Mike Shepherd

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.

One of the most surprising numbers that came out of the New Jersey Fish and Wildlife meeting Thursday was provided by Adam Nowalsky during the public comment section.

He said that less than 1 percent of anglers are contacted in the "intercepts" or interviews to survey their catch, which subsequently help determine the fishing regulations that are handed down to the states.

Nowalsky is a relentless campaigner for local anglers. He is chairman of the New Jersey Chapter of the Recreational Fishing Alliance, which is headquartered in New Gretna, and a state commissioner for the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. He is also on the state Recreational Flounder Advisory Committee, which had a conference in advance of Thursday's well-attended public Fish and Wildlife meeting at the Atlantic County Library in Galloway Township. He participates in East Coast and local fishery commission meetings.

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He emphasized two ways for anglers to get more involved so more effective statistics can be gathered.

He says there needs to be more people doing the intercepts. Anglers have to lobby state legislators to get better funding for the Bureau of Marine Fisheries. The additional surveyors could be a combination of the state hiring people, contractors or volunteers. Volunteers would have to be trained. And all the information would have to be validated in a bureau office.

"We have to start beating the drum to fund the Bureau of Marine Fisheries," he said Friday. He said anglers have to start lobbying the state legislators to get the campaign started to augment the federal survey.

Brandon Muffley, chief of the Bureau of Marine Fisheries, said Friday when he heard of Nowalsky's strong suggestion: "Go for it!"

Nowalsky said the only other opportunity for local anglers to pitch in is to utilize the New Jersey Volunteer Angler Survey at the website: njfishandwildlife.com/


"That's one way to contribute," he said.

Nowalsky lives in Port Republic and is the captain of the charterboat Karen Ann II that runs out of Kammerman's Marina in Atlantic City.

And just is case you do not know what the new regulations are: The season is open from May 18 to Sept. 16 with a daily possession of five fish and a minimum length of 17 inches. The size and bag limits are the same as last year, but the season is 25 days shorter.

There were a number of other options, but the current regs passed unanimously and were acceptable to almost all of the concerned citizens at the meeting.

The season includes the Memorial Day and Labor Day holiday weekends.

So, what can we catch right now in New Jersey waters?

The striped bass season opened March 1, and reports describe very decent fishing. White perch, bluefish and weakfish are open. Anglers can keep two bass at 28 inches or more daily. It's one weakfish at 13 inches and 15 bluefish with no size restrictions.

Muffley said American shad can be caught only in Delaware Bay waters.

And he said the winter flounder season of March 23 to May 21 with two fish at 12 inches is the same as last year.

Just before this latest storm blew through the area, striped bass fishing was more than decent in the upper Mullica River and in the warm waters around power plants.

In fact, Scott Albertson reported from Scott's Bait and Tackle in Mystic Island that keepers and short bass were active around the Oyster Creek Generating Station in Lacey Township.

Albertson has his $100 bounties posted for the first keeper striper and bluefish to be caught down Radio Road from Scott's B&T at Gravelling Point or Pebble Beach. He said in the past he has weighed the first keeper on opening day and never later than March 29.

With the snow falling Friday, it is liable to chill the waters of Great Bay. But the weather is forecast to be spring-like this weekend, so you never know.

He expects the first blue to be closer to May.

Howard Sefton called in his first fishing report Wednesday from Captain Howard's in Egg Harbor City after returning home from a lengthy hospital stay. Lots of striped bass are biting in the Mullica at JR's Ranch, and around the Lower Bank and Green Bank bridges. He said they were biting on bloodworm and chasing soft lures that are cast and slowly retrieved.

Captain Howard's is running its sixth annual month-long white perch contest from March 15 to April 15. It offers gift certificates for first, second and third heaviest fish. There is no entry fee, but contestants must sign up at Captain Howard's on Philadelphia Avenue in Egg Harbor City.

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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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