Surf fishing around Cape May has been pretty awesome this spring, with striped bass and black drumfish mixed together. But as good as it has been, veteran surfcaster Barry Thomas of Villas thinks the last week of May might be the best time for bigger bass there.
Thomas said it is possible the heavyweights have not arrived yet. He said he has not seen or heard of any 50 pound bass. Thomas is 62 and works for Lower Township Public Works, and he has been fishing around Cape May since he moved in 1978, so he has a history.
Thomas also cautioned that it is possible bigger bass have already gone by.
He said he has been catching his share and the fish are of a nice size. On Tuesday morning he caught a 32-inch bass. He keeps some, returns some and tags some. Plus he packages and gives away any excess. He said his biggest off the beach weighed 40 pounds
The Cape May beaches have been crowded with surfcasters. Thomas says he helps less experienced surfcasters when he sees the need. He fishes with a modified hi-lo rig with a single 8/0 Gamakatsu circle hook on a one-foot leader.
Thomas is a dedicated surfcaster and he builds his own rods. He says "boat fishing doesn't count."
He also has some opinions on the striper rules. He would like to see a slot-fish daily limit that would allow one 24-28 inch keeper and another 36 inches or better. He says that would give young breeders a chance.
Rich Tees from Jim's Bait and Tackle in Cape May said that he has never seen the fishing better, and the real phenomenon of the spring run is the drum invasion of the surf.
He said years ago if you got a drum, you would put it on your bumper and drive around Cape May with it. Tees estimates the bass coming off the beach average 31-32 inches and a lot of the drum are around 25 pounds. The heaviest bass caught in the surf and weighed at Jim's this spring went 36 pounds.
A couple of weeks back, Matt Slobodjian submitted a report from Jim's that stated: "The beach bite is as good as it ever has been." It slowed down around Cape May Point but continues to be good around the Cape.
The Surf N Land Sportsman Club ran its surf fishing tournament Saturday at Brigantine. Gary Born of Brigantine and one of the Surf N Land top guns said it was a little slow fishing. They had 29 teams compete and a total of 20 fish. They caught striped bass, drumfish, blowfish, bluefish and a stray 16-inch shad.
The winning team was Jersey Anglers with two bass while the Women's Surf Fishing Association took second with one 40 1/2-inch striper.
The next event on the Association of Surf Angling Club tour of New Jersey's beaches is the 12th women's-only Wendy Llewellyn Memorial on June 4 in Brigantine.
It is run by ASAC and has experienced and novice divisions. Registration is 6-7 a.m. at the Presbyterian Church, 1501 W. Brigantine Ave.. The cost is $20 for experienced competitors 14 and older and $10 for novice with no age limit. First prize for largest fish in the experienced division is $500 and $200 for novice.