Fish for kingfish with Fish-Bites on the Brigantine beach and inlet jetty.

The first few days of the Atlantic County/Atlantic City Surf Fishing Derby did not get off to a white-hot start, but there were several nice kingfish weighed in.

Richard Coles of Pleasant-ville, Linda Davoli of Brigan-tine, Frank Howardell of Brigantine and Robert Ralston of Somers Point all had qualifiers, and three of them were caught in the surf Thursday. All of those anglers are beach veterans who know where and how to catch kingfish.

Noel Feliciano said Coles had 15 kings, and the one he weighed for the Derby at One-Stop Bait and Tackle in Atlantic City was 15½ inches and 1.4 pounds. Davoli had a 13½-inch kingfish she certified at Riptide Bait and Tackle in Brigantine. Ralston was in Longport on Thursday when he hooked into a 14¼-inch, 1.04-pound kingfish. He weighed that one at Brennan Marine in Somers Point. Howardell's was 13¾ inches and weighed 0.84 pounds. That one was caught Monday and looks as if it was the first weigh-in of this year's Derby.

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Davoli was out catching her "5-8 species" on Friday. She snares mullet in her net and caught another 13-inch kingfish, 1-pound bluefish, small flounder, sea bass and spot. She added a blowfish to the roster Thursday and was catching doubleheader 18-inch weakfish under the bird action in Absecon Inlet earlier this week.

Coles also had a variety while fishing from the Brigantine Jetty on Thursday, also adding short weakfish, bluefish and blowfish to his list.

In the quick canvas Friday of weighstations for the Derby, a couple of promising trends have been reported. First, the bluefish are getting bigger, although not big enough yet to qualify for the Derby. And a few striped bass have been picked off around the hordes of mullet that are migrating through our waters.

"Scott" Scott reported from Ray Scott's Dock in Margate that he caught lots of bluefish on the Margate beach this week and they weighed 1-3 pounds and measured up to 17 inches, or one inch short of the required 18 inches to qualify. That's about the same size blue that have moved ino the surf in Brigantine, according to Andy Grossman at Riptide Bait and Tackle there.

The Derby brings out the cast of regulars that fish the beaches of Brigantine and Absecon Island. Gary Rzemyk of Ventnor is up from his winter digs in Fort Meyers, Fla., and was spotted in Ventnor about to cut up a "bad boy" striper he had just caught. Pat Erdman of Ventnor said he had his good-luck charm - wife Eilene - with him while working one of his favorite jetties in Margate.

Don Brown, who is the Derby director, said he had no weigh-ins yet at Captain Andy's Marina in Margate but he knows of stripers that were caught Thursday night and Friday morning in Longport and Margate.

Karen Santoro at Ship Shop in Ventnor did not weigh any Derby fish yet, but she knows something's up. Fish-Bites are popular for kingfish, spot and some claim even weakfish. She said she sold 400 packs of them in two weeks, and she just got another 400 packs delivered.

A reminder: Anglers with four-wheel drive vehicles are required to register at the Atlantic City Engineers Office and at the police departments in Ventnor, Margate and Longport to drive on the beaches while fishing the Derby. You need a $25 Derby badge and valid driver's license, registration and insurance.

The summer flounder season is over, and so is The Press Fishing Contest. Anyone with a Press Fishing entry caught up to Friday must register it online or by mail by next Monday.

Rob Barrett said he had a slow final week of the flounder season. He said he did not even sell a minnow on the final day, Friday. Windy weather had something to to with that. Barrett reported that those 1-3 pound blues had invaded Corsons Inlet following the mullet run there.

Barrett and Scott both reported good tog fishing along the sod banks around Tog Island behind Margate. Green crab is the bait.

Joe Fumo had the Brigan-tine partyboat Fish Finder off the beach fishing for croaker, sea bass and weakfish on Friday. He has been doing that since Sunday, when he switched over from flounder fishing even before the season closed. Fumo sails six-hour trips starting at 8 a.m. from Fish Finder Marine in Brigantine.

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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 p.m. on WOND 1400 AM and on our website:


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