Even the strong winds and chilly temps did not stop the back-bay flounder fishing Thursday.

Both of the back-bay partyboats out of Margate had double-figure keepers and constant action. Dick Herb, captain of the Avalon-based charterboat Escapade, said his was the only boat out on the water and he was pleasantly surprised at the action.

All three captains said they had to work hard to keep a drift and position their boats out of the wind as much as possible, rarely leaving the wheel to help net fish. Both the captains and mates were kept hopping.

Herb was just leaving the dock with a charter to catch the mid-day high water Friday. He said he was "chasing" around the back bays but had them good Thursday. He said the percentage of keepers was down.

John Herron on The Keeper and Lee Scanny on the Fish N Fun III were out in the Margate back bays Friday morning picking but not bailing them the way they had been all week. Herron said you have to have Gulp along with minnows and mackerel to have consistent hookups. He said the 4-inch chartreuse or white Gulp were best.

Scanny said flounder fishing was "phenomenal, like the old days" with a lot of the twice-daily four-hour trips returning with double-digit keepers this week. Scanny said the Fish N Fun, which is docked at Capt. Andy's Margate Sportfishing Center, was packed Friday morning.

Both boats were crowded Thursday morning, even though it was blowing 30-35 mph with a chilling rain at times. When it is not a beach day in the summer, these back-bay pontoon boats often are crowded.

Then it turned into a gorgeous morning Friday, but the water was a little dirty because of high water covering the marshes Thursday.

The back-bay boats sail at 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. each day.

Talkin' tuna

Offshore tuna fishing has been just as outstanding when the weather allows.

It was blowing 30-35 mph with high seas, and five of the 26 boats that sailed despite the conditions on the opening day of the 46th White Marlin Invitational at Beach Haven Marlin & Tuna Club had to pull up short of home and slip into Cape May to dock for the night. Tournament director Matt Garebodia said tuna in the 34- to 44-pound range hit the scales, plus one 32-pound mahi, and there were three white marlin releases.

The big news was an 88-pound wahoo that was caught on the boat Tracey Ann. The two heaviest tuna were 44 and 41 pounds and were caught on the Crazy Tuna.

Because the crews battled the conditions coming back, mostly from the south canyons, the last boat did not pull in until 9:30 p.m. Thursday.

Tim Davis put in mildly when he reported Thursday's opening day of the Avalon Offshore Open was a "little rough." Fifteen of the fleet of 16 entries showed restraint by not sailing. The one that did, TLC, brought back a 78-pound bluefin tuna and a 10.96-pound mahi. The boat is owned by John Hudspeth and skippered by Joe Trainer. That is an Avalon-based boat and personnel.

The contest is based at Moran's Dockside in Avalon and has today and Sunday for the captains to get their one allowable fishing day. Captains can pick two of three days at Beach Haven.

Then starting Monday, the offshore competition circuit shifts to the 36th Overnight Billfish run by the Ocean City Marlin & Tuna Club. It continues to Aug. 3 and is headquartered at the Ocean City Yacht Club. The captain's meeting is set for 5 p.m. Sunday. Weigh-ins will be open to the public from 1-4 p.m. Tuesday through next Saturday at the OCYC, which is located at Battersea and Bay roads in Ocean City.

The purse handed out last year was $40,000. This is a billfish release-only with points determining the winning boat in the billfish division. There are divisions for heaviest swordfish, tuna, wahoo, mahi and mako shark, plus a junior award.

On Wednesday, Jeffrey Hoffberger and Matt Sanders co-captained St. Judith III to the 30-Line and caught bluefin and yellowfin tuna. Joan McCaffrey and sons Ruairi, 14, and Declan, 8, Odonoghue both caught their first bluefin. They kept their limit and released the rest. Saint Judith Charters runs from Sen. Frank S. Farley Marina in Atlantic City on 4- to 8-hour inshore wrecks trips and offshore charters.

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Mike Shepherd is the retired sports editor of The Press. His column appears Saturdays and Tuesdays in the sports section. Call 609-350-0388 or email:

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