Robin Scott said everybody who went out Friday from Ray Scott's Dock in Margate planned to watch the air show.
"They were not going fishing," she said.
She said it was a gorgeous dead-calm day on the Atlantic City oceanfront City for the annual extravaganza.
In the days leading up to Friday, however, it was a phenomenal streak of mixed-bag back-bay fishing that included flounder, weakfish, kingfish, sea bass and tautog, plus tons of spot, peanut bunker and even some tinker mackerel.
"They are getting lots of variety," she said, with a "gazillion" sea bass and a lot of weakfish.
She said one of her deck boat trips had the best trip of the entire summer, and it was on the Margate side of the Longport Bridge. The Mendenhall family from Downingtown, Pa., are regulars fishing out of Scott's. They racked up 49 flounder with five keepers recently, and Scott said they rarely are not within sight of the dock.
Flounder in the back bays are lethargic, according to Scott. Flounder are laying on the bait and anglers are feeling something heavy without realizing they might have a fish. She advises her rental-boat patrons to use light freshwater-weight gear, such as half-ounce shad darts.
Scott has loaded up on brined silversides, and suggests mullet filets and squid for flounder and clam tongues for the "crustacean crunchers," such as sea bass, tog and triggerfish. Some are taking chum buckets to entice smaller fish close to the boat, which in turn can bring bigger fish.
Scott said her bait netters are telling her that the bottom dropped out for minnows because, she reported them saying, the recent heavy rains have choked the smaller creeks and channels with garden waste, and killed them off.
She said bergalls are in the back bays. Bergalls are more known for hovering around the wrecks and reefs. The back-bay water temps recently dropped into the 60s from the mid-70s, Scott said.
The tent is up and the boats are arriving at Canyon Club for the (36th) Mid-Atlantic $500,000 next week.
Mark Allen, a tournament official, said that he has never seen so many boats arrive so early to scout out the offshore waters in advance of one of the East Coast's big-league, big-game, big-money tournaments.
One of the first to arrive at the Cape May resort was Canyon Gear, a 66-foot Hatteras. It hauled in Tuesday, Allen said. Plus, he said another bigger boat was tied off at the T-head of the marina.
Captains know the offshore fishing has been great, particularly in canyons south of Cape May, so they are trying to locate a hot spot.
The upfront prize money is listed at $500,000, but the side pools rocket the total purse to more than $1M. Last year's bankroll, for example, was $1.5 million.
The competition starts Monday and goes to Friday with captains choosing three of the days. Weigh-ins will be held from 5-9 p.m. at the Canyon Club and at Sunset Marina in Ocean City, Md. The weigh-ins are open to the public, but parking is not allowed at Canyon Club. The scales also can be viewed online at www.MA500.com.
The fleet, expected to be at least 125 sportfishing craft, will fish for blue marlin, white marlin, tuna, mahi and wahoo.
While back-bay flounder fishing stays strong, both Rusty Zeigler at Off the Hook Bait and Tackle in Hinch Marina in Cape May and Mike Hodges at Budd's Bait and Tackle in Villas said flounder fishing is excellent at Old Grounds and Reef Site 11 off Delaware, and at Cape May Reef. Bucktails with a stinger hook and/or a big spinner and Gulp or big squid strips, mackerel and other fresh-cut bait are working.
Zeigler and Hodges also reported large concentrations of bunker off Cape May with small blues under them.
They did not agree on the presence of weakfish in Delaware Bay. Zeigler said they were at Fish Trap, 20-Foot Slough and No. 1 off Maurice River. They use shedder crab as bait in Delaware Bay. Hodges said he weighed a 1.5-pound weakfish, but that came from West Cape May.
A personal note: This column was written while I'm on a working semi-retirement family vacation in the mountains of North Carolina. There is no television or Internet, and the cell-phone service is intermittent. Have to go to the local library to file. I almost feel like I am missing something back home … not!
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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 on-line. 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: