They are serious offshore anglers on the Lori A fishing team. A couple of recent practice runs for upcoming big-game tournaments had interesting scores. Capt. Mark Heron and owner Lori Muscara run the Lori A, a 48-foot Viking with all the comforts, out of Brigantine.
Last September, they made news with an estimated 1,000-pounder blue marlin fought by regular crew member Chris Jasman. On July 3, they struck another. This one they figured to be around 800 pounds and was 13 feet in length.
The 2 1/2 hour battle in Wilmington Canyon between Joe Muscara, Lori's nephew, and the big blue tired out both combatants.
To release the blue, Mike Foster, another starter in the lineup, grabbed the bill of the exhausted blue and Heron put the boat in gear and towed it until it revived. They made sure the tail was kicking, which took 3 to 4 minutes, and it's color returned and it got active, which took another few minutes.
They released it and then it was high-fives all around.
They made another trip since and tagged and released a white marlin, released a mako shark and had yellowfin tuna in the 50-pound class.
The team, which also has Jim Crawford and Joseph Canale, expects to compete in Beach Haven Marlin & Tuna Club's White Marlin Open July 28-31; White Marlin Open headquartered in Ocean City, Md., Aug. 2-6; and the Mid-Atlantic $500,000 based in Cape May Aug. 15-20.
Heron estimates the cost to enter those three classics will be $60,000, which includes entry fees, calcuttas, fuel, lures, dock fees, food, etc. The payoffs in those tournaments can push into six figures.
Heron said they don't drink (alcohol) and get plenty of sleep so they are totally alert during fishing hours. Lots of things can go wrong, he said, so you need to be aggressive and on top of your game.
That's serious stuff.
He has a thought as to why there seems to be good big-game fishing early this season. He thinks marlin, tuna and mahi have moved out of the Gulf of Mexico. Just his theory, of course, but who knows?
Heron has been fishing since 1992, got more interested in big game in 1997 and has been concentrating on marlin the last four or five years. He shared a couple of tactics: Look for the warmest blue water and use big Black Bart lures for bigger fish. The tagged white marlin took a pink Black Bart, for example.
A couple of contests on Saturday, July 17 are worth noting. The Duke of Fluke tournament at Sterling Harbor Marina Bait and Tackle in Wildwood has a category for kayaks. It had 22 entries in that division and 115 boats. Adam Bomb III with Adam Crouthamel took heaviest single fish at 5.48 pounds and Tracy Crouthamel took the Duchess award at 4.53.
Jim Duccilli was second heaviest at 4.81 and Paul Brosman was third at 4.68. Frank Scirrotto won kayak with a 2.99 pounder and Chris Shoplock was second at 2.88. The heaviest-five winner was Scott Pierce, with a total of 21.24. Dan Zolna won sea bass with a 3.3 catch and Andrew Bakley won bluefish with a 1.25 pounder.
In Atlantic City, the Proud Mary's Sports Grill tournament opened the Chelsea Cup tour. Mary O'Brick, owner of Proud Mary's, caught all four keepers on the Get R Done and took first place overall with a 4-pound flounder. The Get R Done fished Reed Bay and also had 20 throwbacks. George Mullin of Atlantic City was second with a 3-pound, 11-ounce flounder and Ashley McGinty of Absecon took third with a 3-2 flounder. Fifty-five competed and helped raise $1,500 for the Vince Schultz cancer fund.
1) Long Beach Island/
Flounder are in the surf at Long Beach Island and back bays. A recent outing by a three-woman crew had five keepers in a catch of seven. They were fishing Intracoastal Waterway 110. Middle Grounds is a good stretch for flounder back there. Margaret O'Brien said local back-bay flounder experts use minnow and Gulp, and many rig minnow (or spearing) under the Gulp on the same hook. Flounder are in the surf. Plus, at night, brown sharks have been moving along the beaches. Flounder seem to be on the move in Great Bay and the keeper ratio is one in 25 or 30. Intracoastal Waterway marker 147 and out toward Little Egg Inlet is recommended by Mary Ann Schutz at Chestnut Neck Boat Yard in Port Republic. Schutz said Clare Gallagher picked a 5.5-pound flounder in that area. White Perch are plentiful in the Mullica River up past the Parkway Bridge. Crabbing is great.
2) Atlantic County
Triggerfish made an appearance at Brigantine Jetty. Just across Absecon Inlet at T-Jetty, triggerfish have been biting for awhile. Fish for triggerfish just like you would for tautog with green crab or clam as bait in close to rocks or pilings. That will give you some practice for the July 16 opening of tog season when you are allowed one fish daily at 14 inches. Flounder rule Absecon Inlet and back to Reed Bay. Tony Gattone and Aaron Turner made a trip to Black Point pay off with 3 1/2 and 2 1/2-pound flounder. Flounder fans are more likely to put minnow on top of Gulp in this area. Drift the side of channels and deeper holes inside Great Egg Inlet. The ICW to the Margate Bridge is a good stretch plus high water off Somers Point. Kingfish are in the surf along the beaches.
3) Cape May County
Triggerfish are showing up around the rocks and piers. A lot of 2-5 pound triggers have been seen. Flounder are reported moving into deeper channels, inlets and out in the ocean to inshore reefs and wrecks. Back bays still have a lot of flounder and the keeper ratio seems to be getting a little better, according to Fin-Atics in Ocean City. Surfcasters are starting to seek flounder in the suds by casting pink Gulp swimming shad and cranking in. Divers close to the rocks report a lot of "horses", meaning big tog are gathered. Looks good for the tog opener here, too. Kingfish are steady in the surf with spot and small weakfish mixed in. Bloodworm, Fish-Bites are working.
4) Delaware Bay
Flounder are up the bay toward Fortescue and Little Egypt and down to the mouth of bay at Crow Shoal. Flounder Alley is living up to its name with fish from No. 19 to Miah Maull. Reef Site 11 off Delaware is another good spot for flounder. Striped bass are biting at night on bunker off Maurice River.
Big-game fishing is dynamite with blue and white marlin; yellowfin, bluefin, bigeye and longfin tuna; mako sharks, mahi all in the mix at Spencer, Lindenkohl, Wilmington canyons; and along the 100 and 50-fathom lines. Troll Black Barts, Ilanders and other skirts with ballyhoo, spreader bars, green machines. Inshore at places such as East Lump and Sea Isle Ridge have mahi, bonito and Spanish mackerel, and sometimes small bluefin. Sea bass and flounder are on some of the inshore lumps. Tim Davis at Moran's Dockside in Avalon said a wahoo was reported.