Who says fishing is over?

Dave Showell had his "best-number" striped-bass day of the season on Wednesday when he took out a guide trip from Absecon Bay Sportsman Center into Absecon Inlet and then into the ocean on a lump 1½ miles off the beach.

He said Friday he had three keepers on the high water in Absecon Inlet and picked up four more keepers when he went outside, which was one short of a limit for the crew he had on board. They also had two shorts. He said the keepers were not huge, all between 28 and 32 inches.

Catching more keepers than shorts goes against the trend of recent catches along the South Jersey coast.

They are called schoolies and sometimes rats. They are undersize striped bass, and there are a bunch of them around.

Fishing for them can best be described as decent in most spots along the coast.

The biggest striper verified over the past few days was probably the 21-pound bass caught Wednesday by Brigantine fireman Tim Daley while fishing after dark on the beach in his home town.

Andy Grossman at Riptide Bait and Tackle in Brigantine said new fisherman Charley Baldi got his first striper Thursday on the same stretch of strand. It was 29 inches in length.

Grossman said Joe Menali Jr. of Brigantine called Friday morning to report he had two keeper bass, including one decent-size, while drifting inside Absecon Inlet.

Kirk Heiland and Thurman Wakefield drifted one of the rips in Absecon Inlet on Wednesday and picked off 38- and 36- inch bass - decent for sure.

Up the coast off Long Beach Island, fishing is described as lots of small bass.

Greg Cudnik reported from Fisherman's Headquarters in Ship Bottom that casting light tackle with small metals and teasers is a fun way to catch these predominately smaller fish.

Cudnik provided another insight: Because the bass are "rats," smaller hooks - 4/0 size - are more effective.

Surfcasters are also downsizing with smaller chunks of bunker or smaller hunks of clam on hi-lo rigs.

Cudnik said there seem to be more keepers caught by surfcasters using bait than lures.

Justin Schenker went fishing after he drove to Manahawkin to pick up some fresh bunker and got done working Thursday night at Fin-Atics in Ocean City. He tried out the new fishing pier on the Somers Point side of the Route 52 Causeway Bridge, which probably will become better-known as the "Circle Liquor" fishing pier because you can park there.

He said he and a fishing buddy picked two 9-inch stripers and seven skates. But he also said herring showed up around the bridge. He said he could not see them in still-muddy water, but was sure they were herring because of the way they were splashing.

Schenker said to take some freshwater crappie rigs with small hooks to fish for them.

Gift ideas

Casting around for some tips for those who have anglers on their Christmas shopping list provided some ideas.

Margaret O'Brien at Jingle's Bait and Tackle in North Beach Haven and George Brennan at Brennan Marine in Somers Point agreed that you can't go wrong with gift certificates.

O'Brien said she has gotten calls from people outside the area who have family or friends here to purchase gift certificates for them so they can buy local from shops and stores trying to rebound from Hurricane Sandy.

Great thought!

Brennan said gift certificates are the best thing they have going right now, and they are good for quite a while, meaning they don't have to be redeemed right away.

Showell said gift certificates are good for people who might not know the specific kind of fishing that the angler enjoys. He also said general stuff such as filet knives and multi-use tools are always good, and appreciated.

Penn has lines of reels that tackle shop operators mentioned. Ed Bronstein at Fin-Atics described them as water-resistant and Grossman called them sealed reels. Sargus and Battle were models named by Noel Feliciano at One-Stop Bait and Tackle in Atlantic City.

Lures under $10 look like they could be big sellers - stocking stuffers as one put it. The Diawa SP minnows were singled out. They have some new color combinations.

Plus, repairing equipment such as rods and reels - some maybe damaged in the storm - would no doubt be appreciated by anglers on the gift lists.

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Mike Shepherd is the retired sports editor of The Press. His Shep on Fishing column and Shep's Hot Spot appear Saturdays in the sports section. Call 609-350-0388 or email:

You also can hear Shep on 1400 AM from 7-8 a.m. Saturdays, plus reports Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 6:05 a.m., 9:45 a.m. and 7 p.m. on 1400 AM and on our website: