Longtime fishing columnist Mike Shepherd tells you what's biting, where to find them and how to catch them. His column appears Saturdays in The Press.

Keeper striped bass are starting to show up at Fortescue. Cliff Higbee at Higbee's Marina said surfcasters are "picking a few" and had a half-dozen reported this week that went 29 to 30 inches.

Higbee said the start of the spring run in Delaware Bay, if that's what's happening, is a "week or week and a half later" than what normally could be expected. The cold, rain and wind up until recently surely had a lot to do with that.

He said there are plenty of short striper around, and it is strictly a surf-fishing action from the beach with bloodworms.

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Higbee reported surfcasters are fishing on the south end of the beach, and he added that work on the jetty is complete and the rest of the beach might be available this weekend. Higbee's Marina opened last weekend and will be have hours from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays to accommodate surf anglers.

He said most of the Fortescue boat captains are almost ready to get going.

Higbee said white perch are in the mix at Fortescue, and he was expecting a "halfway decent" weekend because the weather is forecast to cooperate.

Scott Albertson said a lot of "happy" people stopped at Scott's Bait and Tackle in Mystic Island on Friday morning hoping to enjoy the balmy conditions.

"The enthusiasm is nice to see," he said.

The sunshine brought warmer weather, and the wind diminished from Thursday. The weather is expected to be spring-like this weekend on Great Bay, too.

Anglers have not yet landed Scott's B&T first keeper striped bass bounty from Graveling Point or Pebble Beach, but not because they are not making the effort.

Conditions were nearly ideal Thursday with mid-day low water, water temps hitting 50 degrees and a steady brisk wind right in the faces of the dozen or so fishermen out on the sod bank at Graveling Point, which is on Great Bay down from Mullica River.

It was a fairly steady pick of short striper mainly 12-15 inches in length with an occasional fish pushing up to 18-20 inches.

As usual, bloodworm on the Scott's Bait and Tackle "house" two-hook rigs were working, at least on Thursday.

Freshwater action

Freshwater fishing has been picking up since trout season opened in the state last Saturday. Blackwater Sports Center in Vineland weighed in a couple of brown trout that topped 6 pounds from Shaw's Mill Pond in Cumberland County.

Michael Canino got one Monday that weighed 6 pounds, 5 ounces and was 24 inches in length with a 15-inch girth, Canino fished for an hour and caught five smaller trout, took a break for an hour and went back at 3 p.m. and hooked up the big brown with a gold spinner.

According to Jeff Shaw at Blackwater, the other brown trout was 6-8 and caught by an unnamed angler.

Smallmouth bass are biting in Union Lake, mainly on Rattletraps and tube lures, Shaw said.

Howard Sefton and Donald Bondiskey went out to Hammonton Lake from Captain Howard's Bait and Tackle in Egg Harbor City for the trout season opener.

Bondiskey said they saw rainbow and brook trout along with brown. Bondiskey said they watched one veteran angler make 10 casts and catch eight fish. Pretty impressive.

Captain Howard's weighed in another nice white perch for its month-long contest. This one went 1 pound, 5 ounces for Matt Freas, who also had a 1-4 perch.

He said they have had a lot more white perch come in this week from Mullica River. Bondiskey said it looks like white perch are off Green Bank and may be moving more down river. Lots of short bass are in the Mullica, too.

Events and results

The annual youth Hooked on Fishing Not Drugs tournament at Birch Grove Park in Northfield drew 114 contestant last Saturday. George Foreman, the organizer of the contest for the Association of Surf Angling Clubs, provided the list of winners.

The largest fish was a brown trout measuring 17 inches caught by Addison Bard in the age 9-12 category.Mackenzie Hilleshan and Joey McCauley were second and third, respectively.

T.J. Kepner II of Somers Point was the winner of the ages 5-8 division, with Skyler Manno and Andrew Gaeckel second and third, respectively.

Matthew Hackett and Jacob Collins were 1-2, respectively, in ages 13-15 (no third place). Kepner was a winner in the Youth Freshwater division of Press Fishing Contest last year with a 5.05-pound largemouth.

The Landisville Gunning Club White Perch Tournament is April 19 with prizes of $1,000 for first, $500 for second and $250 for third for the three heaviest, plus a lunker pool.

Fishing will run from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. followed by weigh-in at the club at 4th and Cape May Avenue in Estell Manor. The entry fee is $30, $15 for youth ages 10 and under, and $10 for active military and disables veterans.

Sign up 6-9 Friday at the club or on-line at www.njwhiteperch.com. Call Dave Lorenzini at 609-404-0581 or Stan Gierczyk at 856-364-6812.


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