Sean O'Donnell describes himself and his crew as weekend warriors out of Cape May, and he said he thinks he had the smallest boat of the 117 that entered last week's Mid-Atlantic $500,000 big-game tournament.
And he thinks he went deeper than most, 118 miles to 1,500 fathoms.
But with angler-of-record Jordan Hammell on the stick, the Got Game got back to the dock at Canyon Club in Cape May with the heaviest fish of the big-game classic, a 441-pound blue marlin. They also caught some tuna and mahi, but the big blue was the only billfish.
They hooked up on O'Donnell's 37-foot custom walk-around Gamefisherman, which he described as a center-console on steroids, and worked the fish for 1 hour, 20 minutes.
They had a dead-flat day last Tuesday, the second day of the Aug. 19-23 tournament. They found a temperature break of 4 degrees and beautiful blue water.
O'Donnell fishes a lot with the same crew. On board were Dave Scott and Robert Bascone with Capt. Doug Ortlip and mate Spencer Scharp, and O'Donnell's 9-year-old son, Sean Patrick. O'Donnell, Hammell, Scott and Ortlip reside in Cape May. Bascone is from Wayne, Pa., and Scharp from Stone Harbor.
These guys have had success before. O'Donnell said Monday that they had the winning Calcutta tuna five years ago in the Mid-Atlantic, and they placed in the mahi division of the recent White Marlin Open in Ocean City, Md.
The Mid-Atlantic $500,000 had a total purse of $1,808,910, and the Got Game crew gets to split $236,522.
Sea Slammer with Richard McCann of West Chester, Pa., won the overall points title with 10 white marlin releases. Robert Baker on reel Pushy out of Pointe Vedra Beach, Fla., won blue marlin points with three releases.
Paul Bennett of Egg Harbor Township caught a 9.63-pound flounder a couple of weeks back and entered it into The Press Fishing Contest. You would think that it might have a good shot at winning a prize or certificate. But that was the fifth-heaviest flounder to be caught, and he entered it during an August breakout of old-fashioned doormats.
Allen Watts of Somers Point added an 11.85-pound flounder to the list. It was caught Thursday and certified at Absecon Bay Sportsman Center in Absecon.
Others include Marco DiSario of Williamstown with a 14.97 fish caught Aug. 19 and weighed for the contest at Moran's Dockside in Avalon; Frank DiGiacomo of Danville, Pa., with a 10.736 entered into the Senior Division on Aug. 15 at Fin-Atics in Ocean City; and Bob Krzynowek of Galloway Township with a 10.55-pounder also in the Senior Division at Absecon Bay Sportsman Center.
Showell said Watts used a minnow as bait from the William B. Demones Jr. Recreational Fishing Center at the Atlantic City seawall.
Showell also said that this run of big flounder is not surprising because they show up around this time just about every year. He reported the thick schools of bait fish are here, and where they go the fish follow.
He said to use what live bait are living here now, such as mullet, peanut bunker, spot and minnows or long strips of cut bait to catch the big ones.
DiMarco caught his flounder at Wildwood Reef and Krzynowek caught inside Absecon Inlet in Little Panama.
So that has all the areas - inshore, inlets and back bays - producing big flounder.
The Press Fishing Contest picked up all five of the above-listed flounder but also received several other nice entries that pushed the entry list to 103 with two months to go before the Oct. 31 close. The contest offers $100 gift certificates to participating bait and tackle shops in 13 categories. And we award weekly best-catch bragging-rights certificates.
Frank Tucci of Villas slipped a nice striped bass into the flounder blitz. It weighed 28 pounds and was caught at Dad's Place pier in North Wildwood to take the coveted weekly best-of award.
Other notable catches from that week of Aug. 11-17 include several entered into the Youth Division. Richard Battaglia, 10-years old from Ventnor, with a 4.85-pound tautog. Hailey Walker of Egg Harbor Township with a 4-3 flounder. Lily Hocker of Ventnor with a 3.55-pound flounder.
Both Ventnor residents weighed their fish at Ship Shop in Ventnor Heights; and Walker's was certified at Dolfin Dock in Somers Point.
Adam Gitsas of Northfield got a 2-pound largemouth bass and Gabbi Gorchiani of Mays Landing got a 5.02 flounder. Riley Blankenship of Egg Harbor City caught a 2-3 ling on Aug. 11 and entered it in the Youth Division, at 24/7 in Egg Harbor Township.
And among the most recent entries from this weekend, Jay LeVance of Tuckerton won the Jersey Coast Anglers port prize out of Atlantic City with a 6.8-pound flounder. He previously won flounder titles this summer at the Yacht Club of Pleasantville and in the Timmy Mitchell tournament in Margate.
The 29th Stone Harbor American Legion Steven C. Ludlam Post 331 fundraising tournament is set for Sept. 7. The cost is $30 per angler. Fish from beach or boat for flounder, weakfish, striped bass, bluefish, kingfish, croaker and tautog. The captain's meeting and signups will start at 6 p.m. Sept. 6 at the Legion Hall, 117th Street and 2nd Avenue. Call Jim Lutz at 609-254-2763.
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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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