The warm weather and mild conditions seemed to beckon sportfishers to head offshore over the past few days, and maybe to chill out with some big-game action.
John Iacaruso, a 15-year-old from South Philadelphia, was fishing on Electric Ark with owner Russell Jost out of Canyon Club in Cape May on Saturday. They trolled Baltim-ore Canyon with ballyhoo and plastics. The Roman Catholic High School student took the rod after a knockdown, and 25 miles later he had his first tuna, a 92-pound bigeye. They had a 50-pound yellowfin tuna and some skipjack on that offshore journey.
While that Press Fishing Contest Off-shore Youth Division entry was caught on the troll, evidence is piling up that jigging and chunking with butterfish and sardines is developing into the better way to catch tuna.
And they are moving a little closer to the beaches. The favorite (and flavorably named) locations such as Hot Dog, Hambone and Sausages plus the (more mundane-named) 19-Fathom Lump were mentioned in several reports in addition to canyons in deeper water.
But John Sowerby, captain of the Cape May charterboat Hooked Up II, said Monday the Hot Dog was really the only place to be.
Sowerby said this is the best early chunking for 45- to 50-pound yellowfin mixed with 80- to 100-pound bluefin he has seen in 10 or 12 years at the Hot Dog, which is a two-hour ride from Cape May. Sowerby reported they had two to three fish on at a time for five hours, and they released 17 bluefin.
He said the bluefin gobbled up sardines and the yellowfin dined on butterfish.
Sowerby said using 20- to 30-pound weighted fluoro-carbon leaders is crucial on the daytime chunk because yellowfin on or near the surface can see anything heavier, but to be aware that bigger bluefin down deeper can break the line. At night, it does not matter as much.
Bill Bittmann said by phone midday Monday from Sterling Harbor Marina in Wildwood that he had a morning radio report from an offshore crew that the canyons were still going strong with tuna. Bittmann confirmed it was jigging and chunking.
Trolling still produces blue and white marlin and mahi.
There are more and more indications of superior flounder catches on inshore reefs, wrecks and lumps, but plenty of nice fish are still lurking in inlets and back bays.
A report from Capt. Andy's Marina in Margate said to fish right on top of reefs and structure in 40-60 feet of water with 4- to 6-ounce bucktails or 5/0 hooks on 3-foot leaders, both with long strips of mackerel, squid or cut bait. The warning from Corey Soloman is that you need to be prepared to "donate" a few rigs on the "snags" where the fish are laying.
Bob Cummings of Northfield had a limit of flounder on the Ocean City Reef. A report from Brennan Marine in Somers Point revealed Cummings was using minnows, squid and Gulp.
Renee Lerro from Shawcrest also limited out recently, but this was in the back bays of North Wildwood, according to Catherine Algard at Sterling Harbor Marina in Wildwood. Robert Preston and family of Drexel Hill, Pa., caught 3- and 3.75-pound flounder near Turtle Creek behind Wildwood.
Jenny Thurman had three keepers and Benny Marina added a fourth while drifting Absecon Inlet on Sunday. The keepers were measured and photographed at Riptide Bait and Tackle in Brigantine.
Despite the heat Sunday, Cathy Stover of Levittown, Pa., and Meghan Larson of Feasterville, Pa., spent some time out on Dad's Place Pier in North Wildwood. Mary Anne Anagnou said they caught a couple of keepers with minnows and squid.
Anagnou also said one group on a Dad's Place rental had 20 blueclaw crabs and another had 2 dozen.
Anagnou admitted to being skeptical about reports of weakfish making a nice comeback in this area. But now she believes it because she saw two that were caught from the pier.
Sterling Harbor Marina runs its 19th Duke of Fluke on Saturday. It costs $300 per boat and the total prize list is worth $5,000. A captain's meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Sterling Harbor. Prizes are offered for single-heaviest flounder, five heaviest total weight, single-heaviest for "Duchess" and junior. Anyone can enter up until 7 a.m. Saturday. Call 609-729-1425.
In conjunction with the Duke of Fluke, an individual kayak contest is scheduled. That's a single-heaviest duel for the title. The entry for that is $65 per person.
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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 Tuesdays and Saturdays in the sports section and daily on-line. Call 609-350-0388 or email:
You can also hear Shep's on-air fishing reports Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 6:05 a.m., 9:45 a.m. and 7:05 p.m. on WOND 1400 AM and on our website: