The winning combination this winter has been for the most part good weather and good fishing.

That worked again Thursday for anglers on the partyboat Atlantic Star, captain Jim Cicchitti said Friday. The previous day, they had the good-fishing part of it going but tougher conditions.

And they've racked up a lot of bluefish consistently at every stop they have made this winter. Cicchitti said he can't remember bluefish hanging off South Jersey this late - or is it early?

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The main target for the offshore adventures originating at Wildwood Crest are giant sea bass and tilefish.

Paul Paulik of Hammonton had seven tilefish - the heaviest went 18 pounds - and his limit of sea bass to 5 pounds on Thursday. On Wednesday, Damond Dukes of Philadelphia got a 20-pound tile and a sea bass limit, and Jerry Stettler of Villas caught eight tile to 15 pounds and a sea bass limit.

Cicchitti canceled out for today but has a regular offshore run set for Sunday.

Ron Eble, one of the captains of the Doris Mae IV, set himself up for a tasty mid-winter seafood repast: fresh-caught and then smoked bluefish. He took six home from the last offshore trip last Saturday on the partyboat that sails from Barnegat Inlet.

Eble also said Friday that he doesn't ever remember bluefish here this late, and he says he "seriously" is a believer in global warming so maybe this is a sign of things to come. He said he had water temperatures of 52 degrees early January and then it dropped to 48. Last Saturday, it was back up to 54 degrees.

Now that's well offshore, where Eble takes Doris Mae IV and its anglers for giant sea bass, and not inshore or along the beachfront where it is colder.

Eble said he has five wrecks he regularly anchors over, and once in a while tries a new one. He says he hits each of those wrecks once every two weeks. It sure seems to be an effective game plan.

Peter Seacrest of Manalapan hit the 7-pound mark with a sea bass that topped the day's haul.

Farther south on the same day, the top sea bass on the Atlantic Star went a half-pound heavier. It was caught by James Wang of Chantilly, Va. The Atlantic Star racked up several other 7-pound sea bass last Saturday, plus a few blueline tilefish.

Eble said he sees "no end" to the sea bass, that is until the current open season ends Feb. 28.

Just so happens there is a Mid-Atlantic Fisheries Management Council meeting this Tuesday through Thursday (Feb.12-14) in Hampton, Va. Sea bass will be among the issues. The public is invited and can join online at:


To the north of Point Pleasant, Jamaica II listed big pollock, a few codfish and tautog and a mess of ling. Wes Shourt of Manahawkin hauled up a 25-pound pollock, 14 ling and two tog. That also was last Saturday.

Drag Island access

A local campaign labeled "Drag Island Access Preservation Association" is well underway. Nick Verducci, George Bucci and Bill "Bucktail Willie" Schillingford are three of the principals in the drive to keep the area open for recreation around Drag Island and the Somers Point end of the old Beesleys Point Bridge.

Verducci is a teacher in Ocean City and organizer of the Ocean City Intermediate School Fishing Club, Bucci is a well-known angler from Northfield and Bucktail Willie has tagged and released thousands of fish, many in Cape May County, in an American Littoral Society program.

That area is popular with anglers - often families and seniors because access is relatively easy - plus bird watchers, kayakers, people out for a walk and exercise, and crabbers.

There is no plan in place for access to Drag Island after a new Garden State Parkway span is built, according to campaign literature. Concerned people can sign an on-line petition at :


or call state Department of Environmental Protection

Commissioner Bob Martin at 609-292-2885.

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

You also can hear Shep on 1400 AM from 7-8 a.m. Saturdays, plus reports Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 6:05 a.m., 9:45 a.m. and 7 p.m. on 1400 AM and on our website:


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