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.

Tornado watches, thunderstorms, wind and rain: That's a little different from the usual fare of lousy weather we've had this winter.

We are counting down one more month to spring, and one week until the opening day of striped bass season in the bays, rivers and streams of New Jersey.

Last year, there were widespread reports of good striped bass catch-and-release action in Mullica River prior to the March 1 opener. It is different this year, mainly because not many anglers have given it a try.

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Friday was typically inclement, except a little warmer than it has been.

Donald Bondiskey was working Captain Howard's Bait and Tackle in Egg Harbor City. He said he had seven or eight anglers come in to pick up some bait, and they "scattered" to fish Mullica River, Maurice River or the bulkhead on Great Egg Harbor River at Mays Landing.

Earlier this week, Paul Bolliman came down from Philadelphia to try the Mullica. He was with Bondiskey and Howard Sefton out on the sod bank on the point downstream of Green Bank Bridge. Bondiskey and Sefton were recording Bolliman fishing for a video to appear on Captain Howard's Facebook page. Bolliman is a regular customer at Captain Howard's.

Bondiskey said Bolliman had some grass shrimp he used as bait, and he caught a few catfish and some white perch. Not great, but not nothing either.

Three other heavy hitters out of Captain Howard's - Terry Rotellini, Frank Hannum and Bruce Gehringer - have not been out recently. Rotellini said he was going to check it out today.

Middle school anglers

March 1, which is next Saturday, also will be a big day for the Ocean City Intermediate School Fishing Club, with its yearly fishing flea market set to run from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Admission will be $4 at the school (1801 Bay Ave.). According to faculty advisor Nick Verducci, they will have 90 tables with saltwater and freshwater fishing equipment for sale. All of the proceeds will go to the seventh- and eighth-graders their club fishing outings and gear.

Captain Howard's will run its season-opening contest for the first legal striped bass to be entered at his shop in Egg Harbor. Sefton said he will be open 6 a.m. next Saturday in expectation of weighing an early striper. Bondiskey said he opened at 7 a.m. last year, and a half-hour later had a legal weigh-in.

Captain Howard's offers a $125 Penn rod and reel for the first bass to be weighed, a two-piece Penn rod and reel combo for second and a two-piece "breast-cancer awareness" combo for third. Plus, they have a $50 gift certificate for the heaviest of the three.

Dave Showell runs a striper contest at Absecon Bay Sportsman Center in Absecon that offers a shop gift certificates of $200 for the first legal entry, $100 for the second and $50 for the third. Plus, he has a $100 prize for the angler with the heaviest bass that signs up on his Facebook page.

Scott Albertson has a striped bass $100 gift certificate bonus for the first striper to be weighed at Scott's Bait and Tackle in Mystic Island and caught at Graveling Point or Pebble Beach down Radio Road from the shop.

Scott's B&T got slammed by Hurricane Sandy. He's been working hard to get back to normal and will be ready to open by next Saturday. He expects to have anglers out on the sod banks there next Saturday. He does not expect to have a weigh-in on opening day, however.

All three shops expect to have bloodworm, the favored bait for striper in March.

Another calendar item for anglers: the March 6 meeting of the New Jersey Marine Fishery Council starting 4 p.m. at the Atlantic County Public Library in Galloway Township. Summer flounder regulations are on the schedule.

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