Winter officially sticks around for another few days, but the fishing scene is starting to show signs of waking up around South Jersey.

Many of the area's bait and tackle shops have opened recently, and a few have even weighed in some early striped bass. Plus, white perch catches are improving.

Most of the reports come from the rivers and bays. It does not seem to be happening along the beachfront. Not a lot of anglers are out yet - probably because of chilly water in the low 40s and consistently raw weather.

Spring arrives March 20, but that has not discouraged some eager anglers from trying to "push" the start of fishing season.

Fishing was good for a stretch this week at Gravelling Point on Great Bay, and that's the kind of news that will get more anglers motivated to get out there.

Scott Albertson at Scott's Bait and Tackle in Mystic Islands said surfcasters are fishing from the sod bank at Gravelling Point, and reported he heard of 30 stripers "by now" meaning up to Friday morning.

Local angler and sod bank regular Vincas Kudirka collected Scott's $100 bounty for the first keeper bass to be caught at either Gravelling Point of Pebble Beach down Radio Road from Scott's B&T. It was 29 inches and weighed 8.3 pounds.

Scott said that fish was caught Wednesday during a nice run of active bass there. Scott said the "regular-regular-regulars" out that day on the falling tide when the water warmed up were busy picking fish when Kudirka claimed bragging rights for the first legal bass to be caught there.

Fishing has "definitely begun," Albertson said Friday. "It was nice to see some fish."

He also weighed a striper for Jamie Forand. She caught a 9.7-pound striper up the Mullica River at Hay Road.

In the days just before and after the opening of the striper season in the bays and rivers on March 1, lots of bass were reported in Mullica River and warm waters around power plants.

Noel Feliciano opened One-Stop Bait and Tackle in Atlantic City for the season Saturday. He said he has had a lot of locals coming in and out of the store to talk fishing and hoping for word that the fishing season is coming soon.

Feliciano said Josimar Domingos picked a bass that measured 38 inches while fishing Tuesday night-early Wednesday morning in Absecon Inlet at Harrah's. Domingos sent Feliciano a photo of a silvery bass shining in the flash of a cell-phone camera.

Ed Bronstein said from Fin-Antics in Ocean City that a few fish, including a couple of keepers, have been caught in the back bays of Ocean City along the Route 52 causeway fishing piers in Elbow Channel and in Somers Point at Circle Liquors.

He said a few stripers and some perch are in the rivers inside Great Egg Harbor Bay. Bloodworm and clam are the baits, and some anglers are casting small dark-colored Bombers and using a slow retrieve.

Bob Duckenfield reported from Jim's Bait and Tackle in Cape May that bass are starting to show up in Delaware Bay on the flats from Pierce's Point to Egg Island. They are biting on clam and bloodworm at high water.

Typical of what's happening elsewhere, there are a lot of shorts and a few keepers. Duckenfield was in the shop Friday making final preparations for today's official opening day at Jim's.

Margaret O'Brien has been working hard to get Jingle's Bait and Tackle in North Beach Haven back to normal. She will be open Friday through Tuesday for right now, and expects to have a full daily schedule sometime in April. She was putting stock away Friday.

Jingle's was another place slammed by Sandy. She said the area is coming back. For a while, Long Beach Island residents had to go to the mainland for groceries.

Andy Grossman opened Riptide Bait and Tackle in Brigantine on March 1. Fred Hynes said Friday that they have not had a weigh-in of any fish caught from the front beach. Hynes said everybody who has come into the shop is "itchy" to get things started.

They have had surfcasters showing up to sign up for the "Fish for Life" Striper Tournament. It is a striper-only contest on the Brigantine front beach and jetties that started Friday and continues to May 25.

Brigantine permits and a contest sticker are required. There is a $20 entry fee and proceeds benefit the South Jersey Cancer Fund. Sign up at Riptide, North Pointe Marina and Bayside Marina in Brigantine. The contest is sponsored by the LePera Team of Realtors.

In addition, a $650 bounty for a 43-inch bass caught on the front beach offered for last year by Riptide went uncollected and has been carried over to this year. Hynes said a number of anglers have signed up for that, pushing the total up toward $700. The entry fee is $5 and it is a winner-take-all event.

A white perch contest run by Capt. Howard's Bait and Tackle in Egg Harbor City also started yesterday. This one goes for a month to April 15. There is no entry fee but anglers have to register at Capt. Howard's. It offers first, second and third-place trophies for heaviest white perch.

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Mike Shepherd is the retired sports editor of The Press. His column appears Saturdays in the sports section. Call 609-350-0388 or email:

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