most are situated either on the boardwalk itself, or along Delaware's state Route 1, which is the coastal highway that runs from Cape Henlopen south to the Maryland state line.

When it comes to fishing activities, Indian River Inlet, which is situated in the park's southern boundaries, can be especially attractive at this time of year. Striped bass to 36 inches frequent the inlet's swift-flowing waters, and under ideal conditions anglers will catch a mix of striped bass, weakfish, flounder, bluefish and even tautog from the inlet's jetties.

Just 30 miles southeast of the inlet is where a number of charter and private boats gather each summer at a small uprising known locally as the Hotdog. It's here where they'll anchor over the lump to chunk for both bluefin and yellowfin tuna, plus pick up an occasional mako shark, bluefish to 20 pounds and schools of king mackerel. Charter boats are available at the North Shore Marina located just inside Indian River Inlet.

Cape Henlopen State Park, Delaware
Cape Henlopen State Park encompasses a vast area that is well suited for those who really enjoy exploring the beaches. The Cape itself is actually an island, bordered on the east by the Atlantic Ocean, on the north by Delaware Bay and to the west the Lewes and the Rehoboth Canal.

Cape Henlopen State Park is located east of Lewes, and features five miles of shoreline where Delaware Bay meets the Atlantic. Camping, hiking, the Great Walking Dune, a nature center, swimming, a bathhouse, fishing pier and an observation tower are just a few of the many attractions featured here.

For the camping enthusiast, there are 139 campsites with hookups and 17 primitive sites for tent campers. Campers can stay a maximum of 14 days during any 21-day period, and like many campgrounds, this one has a mandated quiet time that runs from 10 p.m. till 7 a.m., thereby eliminating loud parties that were always a problem in the past. Camping fees range from $22 to $28 per night; annual permits are available at the park office. This is one of the few parks that allow pets as long as they are leashed.

One of Delaware's largest fishing centers is located in Lewes near the mouth of the Lewes and Rehoboth Canal. You'll find a half-dozen headboats that run both full-day and half-day trips to Delaware Bay and the inshore Atlantic coastal waters. Catches include seabass, tautog, weakfish, porgy, croaker, bluefish and later in the season, striped bass. Offshore anglers will find a fleet of bluewater charter boats that fish for marlin, tuna, dolphin, wahoo and sharks, all at the same location.

Cape May, New Jersey
Cape May has the distinction of being the oldest seashore resort in the United States. It became a seaside resort in 1761, and in many ways it is quite unique, with scores of Victorian buildings more than a century old and in pristine condition. Stretching nearly 20 miles out into the mouth of Delaware Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, it's a fun place to relax, enjoy spacious beaches, and cash in on some of the area's best fishing.

For the family's history buff, Cape May has been visited by Maestro John Philip Sousa; circus impresario P.T. Barnum; Civil War generals Robert E. Lee and William Sherman; Abe Lincoln before becoming president; presidents James Buchanan, Franklin Pierce, Ulysses S. Grant and Benjamin Harrison.

In 1976, the Bicentennial Year, Cape May was officially designated a National Historic Landmark City, only one of five in the nation. That designation requires that the community must retain all structures in their original form and design and will ensure that Cape May will remain within the architectural guidelines of the Victorian period.

While the youngsters are frolicking in the surf, there are loads of quaint shops to visit along the beach highway that sell the usual tourist souvenirs. Cape May's best attribute, however, is its excellent bottom-fishing opportunities. Just a short distance east of

the inlet is where dozens of ships litter the ocean floor, wrecks that attract huge schools of seabass, porgy (scup) and tautog. Nearly a dozen headboats running half-day and full-day trips are available, and for the bluewater angler, there's a vast fleet of charter boats as well. While the charter boats are usually booked solid during summer weekends, some have weekday openings for walk-ons who wish to try their luck at catching everything from slammer bluefish to striped bass.

If the weather's too nasty for fishing, there are several tours the entire family can enjoy. The George Allen House, a spacious mansion built in 1863, is considered the grandest structure in the region. It features hand-carved moldings, 14-foot gold- leafed pier mirrors, several elaborate marble fireplaces, original gaslight chandeliers, and a ballroom where Allen held parties to entertain the elite of Philadelphia. At the time, Cape May was the destination for many wealthy businessmen from Philadelphia and New York. While the city still draws some of these individuals, much of this has now shifted farther north.

Long Beach Island, New Jersey
Long Beach Island is an ideal place for a two-week vacation, or just a summer retreat where you can enjoy some of the area's best fishing. Whether it is whale watching, sailing, fishing or just watching the sun set over Barnegat Bay, you can enjoy many activities on Long Beach Island. The island encompasses more than a half-dozen communities.

Nearby Point Pleasant is home to not only a number of charter boats and marinas, but it has the historical significance of being where boardwalks first originated. Invented in New Jersey in the late 1800s, boardwalks were simple walkways constructed to help keep sand out of hotel lobbies and railroad parlor cars. Today, a mile-long boardwalk can be found at Pt. Pleasant Beach and Seaside Heights, both of which are major centers of attraction. The youngsters will be thrilled with amusements, rides, games of chance, arcades and miniature golf courses.

The boardwalks also feature a large number of upscale restaurants, nightclubs, snack bars, boutique shops, gourmet candy shops, an aquarium, a beach train, a water park and an antique carousel. For those whose tastes crave the simpler things in life, there also are boardwalks, such as the one in Lavallette and the southern mile of the Seaside Park, which consist of little more than panoramic views of the ocean and an occasional gazebo offering a shady resting place.

When it comes to fishing, Long Beach Island is second to none, especially for surf-fishermen seeking blues and stripers. Just a short run from the inlets is where boating anglers will encounter schools of slammer bluefish to 18 pounds lurking over the lumps, bumps and wrecks, often within sight of the resort beaches.

So there you have it, six prime family (fishing) vacations to satisfy everyone in your household. Your entire group will have fun until the bell tolls for everyone to get back to life's regular 9 to 5 grind! Have fun and good fishing!

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