Editor's note: In the summer of 2017 the MV Sheila Bordelon was alleged to have drastically affected fishing along the Mid-Atlantic coast. While this hasn't been an issue since that time, we choose to maintain this Angler Alert on the website as a matter of historical perspetive and in case any similar issues pop up her or anywhere else in the future. See below for the full story.

ship used for sub bottom profiling
The Sheila Bordelon is pretty easy to recognize - keep your eyes peeled for it and when you see it, fish elsewhere.

Here’s an alert for you anglers fishing along the Mid-Atlantic coast: When you see this ship on the horizon, don’t bother stopping to fish. This is the Sheila Bordelon, a ship that in the past has run sub-bottom profiling equipment. No one seems to know exactly what they’re up to now, but rumors are that the US Navy is somehow involved. Area captains, including Monty Hawkins on the Morning Star, have reported that within seven miles of this ship fish often refuse to bite—completely. Exactly why can’t be explained to anyone’s satisfaction, but we do know from past experience that when sub-bottom profiling gear is running fish like sea bass and flounder turn off like a switch. When the gear shuts down, the bite slowly resumes.

In the past several weeks this ship has been spotted near reef sites off Ocean City, including a stop at the African Queen site just last week. And, surprise, surprise, several boats reported fish on the meter but none willing to eat. The bottom line, for us anglers? If this ship is within sight, your best move is to keep running and pick a new place to fish. Otherwise, there's a good chance you're just wasting your time even if there are swarms of fish beneath your boat.

This article was originally published in July of 2017, and was updated with the Editor's Note in June of 2024.