Good weather, good fishing.

That was the message from Tracie Cicchitti about winter fishing off South Jersey.

Jim Cicchitti runs the Atlantic Star from Wildwood Crest on offshore sorties, and it has been all-limits for all on board, all the time recently on sea bass, Tracie reported Friday while the popular partyboat was offshore on another winter trip. The Atlantic Star was out Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday in the past week, and each catch seemed better than the one before.

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On Wednesday, Joe Mc-Namee of Rio Grande limited out on sea bass that weighed up to 7 pounds and was "high hook" on tilefish, according to Tracie. The pool winner that day was Jim Gulick of Philadelphia with a 20-pound golden tilefish, plus he had his limit of 15 sea bass to 6 pounds. Kinsoun Wong of Virginia had a cooler-full of tile and a sea bass limit.

Here's more to make the point: They caught bluefish with sea bass on Tuesday; all had sea bass limits with a few codfish and pollack with "plenty" of blues on Sunday. The weather was rough to start the day last Saturday but settled around midday. It didn't matter about the weather because all on board had sea bass limits and some had blues. The pool-winner was a hefty 7½-pound sea bass.

The sea bass season reopened Jan. 1 in New Jersey, and not only is it good fishing but it is good for business in the Wildwood Crest area. Some of the anglers listed in Tracie's report come from out of state, such as Pennsylvania and New York, and surely spend some cash at local businesses.

Call 609-729-7776 for details about upcoming Atlantic Star trips.

It is very much the same thing at Barnegat Inlet, where the Doris Mae IV is docked. The best sea bass fishing in years, is the way it was described by captains Ron and Charles Eble. They sailed Monday and Wednesday and all had sea bass limits from 3 to 6 pounds. On Wednesday, they also had ling, jumbo porgy and still a fair amount of blues.

Mike O'Neill fished inshore for tautog twice this week and "really whacked them" on the open/charterboat Stray Cat.

O'Neill was literally floored by back pain the week before. His remedy was to stretch on the floor (on purpose) in his Ocean City home for three days, and he felt better.

Amazingly, he steered the Stray Cat to inshore wrecks and reefs Monday and Wednesday.

He propped himself up on two pillows and packed himself into a seat like an "egg crate" to minimize any bouncing around. Mate Matt Cruse did all the heavy lifting, such as setting the anchor, while O'Neill drove the boat and gave directions from his comfy perch.

Cruse did some fun heavy lifting when he cranked up a 12½-pound tog. O'Neill said Cruse finally got a 12-pounder after two years of trying. Cruse lives in Egg Harbor Township.

It seemed to be no sweat for the Stray Cat open-boat customers with limits by 11 a.m. O'Neill said spider crab has been the best bait catching all the big tog. He said they had fish that weighed 9 pounds or better.

Call 609-391-9630 for Stray Cat details.

The Wreckless is another inshore charterboat going for tog. Capt. Tim Barrus operates from Ocean City Fishing Center and takes up to four customers. Everyone got their limits on tog the past couple of trips, according to Mary Barrus. She said an 18-pound tog was caught on one of the recent trips.

Barrus also has the North Star partyboat, which is not running right now because of dock damage at O.C. Fishing Center. They will be running the Wreckless on the annual Jan. 20 trip that commemorates the world-record tautog of 25 pounds caught on the North Star in 1998 by the late Tony Monica of Hammonton. They have one spot left. Call 609-391-8300.

Paul Thompson, captain of Porgy IV out of South Jersey Marina in Cape May, sailed Saturday and Sunday and had nice crowds and decent tog fishing.

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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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