Tom McGeary was enjoying the beautiful weather Thursday morning and catching a "bunch" of white perch in the Mullica River.

He and buddy Leo Stoehr were out in a 17-foot boat. McGeary, who lives in Egg Harbor City, had a rod with 12-pound test line and small hooks. He noticed a wake heading toward his line and then the line started to peel off.

He felt the power and knew it was a striped bass. They had a small net for perch and did not have a gaff. The fish wrapped the line around the anchor line at one point, but they somehow got it off. Then they coaxed it into the small net and wrestled it on board.

That surely took some nice teamwork.

And here's the part guaranteed to get striper hounds excited: It weighed 44.8 pounds and was 47 inches in length.

One of the first heavyweight striper of the season "got us fired up," McGeary said. He was so excited that he weighed the fish at two places: Absecon Bay Sportsman Center in Absecon and Captain Howard's Bait and Tackle in EHC.

"It was a bonus," McGeary said. "It was a perfect morning and the river was like glass."

McGeary is 55 and works as a union carpenter. He has been fishing those waters since he was 10. He and Stoehr, also from EHC, fish together all the time.

This is not the first big striper for McGeary. He has 48-, 43- and 40-pound bass on his record.

But just like a lot of fishers, he was not totally satisfied.

"Can't break 50," he said.

That keeps him in a huge fraternity of those looking for that 50-pounder. He said he will be out there again today.

Donald Bondiskey and Howard Sefton of Captain Howard's both called Thursday to report the striper, and also excellent white perch action.

Bondiskey and Sefton were out netting grass shrimp Friday. Bondiskey said the emergence of grass shrimp put a charge into white perch fishing. Grass shrimp and bloodworm are main baits for white perch.

Bondiskey said Captain Howard's has been really busy this week and just about everyone caught perch over the past few days.

The improvement in white perch is good timing for the eighth annual Landisville Gun Club White Perch Tournament next Saturday, April 20. There are some nice payouts: $1,000, $500 and $250 for first, second and third. Sign up for $30 per angler from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. today at Gregorio's, 901 Route 55, Mays Landing; or 6-9 p.m. Friday at the Landisville Gun Club, 4th and Cape May Avenue in Estell Manor. The contest runs from 6 a.m. to the 2 p.m. weigh-in at the gun club. Call 609-381-9653 or 856-364-6812.

Dave Showell said from Absecon Bay Sportsman Center in Absecon that the forecasted great weekend weather should warm up the back bays, and he expects to see more legal-size bass of more than the 28-inch minimum. He will be fishing early today on the Mullica. He also talked about reports of striper in Lakes Bay. He said clam is good bait for striper in addition to bloodworm.

He also said he would not be surprised if a few puppy black drumfish showed up on the upcoming full moon as the water warms up.

Scott Albertson said Friday that some anglers came into Scott's Bait and Tackle in Mystic Islands and were "dressed dry" to head out on the sod bank at Gravelling. He said you would be "hard-pressed" to see a bass bigger than 24 inches. He said there are consistently one or two keepers coming off that popular surf-fishing stretch in Great Bay off the Mullica.

Friday was not bad striper weather despite the rain. It was more comfortable than Thursday afternoon, when it was 55 degrees and 40 mph winds developed. He said the die-hards caught some fish and "they earned it."

He expects to be real busy this weekend. He said he heard of lots of plans from those who maybe could not get out during the stretch of awesome weather this week. And, he said, they are ready for the charge with plenty of clam and bloodworm Scott's.

Robin Scott said Ray Scott's Dock in Margate is "semi-open." They are there working on the final details, and they have bait, including green crab for tautog. The Longport Bridge is open for fishing until the end of the month. Tog are a main target for anglers who fish from rockpiles, sod banks and bridges. The new piers on the Route 52 Ocean City-Somers Point Causeway have some tog.

Mike O'Neill, captain of the Stray Cat party/open boat docked at Seaview Harbor Marina in Great Egg Inlet, has been "picking away" at tog in 48-degree water on the inshore wrecks and reefs. He has an open boat planned for Sunday. Call 609-391-9630.

The Press Fishing Contest has been expanded to a season that goes from May 5 to Oct. 31. The contest is run in conjunction with area bait and tackle shops and marinas, and offers $100 gift certificates. More details will appear in subsequent columns. For information on The Press Fishing Contest, call 609-350-0388.

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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: