It was 11:30 a.m. Friday and Mike O'Neill had a charter fishing for tautog (also known as blackfish) 11 miles off Great Egg Inlet.
"I don't believe that we don't have our limit yet," he reported from the Stray Cat. "We must be slacking off."
He said that because on every trip this week, he had a limit of six tog for everyone on board by 11 a.m.
His crew of customers from Newtown Square, Pa., were "catching pretty good" and closing on limiting out as noon approached Friday. The heavyweight caught by then was 10-plus pound, and most of the rest were "just making it" as keepers.
On other trips this past week, O'Neill's crews also were getting a lot of out-of-season sea bass, but on Friday it was "blackfish or blackfish" and nothing else.
O'Neill said the ocean was flat with a south wind at 10 knots and they had a couple of drizzles. Calm conditions have been the rule in the ocean in early December.
Earlier this week he reported that the ocean finally cleaned up inshore after five or six weeks of muddy water.
And it looks as though it might continue this weekend. O'Neill has a charter today.
He is docked at Seaview Harbor Marina in Great Egg Inlet.
Capt. Steve Purul had a charter from Doylestown, Pa., out off Barnegat Inlet on the Reel Fantasea on Friday.
They started out in Barnegat Inlet and caught some small striped bass.
"Nothing to put in the box," Purul said.
So he moved to six miles off and bottom fished on a wreck, and by noon they pulled the anchor to head back to Barnegat Inlet to try for some keeper bass on the incoming tide.
Purul called back to report they caught one bass on the first drift. He said striper action was "decent."
"Blackfishing is good," Purul reported. He said they were "nice size," in the 3- to 5-pound class.
Purul said striper fishing around Barnegat Inlet was good earlier this week.
He had one angler pick 20 bass on light tackle. That sportfisherman is Jay Simmons of Pennsylvania, and he kept one fish.
Purul reported that striped bass and bluefish are still to the north at Shrewsbury Rocks and coming down the beach.
Purul docks at Bob's Bay Marina on the mainland at Barnegat Township.
There seem to be a lot of small striper in the "teens" around right now.
"Don't give up!" said George Brennan from Brennan Marine in Somers Point on Friday.
Brennan said in years past, that December was sometimes the best month for striped bass.
He remembers schools of fish coming through when it was cold. "Many, many years this happened," he said.
Brennan Marine weighed several striper within the past week. James Jerauld and Eric Gallion fished Absecon Inlet with bunker and came back with 19- and 11-pound bass.
Bill and Dan Troehler were on the Drop Zone in Great Egg Inlet and combined for a 14-pounder, while Bill Carew on Moonlight got a 13-pounder, also in the inlet.
Riptide Bait and Tackle in Brigantine weighed a 13-pound bass caught Thursday with live spot by Joe Manali Jr. of Brigantine. He was fishing in the Brigantine back bays.
Andy Grossman at Riptide said surf fishing in Brigantine can best be described as a keeper here and there.
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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:
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