The Press Fishing Contest opened Sunday, and got off to a good start with an entry that was caught on the first day.
Mark Koochembere of South Seaville gets bragging rights for the first entry to be received. He fished the day before the contest opened and picked off a 6.61-pound, 29-inch weakfish. Then he went back the next day and topped that one with a 7.98-pound weakfish. It was caught in the back bays of Avalon. Thanks to Jim Moran for weighing and measuring that nice catch, and sending it in quick so it could be reported timely.
Those are not the only weakfish to be reported recently.
Mike Del Rosario took the Sturgeon General out for its first operation since Sandy. He had his 3-year-old son Zachary out on a birthday celebration. Steve Hinkley and his dad Lane were on board.
They started out by picking off and releasing summer flounder, and finished the trip off by hooking up with weakfish that measured 17 and 24 inches. Del Rosario reported that weakfish hit bucktails with chartreuse minnows. He said they struck on the outgoing tide when the sun was high. Del Rosario is a Margate resident and Hinkley is from Linwood.
Noel Feliciano at One-Stop Bait and Tackle in Atlantic City weighed in an 8-pound weakfish on Thursday. That was one of many that have been caught around the Atlantic City area. He said weakfish are "crazy" at the T-Jetty, Melrose Avenue jetty and even the Vermont Avenue jetty out front on the beach, and "all the way in the back" of Absecon Inlet.
Feliciano said the weakfish are active mainly at night on the incoming tide and also a few stragglers during the day. They are biting on bloodworm and mullet, both chunked and filets, and chasing pink Zoom.
Summer flounder season opens next Saturday, and that would usually be the focus of the fishing news.
The invasion of weakfish, along with the spring run of bluefish and a surprising number of blowfish kind of overpowered that important new beginning, or, more appropriately, a hopeful return to some normalcy in the fishing world.
Young Zach Del Rosario enjoyed reeling in a keeper flounder but his dad said he would not touch it when he got it in the boat. Del Rosario said they caught several keeper-size flounder more than 19 inches, which they released. They were using bucktails with Gulp, minnow and mackerel strips in the Great Egg Inlet back bays on Thursday.
Other reports from around the area indicate that there are lots of flounder in the back bays, and even in the surf.
Gary Born, a well-known surfcaster from Brigantine, called Friday afternoon from the beach where he was fishing with Chris Dugan. Born said they caught kingfish to 14 inches and 18- and 21-inch flounder.
Scott Scott said they just installed the freezer to replace the one they lost six months ago, and he is filling it up with bait for the opener while he is launching rental boats at Ray Scott's Dock in Margate. He and mom Robin and the crew at Ray Scott's will be busy this week, and promise to be ready, including with a supply of minnows the traditional bait for flounder.
It is much the same over in Somers Point at Dolfin Dock. Rob Barrett said the docks are done and he will have at least eight of his fleet of 15 rental boats in the water. He said he already has some reservations for next weekend
And, oh by the way, Barrett weighed two nice bass recently. One was caught by 88-year-old Ocean City resident Jack Coetke in the O.C surf on fresh clam. It went 29 pounds. The other weighed 33 pounds was caught trolling by Bart Dixon of Somers Point.
There is a shakeup in Strathmere and Whale Beach. Frank's Boat Rentals is no longer a fixture there, but Frank Jankowski's fleet has moved just a short distance away to Whale Creek Marina. Morgan Delany went from having four rental boats to an armada of 25. They are not waiting for flounder season at Whale Creek. Delany said Scott Cosmo and a crew of three other guys from Collegeville, Pa., caught 12 blues and two weakfish in the back bays.
Delany also reported that the beach in that area was "lit up" with stripers. He weighed 14- and 16¼-pound bass for Gary Riordan and a 16½-pounder for Randy Roasch, both of Strathmere.
Black drumfish are moving in Delaware Bay. Fred Klug at Fishin' Bait Tackle Shop at Utsch's Marina in Cape May said Bob Cope had two drum and Mark Elliott on Gone Fishin had five both on May 9 on the Delaware side. And Klug reported they showed up on the Jersey side on Wednesday and Thursday nights.
The fleet at Fortescue is revved up for drumfish and starting to fish the Jersey side, too. Mike Rothman, a member of the Fortescue Captains and Boat Owners Association, said bass are still "way up north" in Delaware Bay. He said Fortescue State Marina and Higbee's Marina are open, and the captains in the fleet from partyboats to charter/open boats are ready.
Incidentally, for those who get up early enough to get there on time, "Bucktail Willie" Bill Schillingford is giving a free flounder seminar starting 9 a.m. today at Whale Creek.
Other stuff coming up include the Nunzio Bruno Kids Bluefish Tournament out of Chestnut Neck Boat Yard in Port Republic on May 18. It is for youth age 16 and under. The signup is $20, and the contest goes from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. The Absecon Saltwater Sportsmen run it. Call 609-652-1119 for details.
The Local Boys Opening-Day Flounder Tournament is also next Saturday. It is based at Hackney's Boat Yard on the Margate-Northfield causeway. Sign up from 5-8 p.m. Thursday and Friday at Hackney's The entry fee is $40 per person. The boundary is Hereford to Little Egg Inlet. Call 609-839-8045 for details. Proceeds go to the Gold Foundation.
The next event after today's Karl J. Boehret competition on the Association of Surf Anglers Club's spring segment is also next Saturday with the Surf N Land's 24th annual in Brigantine. Sign up from 6-7 a.m. at the Brigantine American Legion Post 396, 3218 Brigantine Blvd. The fees are $50 for six-person teams and $40 for individuals. There is a one-day, 4-wheel drive special-event beach-access fee available for $10 for those without a Brigantine permit.
The Press Fishing Contest can be entered online at Presscontests.com along with photos and details if available. Entrants can also mail an entry form. There is no signup fee or preregistration. Catch a fish, take it to a weigh station. Thirty of them are located all over South Jersey from Long Beach Island to Delaware Bay. You can win $100 gift certificates at sponsoring weigh stations.
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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: