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.

The water temperature dropped a few degrees offshore recently. It did not bother the giant sea bass at all.

It was limits for everyone on the Atlantic Star on Wednesday, as usual.

Jim Citchitji said Friday that it did get a chill on tilefish. He said that was because the "dogfish" moved in with the cooler water and anglers had to work through them.

The captain of the partyboat that sails from Wildwood Crest reported that all of the sea bass weighed 4-6 pounds.

A 32-pound golden tilefish took the pool. It was caught by Albert Dasalamadie of Broomall, Pa. He had his limit of sea bass with 6 pounds. Al Strassler of Margate hooked into six tile to 12 pounds and limited on sea bass to 6.

Citchitji was getting ready for a trip today and a busy weekend with offshore adventures possible Sunday and Monday. He'll be running Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays until the end of February.

Then it's off to the barn in March.

Last week, the captain of the Doris Mae IV partyboat, Ron Eble, reported he was surprised to see bluefish offshore in South Jersey into February. In that report, he said he took six home for himself. He then said he was going to marinate them and smoke them.

Yeah, yeah, I know the joke is how do you light them up ... like a cigar.

He ended the report by saying "They are really good."

OK, so then the obvious question from a curious fishing columnist who also loves smoked bluefish is: What's your recipe?

Well, we got the culinary formula a little later.

Take three 8-pound blues and skin and fillet them.

Take 12 cups of water, one medium chopped onion, six cloves of diced garlic, one cup of soy sauce, one cup of of salt (optional - "I like them a little salty," Eble added) and two cups of dark brown sugar.

Mix that stuff up and marinate the bluefish steaks for 24 hours.

Keep the marinade for the steam tray while smoking.

Lightly pepper the marinated filets and put them in the smoker.

Smoke for five hours at 170 degrees and then turn up the heat to 200 degrees for 10 minutes. For smaller blues, it is five hours at 170 degrees and then 200 for 10 minutes.

Eble said he uses half hickory wood and half apple wood for smoking.

And be sure to rotate the racks in the smoker after four hours.

And then he ends with this all-important message:

Enjoy! Can't miss!

Great stuff. Thanks, captain.

The Doris Mae IV did not sail last weekend because of the weather. It usually runs Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. It has a Presidents Day special Monday that starts boarding at 10 p.m. Sunday. Eble also has put on two "last-chance" trips before the sea-bass season closes March 1. They will be Wednesday, Feb. 27 and Thursday, Feb. 28. Call 609-494-1692.

The striped-bass season opens in state bays and rivers March 1.

Offshore fishing is going strong when weather allows with awesome giant sea bass catches and beautiful and tasty tilefish. That style of fishing seems to be for a dedicated but relatively few anglers.

They deserve admiration.

But for most of the rest of us, the opening of the bay and river striped-bass season in New Jersey is kind of the first signal that we are headed for spring and new promises because each year is different.

It is only a couple of weeks away now.

The anglers who fish for white perch in the area's rivers and streams will be the first to report about the striped bass action. A growing number of kayak anglers are likely to be among them.

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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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