The members of the Ocean City Fishing Club could not have asked for a better day Friday for the opener of their two-day surf fishing tournament that highlights their 100th anniversary.
Cool fall-like weather, warm sun and water, and good surf combined to create great conditions on the Ocean City beaches. Surfcasters from 46 six-person teams from all over the East Coast were stretched out from the Ocean City Fishing Club pier almost down to Corsons Inlet at 57th Street.
American flags and banners with club insignias fluttered in the breeze from four-wheel-drive beach buggies of all sizes, shapes and colors.
One of the best spots was where the Women's Surf Fishing Club of New Jersey was assigned for the afternoon from noon to 3 p.m. They were at a stretch of beach where they could wade out through a shallow gully and fish from a sand bar. Teams south of there could not quite get out at first.
When the horn sounded to start the afternoon session, Doreen Szczepanski, Margaret Crossley, Reg Vasta, Jayne Rau, Donna Schepis and Lisa Gibbons got serious. When they carefully trudged out, they wore waders and carried surf poles, a bait bucket and sand spikes.
They started catching what just about everyone along the beach caught Friday morning and afternoon. Sand sharks, spot, ling and herring were registered. The numerous skates do not count.
"One point for a shark!" Szczepanski said as she brought one back to put into a bucket filled with water to keep the sharks alive until the OCFC judge got there to measure it. Then she returned it to the water alive and squirming.
At one point, they gathered together on the sand bar for a group cheer. They realize that some might think that's over the top, but it seems like that's OK with them.
The team of was one of two the Women's Surf Fishing Club entered. Both had pink ribbons tied to their four-wheel-drive vehicles in keeping with breast cancer awareness month.
The tournament continues today with two more three-hour sessions.
Down the beach south from there, Gary Born of Brigantine was fishing with a team of long-casters. They called themselves Over the Bar, which signifies their long-distance casting skills. Born said they had the "unofficial" morning session lead of 13 points with three ling, 10 sand sharks and a 16-inch herring. Born said the team included Born's 18-year-old grandson Alex Strassler, Bob Daly, Tim Daly (not related) and brothers Chris and Jim Dugan.
One of them got the team ready for the afternoon session by counting down the time to the starting horn and yelling: "Time to go to work guys."
OCFC president Paul Koerling said from the beach near the end of the first day that even though the fishing could have been better, everyone said they had a good time because of all the other stuff the club members have put together.
The three-day celebration had an interesting start with a long-casting contest and demonstration on the 17th Street Beach on Thursday morning. The Ocean City Police Department blocked off the beach with vehicles over about a three-block area.
Drew Furst of the OCFC took charge of a dozen or so contestants, calling them to the post in turn. Each entrant got three casts from 17th Street south toward the Ocean City Fishing Club Pier. There were a few snap-offs (nobody cracked the rod over their knees like you hear of frustrated golfers).
There were a few laughs and lots of conversation. One of the features of a long-casting contest is the anglers talking about equipment and techniques with anybody who asks. The average surfcaster can pick up some tips for sure.
Another aspect is no braided line. They almost never use conventional reels, it is mostly all spinning reels. They seem to like the bigger reels with spools that are both wide and long. Some casters employ the straight overhand cast, while others use a kind of pendulum motion.
The longest cast of the competition was an even 500 feet by Rod Smith. Second went to George O'Connell at 494 feet, 9 inches and Dan Kelly was third at 475-10.
The longest cast of the event was a demo by touring pro, 37-year-old Troy Roberts from Brooklyn, N.Y. He used a conventional reel and hit 665 feet. He enters contests all over the U.S. and world.
There are not many long-casting events these days. It was a bigger thing years back, and they sometimes had divisions for conventional and spinning reels, and sometimes casting for accuracy divisions.
OK, now for some fishing news from around the area.
Josh Falcone reported from Viking Outfitters in Viking Village at Barnegat Light that he weighed a 42-pound striped bass caught by a angler he knows as Jay. It was hooked with a plug in Barnegat Inlet.
Rob Barrett at Dolfin Dock in Somers Point said Friday that Gary Rzemyk of Ventnor weighed what might be the first striped bass qualifier for the Atlantic County/Atlantic City Surf Fishing Derby. He caught a 21-pounder with a plug Thursday night in the Atlantic City surf.
Barrett also weighed in a couple more nice tautog. Michael McEwan was fishing with his mom Lynn from a boat near the Ocean City Bridge into Longport and they caught 4- and 5-pound tog.
Maynard's Cafe in Margate runs its Jimmy Stewart Striper Tournament on Nov. 2. It's billed as the 13th and 14th annual because last year's was washed away by Hurricane Sandy. The cost to enter is $40 per person and proceeds go to the Gold Foundation and Children's Diabetes Foundation. First, second and third are determined by single heaviest fish. Fish from boat, beach or jetty from Hereford to Little Egg inlet. A captain's meeting is 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 31 at Maynard's on Amherst Avenue in Margate. Call 822-8723 or 822-0916.
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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: