The season wraps this week, and usually it is interesting to take a quick look back at some of the trends and surprises that developed in fishing during the soon-to-be-gone year.

In many ways, it is fitting to say "good riddance" to 2012. Superstorms, persistent winds and floods caused much destruction and anguish, and dominated - make that changed - much of the landscape in South Jersey and elsewhere.

In the scheme of things, fishing news seems less important than people trying to get their lives back together, including fisherfolk.

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But fishing can be a diversion, so here goes with a recollection of the year in that sub-category.

The Press Fishing Contest is a good indicator of what happened, mainly because the catches are documented with entry forms that appeared online or received the old-fashioned way through the mail.

One of the main things that stand out among the winners was that most of the quality catches happened early in the contest season.

The contest opened May 4 and half of the winners and a lot of contenders were caught within the first three weeks.

Drew Hemerich of Brigantine beached a 66.5-pound black drum in the Brigantine surf on May 15 to take the Other Than Boat title. One day later, Bill Kephart of Brigantine picked the bluefish champ out of the same strand. It weighed 9 pounds, 4 ounces.

Gary Goll of Cape May Court House caught a 26.22-pound striped bass on opening day and another that weighed 37 pounds, 8 ounces on May 17, and a 6.05-pound weakfish on May 25. All were caught while Goll was fishing at the 8th Street Jetty in Avalon. He eventually won the Senior Division title with the 37-8 striper.

And just to add emphasis to the calendar of catches, Brian Lipski of Philadelphia won the glamorous and coveted striped bass championship with a legitimate heavyweight 55 pounder he caught May 31 in the surf at Wildwood.

Youth Freshwater winners were Courtney Blount of Egg Harbor Township with a 4-8 catfish caught May 17 and Justin Anderson with a 5-5 catfish on May 24.

In another calendar quirk, four cobia were caught in a three-day stretch.

John German, captain of the Miss Avalon partyboat and a South Dennis resident, went fishing with pal Gary Twiggs of Cape May Court House on his boat Blind Luck on Aug. 19, and they had 66- and 48-pound cobia at 3FB off Cape May.

That same day, Denise Marie Theiler of Little Egg Harbor Township got a 34-pounder at Sea Isle Lump that earned her the Women's Division title.

Beyond the contest

Outside of the contest entries, experienced anglers agreed that weakfish had a real resurgence this year. Of course, the running quip all year was that it was easy to catch a limit because the limit was one fish. But there were without a doubt a lot of weakfish residing in local waters.

Puffer fish also had a nice showing with contest entries of a smoothback puffer, oceanic puffer and the more common northern puffer.

Add another season trend: White perch fishing was probably the most consistent fishery we had in rivers and streams throughout the area. That started early in the spring and continued almost all year long.

There also were some neat Most Unusual Catch division entries. For the record, Evan Winokur of Margate was the winner with a 2-pound houndfish. There were reports of octopus taking baited hooks, lizardfish, needlefish and a remora.

Plus, we had a contest-record 18.8-pound sheepshead caught by Eian Donati of Egg Harbor City on July 28.

What's next?

OK, so that's the retro. Here's what's coming up.

First, there seems to be some real interest in the winter sea bass season recently opened for January and February in state waters. It has a 15-fish daily possession limit with a 12.5-inch minimum. That will be a welcome added incentive for partyboats and charterboats that work offshore wrecks and reefs during the winter.

The Salt Water Sportsman national seminar series comes to Golden Nuggett Hotel and Casino on Jan. 5 (next Saturday). George Poveromo and Gary Caputi are hosts and several noted fisherman will have seminars. That list includes John Sowerby, skipper of Hooked Up II charterboat out of Cape May, and Sam Rescigno, captain of Mary M III based in Barnegat Inlet.

The event will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The cost is $55. Call 800-448-7360.

Looking a little farther ahead, the big Atlantic City Boat Show is Feb. 6-10 at the Atlantic City Convention Center. More on that later.

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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 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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