A few more keeper striped bass are sneaking into the area's waters. Back-bay night fishing for them is getting more attention, and a handful were registered for two of South Jersey's fall surf-fishing contests.
Three bass were weighed during the first seven days of the 58th Long Beach Island Surf Fishing Classic and three were weighed in the second week of the Atlantic County/Atlantic City Surf Fishing Derby.
Don Brown lured a 15-pound, 14-ounce striper off the Margate beach Monday to start the third week of the two-month long contest, so add at least one more bass for the Derby.
Courtland Foos, who travels from Wilmington, Del., to fish the Long Beach Island Classic, caught an 18.69-pound bass with clam at Beach Haven on Thursday.
The first fish for the Classic went to Chris Moore of North Beach Haven with an 18.88-pound bass Monday at Holgate, and the other was 14.31 by Tom Valerio of Beach Haven off Haven Beach on Wednesday. Both were caught with bunker.
Margaret O'Brien said Valerio rushed into Jingle's Bait and Tackle in North Beach, weighed his fish and hurried back to the beach to release it live into the surf.
The Classic, which continues to Dec. 2, has numerous prizes for striped bass and bluefish, while the Derby offers a bunch of prizes for striper, blues, kingfish and tautog.
Dave Showell said the "sharpies" are picking bass along the sod banks. Showell runs Absecon Sportsman Center in Absecon and he believes fall striper fishing is "right on the edge," and he thinks it will be better than last year's.
Vast mullet schools stretch north to at least Long Beach Island, spot are still in the surf and bunker are reported off the beaches - all of which are favorite forage for bass, bluefish and just about anything else, including pods of dolphin that can be seen up close.
Brown rules at Captain Andy's Marina in Margate, and he said John Van Duyne of Ventnor caught a dozen bass over a couple of days this week, including some keepers, in the back bays.
"Scott" Scott has been plugging the beach in Longport and Margate but is having good catches in the back bays of Margate. He had eight bass with one keeper and a half-dozen weakfish recently. Scott is a member of the family and crew that runs Ray Scott's Dock in Margate.
Noel Feliciano said from One-Stop Bait and Tackle in Atlantic City that a blitz of bass made a one-day show on the A.C. front beach.
Ed Bronstein at Fin-Atics in Ocean City said he plugged the O.C. jetties and hooked two short bass and one keeper-size. Bronstein returns all of his fish alive.
He described the current bass fishing in Ocean City as a "pick," and that's what it is just about everywhere.
Weakfish, along with puffers, continue their solid comeback, and tautog are attracting lots of anglers. Showell and Feliciano said many of the weakfish are in the 20-inch range.
Green crab is the best bait for tog. You can keep just one fish at 15 inches right now, but some of the bridges, piers and rockpiles are crowded with anglers fishing for them.
The Longport Bridge is open at night and the new fishing piers on the Route 52 Causeway going into Ocean City are popular.
John Cooper caught a 3-pound tog off the Brigantine Jetty on Wednesday. It was weighed at Riptide Bait and Tackle in Brigantine.
The Press Fishing Contest wrapped up in unusual style.
Mark Onofrio of Northfield was fishing for flounder on the final day of the season - and the final day of the Press contest. He was drifting around the Ocean City-Longport Bridge with shedder crab as bait when he hauled up an octopus.
Showell certified it and reported that Onofrio said it actually bit the hook. Showell also said he knows someone who witnessed the catch.
The Press Fishing Contest will announce the 2012 winners next Saturday.
Russell Rodjinske of Hammonton caught a 6.44-pound smooth puffer while fishing on the High Roller pontoon partyboat out of Gardner's Basin in Atlantic City. Mike Tabasso, captain of the High Roller, said he never had any smooth puffer, or rabbitfish, before, but he has seen five on board this year.
Tabasso will be running half-day trips Saturdays and Sundays starting 8 a.m. when striped bass come back for their fall appearance.
Joe Fumo has the partyboat Fish Finder on a regular schedule out of Brigantine fishing in the ocean, mainly catching limits of sea bass.
John Herron pulled The Keeper back-bay pontoon partyboat that operates out of Margate.
Herron keeps meticulous account of the flounder caught on The Keeper each season, and this year he recorded a whopping 826 keepers. He used his favorite term "that's a wow," and he will be back doing his thing again in the spring from Amherst Avenue.
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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.