It sure looks as if lower Delaware Bay is the place to be for big striped bass.

Captains and crews fishing there have had to play the winds and conditions right because it has been blowing, but there is a lot of information about heavyweights hitting scales at tackle shops and marinas in Cape May County.

Matt Slobodjian reported that Jim's Bait and Tackle in Cape May weighed three that were more than 50 pounds, and Catherine Algard at Sterling Harbor Marina in Wildwood provided a virtual blitz of photos taken of happy anglers with stripers - a couple of them weighing more than 40 pounds.

Brennan Marine in Somers Point also reported anglers from Atlantic County getting in on the action with bass as heavy as 45 pounds.

Billy Wark of Villas fished from his 16½-foot boat about a mile out in Delaware Bay near his hometown Tuesday and Wednesday of last week and caught 97 pounds of striped bass. Even more remarkably, it took just two fish to combine for that weight.

The first one weighed 42½ pounds, and was the first bass of that caliber he ever caught. He went back to the same spot the next day and hauled in a 54½-pound heavyweight.

He said he was just chunking away on dead low water and listening to the new Cape May jazz station when he was happily interrupted by striped bass, both of which measured more than 50 inches in length. Wark, 54, registered the 54-pounder at Hands Too Bait and Tackle in Cape May.

He broke his net and had to "bear-hug" the second one into his boat after a half-hour fight, he said. The fact that he just had the end of the net probably cost him a third big bass he estimated to be 45 pounds because while trying to wrestle that one, he broke the 20-pound line he recently put on his reel.

It was a memorable couple of days for sure, and he said Monday morning that he is psyched and "champing at the bit" for the winds to diminish so he can get back there in his small boat to try and add to his total.

The biggest of the recent weigh-ins at Jim's went 53¼ pounds and was caught Saturday by Eric Danes of Robbinsville on the charterboat Justified.

Young anglers notched their share of nice bass.

Erik Arenberg, 14, of Cape May, cranked in a 41-pounder and Jack Smelzer, an 11-year-old from Plymouth Meeting, Pa., got a 16¾-pounder. Both registered at Jim's.

Jered Ruck of Westville caught a 25-pound bass while on Ted Savidge's Tides of March out of Wildwood. Ruck is 13.

Sterling Harbor also weighed a 20-pound bass that Cassie Guzek of Wildwood caught on her boat Slide Aside.

A charterboat crew on the Big Game with Capt. Joe Pritchard had back-to-back identical days Wednesday and Thursday in Delaware Bay, according to a report from South Jersey Marina charter coordinator Charlie Langan. The father-son combo of Mike Carroll Sr. and Mike Carroll Jr. of Wallingford, Pa., headed a team that had 12 bass both days, and 42-pounders as the top catch each time.

Elsewhere, surfcasters on Long Beach Island had a decent Sunday catching stripers and bluefish. The fish in the surf there are not as big as those in Delaware Bay, more like teens to 20s. The Long Beach Island Surf Fishing Classic listed seven bass and three bluefish caught Sunday.

Michael Mitryk of Burlington was one of those surfcasters who worked the surf at Brant Beach on Long Beach Island on Sunday. He picked off two - one 16.19 and the other 15.06. Dick Crosta of Beach Haven apparently had the top bass of the day with his 20.5-pounder at North Beach Haven.

Here's a reminder that the tautog (a.k.a. blackfish, slippery bass) catch opens to six fish beginning Wednesday with a minimum length of 14 inches.

Two more tournaments are scheduled for this weekend.

The Weekend at Kelly's Corner Pub Striper is Saturday and Sunday. The entry fee is $20. It has divisions for heaviest three total weight and single-heaviest caught from boat, surf, jetty. Sign up at Kelly's, 2721 Arctic Ave., Atlantic City; Captain Andy's Marine, 9317 Amherst Ave., Margate; Ship Shop, 118 N. Dorset Ave., Ventnor. Call 609-348-4925.

The Fight Leukemia is Saturday. It has striper, bluefish and weakfish divisions for anglers fishing from boats, in the surf or from jetties and piers between Absecon and Hereford inlets. Register for $30 at Anchorage Tavern, 823 Bay Ave., Somers Point.

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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. Call 609-350-0388 or email:


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