By Maddy Vitale
Joe and Shirley Leone had all they needed for a perfect day – two beach chairs complete with umbrellas, ice water, bait and two very well-loved fishing poles.
“I’ve been fishing for 55 years. I used to catch a lot of flounder and summer fluke,” Joe Leone said.
Shirley Leone spent most of her life freshwater fishing.
On Tuesday morning, the Dorothy, N.J., couple spent some relaxing time soaking up the scenery and dropping a hook in the water at the 9th Street Bridge Fishing Pier.
The location is a popular spot for anglers and nature lovers – offering a slice of tranquility just off the busy Route 52 Causeway entering Ocean City.
The Leones, who visit the pier a few times during the summer, say it is a peaceful getaway that allows them to enjoy each other’s company and share their love of fishing.
They dated as teens in 1959 and were reunited and married 12 years ago, when Shirley became a widow and Joe divorced.
“I never stopped loving her,” Joe Leone said.
Their love for each other is not quite matched by their passion for fishing. But Joe Leone brought his sweetheart into the word of surf and bay fishing.
“We spend quite a bit of time fishing,” said Shirley. “We’re seniors. You have to get out and do things. This keeps us young.”
On Tuesday, they were out the door and on the pier by about 9 a.m.
“I think I caught something,” Joe Leone exclaimed while reeling in his line.
It wasn’t summer flounder or bass the couple hoped would become supper.
Instead, Joe Leone hauled in a hefty helping of seaweed.
The two laughed.
“We don’t really mind if we don’t catch anything. We hope to. We just love being out here,” Shirley Leone said.
On the far end of the pier, Steve Shultz, 35, a Medford Lakes resident who is vacationing in Ocean City, was geared up and ready for his big catch of the day.
The seventh grade science teacher knew a bit about the tides, had the right bait – minnows, which he said works for him – and some dark shades to block out some of the rays from the scorching sun as temperatures climbed to near 90 degrees Tuesday.
“I’m more of a freshwater fisherman,” Shultz said. “I live on a lake and have been fishing for as long as I can remember.”
He has even brought his son, Roarke, 6, and daughter, Hadley, 5, into the sport. “They really like it,” he said.
But the kids were in camp Tuesday, so Shultz headed to the bridge fishing pier for the first time.
“I passed the bridge’s fishing pier signs and wanted to check it out. It’s beautiful. But bay fishing is a lot different than lake fishing, though. You don’t have to worry about the tides on the lake,” Shultz said with a chuckle as he cast his line.
Later, he checked his bait after a seaweed catch. He attached a fresh minnow on the hook and tossed his line back into the bay.
Fishermen from experts to novices seemed to enjoy their time on the pier. A handful of people claimed a spot, set down a bucket and made it their own – at least for the morning.
Dan Ostash, of Bucks County, Pa., who vacations in Ocean City, is a regular at the fishing pier. He also does a lot of surf fishing.
He said he has caught a lot of fish over the years. One of his secrets is synthetic bait.
“I think it works and I can store it,” Ostash said. “I’ve caught kingfish here. I cast my line, and, in a minute, I caught it.”
But that didn’t seem to be the way the morning was working out. It was still early.
Ostash, who is such an avid fisherman, said he is teaching his grandchildren how to fish and they really seem to like it.
The father-son team at the pier Tuesday morning had a plan – enjoy their day. If they catch something, that would be terrific, too.
Richard Weissert and his son, Daniel, 16, vacationing in Ocean City from Maryland, had a bucket of water, fish heads and a net.
They placed a bass head in a crabbing net and guided it carefully into the waters.
“We’ve been coming here for years,” explained Richard Weissert. “It’s a good place to fish and crab.”
Daniel Weissert said he really likes the quality time with his dad and likes crabbing more than fishing.
“It is a good time for us to reconnect,” Richard Weissert said. “Life is so busy. This gives us time to talk.”