Shep Hot Spot kingfish Brigantine and/or Absecon Bay

Fish for kingfish in the surf at Brigantine with bloodworm as bait on small hooks.

A northwest wind this time of the year can get the striped bass fans stirring.

One of them is Pat Erdman of Ventnor. He was hanging in Ray Scott's Dock in Margate, and sounded like he was itching to get out on the beach to get plugging the rocks, rips and piers along Absecon Island and Brigantine.

"Get ready to plug," he advised Friday.

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The northwest wind expected to come through this weekend is the trigger for Erdman. He said the first or second day of a "good northwest blow" is the time to walk up and down the beach casting into shallow water for bass. He said don't go past your ankles because the bass sometimes lay in 2 or 3 feet of water around the structure.

And he said to carry, and use, two types of plugs. He said to cast a popping plug, which will be carried deeper when the wind is behind you. But he said take a swimming plug, too, and don't fail to use it. Plug the popper a half-dozen or so casts, and then switch to the swimming plug.

OK, that's Erdman's lesson for casting for bass early in the season. Mullet and bunker start to move along the beaches, he said, and striper often keep them company.

And word is leaking out that there are some striper popping up here and there.

Josh Falcone was out in his boat Friday afternoon catching some peanut bunker. He recently opened Viking Outfitters in Viking Village in Barnegat Light.

He said in an on-the-water cell-phone interview that striper are moving inside Barnegat Inlet; and anglers bucktailing for them from the North Jetty at the north end of Long Beach Island say they are picking them, too. He called it "hit and miss" but there are "definitely signs". He said he gets reports from anglers that the pink Gulp shad is hot.

Falcone also said the tropical storm passing well offshore might contribute to pushing fish in closer to the beaches, so the next few days might get interesting.

He reported weakfish in the 16- to 19-inch range are chasing 2-inch lures such as Rattletraps in the back back of Barnegat Inlet.

Flounder fishing is unabated at some of the inshore reefs, although the winds of Thursday prevented cautious captains from trying the ocean and inlets.

Joe Fumo, captain of the Fish Finder II based in Brigantine, has been running six-hour inshore ocean trips to the reefs and wrecks Friday, Saturday and Sunday. He said they have been picking 100-150 flounder with 6-12 keepers every trip along with small croaker. One of the wrecks he has been working is the San Jose, and he also has been stopping on what he described as "hard bottom" such as stones, mussels and fingers. Fumo charges $50 for the six-hour trips and carries 25.

Bob Cope and the charterboat Full Ahead had a couple more excellent catches at Reef Site 11 off Delaware, according to a report from Fred Klug at Fishn Tackle at Utsch's Marina in Cape May. Cope's customers had 35 and 23 keepers on recent outings. Five-pound-plus fish were among the haul each day, Klug said. And one of the dock tenants on the private boat Pulp had a limit of 20 keepers for four anglers.

Back bays have flounder, too. Erdman said one way to catch sizable flounder in the back bays is to snag one of the numerous peanut bunker in the back waters and rig them up live or dead - as long as they are fresh - and drift with the along the bottom.

Jim Moran was out on the deck Friday at Moran's Dockside in Avalon catching mullet, another indication the season might be changing.

Debbie and Jim Mooers came up with a clever idea to celebrate the extra eight days added to the original flounder season in the state. They are running a contest from Tuesday, Sept. 17, to closing day Sept. 24 at Grassy Sound Marina in North Wildwood. There is no entry fee and no limit to where the fish can be caught. The prize list: $100 for largest fish from a boat; $25 gift certificate to the tackle shop for largest fish caught from the pier there; free boat rental for largest fish caught on a marina rental boat. Plus, for the last eight days, they are offering the half-day rate of $75 for an all-day outing.

Other regs include: tautog one fish, 15 inches to Nov. 15, when it goes to six fish from Nov. 16-Dec. 31; and sea bass opens Sept. 27 to Oct. 14 with 20 fish at ?10 inches?.

Surf-fishing remains very consistent with spot ruling mixed some croaker, occasional kingfish and weakfish. Mike Hurchik reported Friday from the Ventnor Fishing Pier that more croaker just showed up over the past couple of days. He said Sabiki rigs tipped with bloodworm or Gulp gets the spot and croaker fished tight to the pier.

The badges are out at participating tackle shops and marinas for the Atlantic County/Atlantic City Surf Fishing Derby that covers the beaches of Brigantine, Atlantic City, Ventnor, Margate and Longport. Derby dates are Sept. 23 to Nov. 3. Badges, dash cards and regs cost $25 and can be obtained at Ray Scott's Dock and Captain Andy's Marina in Margate; Brennan Marine and Dolfin Dock in Somers Point; Ship Shop in Ventnor, One-Stop Bait and Tackle in Atlantic City; Bayside Marina, Fish Finder Marine and Riptide Bait and Tackle in Brigantine. The Derby offers $500 for heaviest bass; $300 each for heaviest bluefish, tautog and kingfish; $50 weekly prizes in each; $300 for largest fish caught by a female and youth 14 and under.

Riptide's Striper Derby opened Friday on the beaches of Brigantine. It runs to Dec. 23. The entry fee is $25. A valid Brigantine permit is required for four-wheel drive beach access. Prizes are $500 for first, $300 for second, $150 for third, $25 weekly and $100 monthly.

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Mike Shepherd is the retired sports editor of The Press. His column appears Saturdays and Tuesdays 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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