Offshore action is blistering for white marlin.
Chuck Hinchcliffe at Off the Hook Marina in Hinch Marina in Cape May said Friday that anyone planning to try for white marlin had better arrange to get their white marlin flags early. Hinchcliffe said one captain reported stopping at numerous tackle shops to pick up some and could not find any.
"There's not a white marlin flag in all of Cape May County," he said.
Hinchcliffe said from what he has seen and is hearing, it is possible that this is the most white marlin ever caught this early. He said the catches could set local records, and expects that some local boats could rack up 100 or more white marlin.
According to Ed Bronstein at Fin-Atics in Ocean City, you have to take a hike well south to Poorman Canyon or even farther to Washington Canyon. That's two canyons down from where many South Jersey sportfishing captains and crews often head.
Rob McMurray is chairman of this year's Ocean Marlin & Tuna Club's 35th Overnight Billfish Tournament. That five-night/day event started Monday and wraps up this morning with weigh-ins open to the public from 1-4 p.m. at Ocean City Waterfront Park and Marina, 200 Bay Ave.
The first three days racked up some awesome numbers. According to a report from McMurray, 81 white marlin, one blue marlin and two swordfish were caught and released; and 12 tuna and one wahoo were weighed as of Thursday. The results won't be official until after today's weigh-ins. Friday's results were not available because McMurray went fishing.
Hinchcliffe said Ryan Higgins, captain of Pat Healey's Viking 70, was flying an incredible 26 white marlin-release flags Thursday, which is the all the proof anyone needs about white hot white marlin. Other boats in the Overnight had double-figure white marlin releases.
It is sometimes difficult to find out where they are trolling during a tournament, but one tournament-connected report pointed to Poorman's and Washington that backed up Bronstein and Hinchcliffe.
Tuna are still showing up despite the fact that the Hot Dog, one of the top spots of a week or so back, seems to have slowed considerably.
Bob Biedeman skippered Fish Trap back to Beach Haven loaded down with nine yellowfin tuna and eight tilefish Friday morning. Mate Steve Everest and crew Bob Muerdler, George Rona, Joe Picco, Bill Sang and Bob Opperman were on board. One member of the crew slipped in and out of Jingle's Bait and Tackle on Friday before a busy Margaret O'Brien had a chance to ask the question: "Where'd you catch them?"
I'm hearing more about brown sharks in the surf and inshore waters throughout the area. Night fishing in the surf and inlets used to be a pursuit by a dedicated and probably small group of surfcasters but is starting to get more popular.
Bronstein said more and more anglers seem to be targeting brown sharks. They hang around sand bars and sloughs in the surf, and can be caught with bunker and other cut bait, kingfish heads and live spot. Fish for them in the surf with 6/0 or 7/0 hooks, 40- to 65-pound test braid line, heavy mono shocker leader with a fish-finder slide rig and nylon-coated wire leader.
Bronstein said you can spot them inshore around schools of bait such as bunker. They will chase the bunker to the surface, and that easily can be seen by captains looking around for them. Bronstein likened that to looking for striped bass in the fall.
Some of these fish are 50-100 pounds and 5-9 feet in length. Brown sharks are also known as sandbar sharks, which are a protected species and must be returned to the water alive.
The next big offshore event is the Mid-Atlantic $500,000 on Aug. 19-24. It is based at Canyon Club in Cape May and Sunset Marina in Ocean City, Md. Hard to believe but a sign of approaching fall, or more precisely waning summer, just surfaced. And that is an e-mail about advance tickets going on sale for the Atlantic City In-Water Boat Show. It will be Sept. 6-9 at the Sen. Frank S. Farley State Marina.
Birch Grove Park in Northfield will host the annual Family Fest on Sept. 29. That popular happening is highlighted by a Hooked on Fishing Not Drugs youth fishing contest. It is sponsored by the Atlantic County Municipal Alliance. Volunteers can call 609-513-3911 and vendors and crafters can call 609-641-6149.
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 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 7:05 p.m. on WOND 1400 AM.