"I'm on fire!"
That is the way Andy Grossman at Riptide Bait and Tackle described the fishing on Brigantine beach.
"I'm busy and by myself," said Noel Feliciano at One-Stop Bait and Tackle in Atlantic City.
"Has spring sprung? We hope so!" That's on the sign out in front of Dolfin Dock in Somers Point.
The message is clear: Fishing has had a breakout stretch over the past few days.
Grossman said striped bass are biting all over the beachfront in Brigantine. He said it started last Saturday. He's been getting emails, texts and photos from the beach of anglers with their catches. One surfcaster there reported getting 15 in a few hours. The heaviest bass Grossman weighed recently went 18 pounds and was 37 inches in length.
Grossman has a theory that bass sense when a low-pressure system is approaching and they get more active on a falling barometer.
Feliciano said he figures between 75 and 100 bass were caught Thursday night from the jetties in Atlantic City. They are not all keepers, of course.
"Last night was phenomenal," Feliciano said Friday morning. He said one out of every 25 bass was legal size, and one angler picked off two keepers.
Linda Davoli of Brigantine called with an alert saying she was "crushing them" in the surf there. She had nine Thursday with keepers that went 30 and 29 inches. She said she had some clam that was somewhat overripe, but the striper did not seem to mind.
Margaret O'Brien at Jingle's Bait and Tackle in North Beach Haven reported the Long Beach Island surf has a lot of little fish with very few keepers. She said more keepers are coming from the bay side.
Feliciano also said lots of tautog are collecting around the Atlantic City jetties. And it is not only the T-Jetty, but out front at Vermont Avenue, and in Absecon Inlet at Melrose and Caspian avenues. He said they are not just throwbacks - keepers are mixed in.
Another message on the Dolfin Dock sign reads: "Tog (blackfish) are banging like cymbals in the philharmonic orchestra."
Joan Barrett at Dolfin said the new fishing piers on Route 52 from Somers Point to Ocean City have been a hot tog spot. Dolfin weighed 23- and 20-inch tog and a half-dozen striper that were caught there.
Dave Showell said from Absecon Bay Sportsman Center that togging is "fantastic", and reminds that there are just two weekends left before tog season closes, so now is the time to get after them.
On Friday afternoon, Feliciano called back with the news that the first weakfish was weighed at One-Stop. John Pittman of Atlantic City gets bragging rights at One-Stop with a 6-pound, 26-inch weakfish he caught at the pump station behind A.C.
There have been other reports of weakfish, including in the back bays of Margate, according to Robin Scott at Ray Scott's Dock.
White perch also are exceptional.
Donald Bondiskey said the white perch contest at Captain Howard's Bait and Tackle in Egg Harbor City that runs to the end of April has a new leader. Paul Kuraf got a 2-pound, 2-ounce, 15-inch lunker in Mullica River. He said to try Green Bank with grass shrimp or bloodworm.
Barrett said big white perch are also plentiful in the Great Egg Harbor River area. Bill Tozer caught so many big perch that he gave Dolfin 20. She estimated he had a bucketful of 50 white perch.
And as Robin Scott said, it "bodes well" that the first summer flounder have been caught. The season does not open until May 18.
It is good news that 11 extra days have been made available to extend New Jersey's summer flounder season. Dick Herb, the acting chairman of the state Marine Fisheries Council, said the extra days are not a lock.
He said the recreational summer flounder council will meet to discus whether to adopt the 11 days or a portion of them.
Mike O'Neill said the inshore fishing is a "monster bite" on tautog. The captain of the Stray Cat charter/open boat docked at Seaview Harbor Marina in Great Egg Inlet said he had 52-degree water, and he had bunker from the beach to 4 miles off, and snapper bluefish. Plus, they caught an out-of-season sea bass.
He said the water is great and the fishing is "interesting."
Bob Cope on the charterboat Full Ahead out of Utsch's Marina in Cape May is also racking up good tog numbers, according to Fred Klug. The Cape May Reef is one of the good tog spots.
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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:
Shep's Hot Spot
Fish for striped bass at night with clam or pink lures, and for tautog in the daytime with green crab on the T-Jetty in Atlantic City.