Mike O'Neill said he has been "running my butt off" while inshore trolling and bottom fishing.

The captain of the Stray Cat charterboat has been taking his customers on five-hour trips.

"It's been ridiculous," he said Monday.

And he added, he is just about the only one out there. He has been fishing outside the Ocean City Reef. He trolls for two hours and bottom-fishes for three.

The list of what he has caught and seen is remarkable. It starts with keeper flounder, and continues with skipjacks, little tunny, Spanish mackerel, triggerfish, sea bass, huge porgy, a cobia and a needlefish. Plus, his crew wrestled with two big sting rays Monday morning. The menu is probably topped by a 5-foot angel shark caught by one of his regular patrons, Marvin Pittman of Philadelphia.

O'Neill speculates that the reason few other captains are taking inshore trolling trips is that they are turned off by the lack of big bluefish. He says his crews regularly clean up with 50-60 fish per outing. He says it started when the bonito first showed up two or three weeks back.

He also said the Stray Cat tangled with an estimated 500-pound manta ray. O'Neill runs the boat out of Seaview Harbor Marina in Great Egg Inlet, and says he is chartered to Sept. 5, when he has an open boat scheduled.

Mid-Atlantic $500,000

With the arrival of the Mid-Atlantic $500,000 the focus for many anglers turns to offshore big-game pursuit.

The contest started Monday with 118 boats poised to charge off toward the deep, except for the fact that all but two decided to take a lay day on the opener and stayed dockside. So the weigh-ins at the Canyon Club in Cape May and Sunset Marina in Ocean City, Md., might have to wait until at least today to generate the excitement at the scales that this tournament is known to produce.

The offshore classic continues to Friday and it is captain's choice as to which three days they want to fish. The two contesting craft on the opening day: Taylor Jean with Kenneth Hager is listed from Tinton Falls (N.J.) on the Mid-A website and Reel Toy with Danny Jones is a Maryland boat from Jopp.

First, second and third places in white marlin and blue marlin have up-front money of $100,000, $50,000 and $25,000; in tuna it is $75,000, $35,000, $20,000, while the heaviest wahoo and mahi are worth $10,000. The weigh-ins are from 5 p.m.-9 p.m. each day but are closed to the public.

There has been some recent offshore action.

Brennan Marine in Somers Point reported Larry Stout on Diamond Girl had a successful overnighter Friday into Saturday that racked up two 55-pound yellowfin tuna, a white marlin and a bigeye tuna lost at the boat. They were trolling ballyhoo and spreader bars or chunking butterfish.

According to Matt Slobodjian at Jim's Bait and Tackle in Cape May, one of the boats up for the Mid-A $500,000 added longfin tuna to the mix. The Raging Bull had three white marlin in addition to the longfin.

Press Fishing Contest

Like the baseball season, The Press Fishing Contest is about to enter the stretch run toward the Sept. 28 season-ender. Several interesting entries joined the lineup.

The heavyweight of the recent batch of fish to make The Press Contest is a 69-pound wahoo caught by Peter Fricano of Avalon on Aug.14 at Lobster Claw on the boat My Girls. Moran's Dockside in Avalon was the weigh station.

The Lobster Claw has not been mentioned often in the many reports received this season. Some of the other well-known inshore fishing spots such as the 20-Fathom Line, The Cigar, 750 Square and Misty Blue also recently surfaced as holding fish.

Striped bass are caught often at night around the lights of bridges and docks in the back bays in summer. They are also often schoolies under the 28-inch limit. Cortney Hassler of Williamstown caught one Monday that weighed a nifty keeper-size 23 pounds, 4 ounces at Avalon Hodge-Podge, where it was certified.

Evan Reboli of South Abington Township, Pa., caught a 2.47-pound needlefish at 5-Fathom Bank. It was entered at Sterling Harbor Marina in Wildwood. Trey Doyle of Philadelphia got a 38-pound golden tilefish at Wilmington Canyon. Moran's Dockside in Avalon submitted it for the Youth Division. Rich Biester of Paoli, Pa., caught a 3.2-pound oceanic puffer at Wildwood Reef. It went into the Most Unusual category when weighed at Moran's.

Rob English of Pleasantville picked a 9.4-pound flounder Sunday. That one was registered at 24/7 Bait and Tackle in Egg Harbor Township.

Three flounder were caught on Aug. 12 and entered into the contest.

Nick Stewart of Galloway Township picked off a 6.22 flounder at the mouth of the Mullica River and Mark Radziewicz of Egg Harbor City caught one that went 2.65. Both were weighed it at Chestnut Neck Boat Yard in Port Republic. Jeffrey James Pori of Hammonton got a 5.75 pounder inside Great Egg Inlet. Dolfin Dock in Somers Point certified it.

Sean Stanton of Potomac, Md., caught a 1.68-pound porgy Aug.14 at Townsends Inlet Reef. It also was weighed at Moran's.

The Press Fishing Contest can be entered on-line with photos at PressofAtlanticCity.com/Fishing Contest or by mail. Catch a fish and take it to a weighstation for verification and enter. There are no signups or registration fees.

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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 online. Call 609-350-0388 or email:

You can also hear Shep's 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:

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