The weather continues to be a major factor as spring starts. Most years, we start looking for signs of spring before spring. This year, we are looking for signs after spring begins.

Mike O'Neill offered one. He had the Stray Cat II charter-open boat out for a preseason sea trial Wednesday off Great Egg Inlet and saw some ospreys.

He said he also found 42-degree water that day. That seems to be a touch warmer than what we have been hearing.

O'Neill is trying to get started fishing offshore but has been kept dockside at Seaview Harbor Marina by rough conditions on weekends all month.

Rob Barrett weighed in the first fish of the season at Dolphin Dock in Somers Point.

It was way too early for The Press Fishing Contest, but it would have probably been a contender in the freshwater division. It was a 6.69-pound largemouth bass that Andrew Lee, of Linwood, caught Sunday in a lake at Richard Stockton College. Barrett said Lee was using a Mepps spinner and the largemouth was 23 inches in length.

Barrett said Lee carted the largemouth bass alive in a cooler, had it weighed and measured, then took it over to Bargaintown Lake near his home and released it alive.

Steve Taniguchi at Blackwater Sports Center in Vineland said freshwater fishing in Cumberland County has not really started, but some anglers have been out there pitching. He said the best action is on crappie in Menantico Sandwash with minnows as bait. He said he heard of a few other anglers catching pickerel but nothing on largemouth yet.

White perch are still biting in the Mullica River, and they are now being reported in the Maurice and Tuckahoe rivers.

Chris Baliban at 24/7 Bait and Tackle in Marmora and Egg Harbor Township said the Tuckahoe and the fishing pier at the B.L. England plant are two areas that have produced white perch.

Taniguchi said he has been getting reports for a week or so about white perch in the Maurice River, and Ken Hildreth at Husted's Landing said one angler recently had a cooler-full in Back Creek.

The Mullica River has been the best stretch of water for white perch and short striped bass since March began.

Donald Bondiskey said Friday from Captain Howard's Bait and Tackle in Egg Harbor City that perch are still strong at Lower Bank, Clark's Landing, Hay Road and JRs Ranch along the Mullica.

He said brothers Chris and Mike Sicurella from Egg Harbor had another good fishing trip at night this week. Bondiskey said their catch was somewhat less than their outing of last week.

Some of these white perch hit the very sizeable 1-2 pound class. They bite on bloodworm and grass shrimp.

Bondiskey said the annual Captain Howard's monthlong white perch contest begins Friday and runs to April 27. Sign up in person at the shop, by phone at 609-965-7955 or on the shop Facebook page. They are offering prizes for first, second and third single-heaviest fish.

Captain Howard's paid out its yearly first legal bass in the door prize a couple of weeks back to Bolli Mam, of Philadelphia. It was an 8-pound, 8-ounce bass caught in the Mullica. Captain Howard's also offers awards for second and third place in the door, but that has not happened yet.

Dave Showell had his first legal bass weighed a couple of weeks back but has not had a second one arrive at Absecon Bay Sportsman Center in Absecon.

The two striped bass bounties at 24/7 have not been claimed. Baliban said they are worth $200 and $100, and the rules are that they must be weighed at 24/7 and no other tackle shop.

The first legal striped bass bounty to be weighed at Scott's Bait and Tackle in Mystic Island also has not shown up either. It's for a striper caught at Graveling Point or Pebble Beach down Radio Road from Scott's.

It might be too windy for ocean fishing, but it looks like decent conditions are forecast for this weekend, so maybe a few more keeper bass will be in the mix with the fairly numerous shorts.

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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: