Chillier weather has arrived, and it looks like a few bigger bass came along, too.
Andy Grossman at Riptide Bait and Tackle had a couple of good reports of middleweight to light-heavyweight striped bass sneaking into the waters around Brigantine.
He first called about a 33-pound, 3-ounce striped bass that arrived late Thursday afternoon. It was caught by Chuck Finn, of West Chester, Pennsylvania, on the Brigantine north-end beach with a bunker as bait.
It measured 45 inches long at Riptide and took the lead in Grossman’s fall striped bass/bluefish contest.
On Friday, he weighed a 20-pound, 35-inch bass for Joe Pop, who according to Grossman is a retired U.S. Marine who was enjoying the Marine Corps’ 242nd birthday. Grossman also recorded a 28-inch barely-keeper-size bass.
Just a few miles above Brigantine in the Long Beach Island Surf Fishing Classic, four 20-plus-pound bass had been registered since Tuesday.
Pete Kelly, of Cedar Run in Stafford Township, posted a 27.84-pound, 43-inch bass caught with fresh bunker just before midnight Thursday in Surf City.
The biggest of the foursome went 29.76 and was caught in Surf City on Tuesday by John Baxter, of Tuckerton.
Cathy Thiel, of Manahawkin, registered the first striper for the women’s division of the Classic with a 15.9-pounder caught in Surf City.
Striped bass are mostly shorts, under the 28-inch minimum, or bonus-tag “slot” fish from 24 to 28 inches.
It sure seems busy in the back bays and channels from Absecon Bay to Great Bay, where Dave Showell has been working his guide service almost daily.
Just to the downbeach side of Brigantine, the news was more about tautog.
It was a cold, windy day for the hearty ones who toughed it out on the jetties and rockpiles.
Kirby Ortiz, of Brigantine, is a protege of Isidro Valentin, of Atlantic City, who has been picking tog off the T-jetty in Atlantic City all summer and fall. Ortiz was at One-Stop Bait and Tackle with a 161/2-inch tog Friday afternoon when the local scribe called.
That was one of three he hauled up on the rocks in a cold, strong wind.
Noel Feliciano at One-Stop said Ortiz was chilled until he caught the first of the three, and then he warmed up.
Catching some nice fish can do that.
Feliciano came up with another neat idea for a contest to coincide with the tog season opening up to six fish with a 15-inch minimum on Nov. 16. He named it Tog Master. It will start next Thursday and continue through Nov. 30.
Feliciano said there is no entry fee, and he is putting up $100 for first and two $50 prizes for second and third. Sign up at One-Stop before fishing. The contest is limited to fish caught from Atlantic City jetties and rockpiles.
Tautog are reported to be thick on some of the wrecks and reefs inshore and offshore.
Looks like they will be there waiting in good numbers, like sea bass have been since that season opened.
Sea bass is open with a 15-fish daily possession with a 12.5-inch minimum through Dec. 31.
Add porgy and bluefish to the mix, and inshore and offshore wreck and reef fishing should be exciting on South Jersey party boats or charter boats, and private boat ocean outings.
Local pros have been anticipating cooler conditions that traditionally improve fall fishing.
It will be ineteresting to see what develops if the temperatures plummet to the 20s as forecast.
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Mike Shepherd is the retired sports editor of The Press. His column appears in the Tuesday and Saturday print editions and online.