If the scouting trip to the north of here by Bill Lacovara of Ventnor on the Lac Attack is any indication, big striped bass and "horse" bluefish are on their way down to South Jersey waters.
Lacovara fished out of Shark River in Monmouth County five out of six days this past week. He had a different cast of characters in his crews each day. Lacovara only failed to catch quality striper one of those days.
To sail out from his temporary berth about a mile inside Shark River, Lac had to go under four bridges to get to the ocean. He wheeled Lac Attack north on a perfect fall-fishing day that was not too hot, with a slight breeze and a mild ocean.
Lines with two umbrella rigs and two Stretch lures were set out and Lacovara slow-trolled within a mile of the beach. When the lines went over a spike on the ocean floor that went from 47 to 41 feet, two bass struck and were quickly in the box.
That trip recorded five bass. Four of them were beauties between 32 and 38 inches with one short. Plus the crew of Greg Gregory - of Gregory's Restaurant and Bar in Somers Point - his daughter Kelly and son Paul, and your local scribe caught double-figures worth of bluefish all weighing more than 10 pounds.
It was a fun day with plenty of action. Greg has plenty of stories to tell. Kelly had a constant smile, and on one occasion did not wait for the net and leaned over the transom to grab one of the bass through the gills and flip it on board. She often fishes from a kayak in the Great Egg Harbor River and that's how it's done sometimes on those craft. Paul handled some of the on-board chores when he wasn't reeling in fish. Lac? He just kept putting anglers on fish.
On a personal note: I was honored to be inducted into the club of those who have been gently cussed at by Greg while fishing. It was a long time coming and is a genuine privilege. Those who know Greg will identify.
Lacovara keeps a log on board and everyone who catches a fish enters the species, how the fish was caught, water temperature, time of the day. He recorded 27 bass and 57 blues in the four days he caught.
On the first trip, he had Greg "Rico" Maiuro on board with Greg, Kelly, Paul and Joe Gregory. They were fishing in sight of New York City and could see the Freedom Tower. Maiuro, a Ventnor resident, caught the first bass and when they looked at the time to log it, it was 9:11 a.m. Spooky. Lacovara said they caught nine straight bass that day - his top striper haul of the week - before the blues moved in.
Another strong indication that bigger bass are on the way is the first heavyweight entered in the Long Beach Island Surf Fishing Classic. Jack Czapkowski of East Brunswick hooked a 48.63-pounder with clam as bait at Barnegat Light on Oct. 19, according to the contest website. Tim Stumpf of Elkins Park, Pa., is second on the Classic leaderboard with a 36.31-pound bass caught with bunker at Loveladies on Tuesday.
On Thursday, Kevin Eichman of Tabernacle got a 26.38-pound striper with bunker on the North Beach and Robert Vallone of Little Egg Harbor Township got his second qualifier with an 18.08 bass with bunker at Barnegat Light. He also had a 28.88 bass on Oct. 14. The 16.13-pound bluefish caught by Randy Swartley on Oct. 14 is still the leader in that division.
The second week of the Atlantic County/Atlantic City Surf Fishing Derby stands out so far as the best stretch for that contest.
Richard Coles of Pleasantville had the biggest kingfish on Oct. 1 of that week. It weighed 1 pound, 10 ounces at One-Stop Bait and Tackle in Atlantic City. That kingfish was 16 inches.
A number of 13- to 15-inch kingfish have been caught lately from the T-Jetty in Atlantic City and across Absecon Inlet back around the cove on the Brigantine side.
Noel Feliciano also went on an investigation after hearing from customers at One-Stop about the great "fish-catching" inside Absecon Inlet. He and son Jeremy checked it out around Harrah's Resort on Thursday night. He confirmed that weakfish, bluefish, herring, a couple of striper and all kinds of baitfish were splashing all over from the William "Bill" Demones Jr. Atlantic City Seawall Fishing Complex back to the Brigantine bridge.
The impending storm is a likely game-changer, however, for at least a a couple of days. The local boat ramps are likely to be busy with captains pulling their small craft out of the water. The hope is that the winds will not chase the loads of bait fish off.
Many anglers are convinced that fishing gets a spike in the lull just before a storm. If that's true, it should happen this weekend before the storm approaches.
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also hear Shep''s on-air fishing reports Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 6:05 a.m., 9:45 a.m. and 7 p.m. on WOND 1400 AM and at PressofAtlanticCity.com.