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.

Some local boat captains continue to operate regular schedules, and as might be expected this time of year, wintry conditions sometimes put a chill on the fishing.

With snow on the ground and frigid near-zero temperatures forecast for here in South Jersey as we start the new year, captains nonetheless are looking to sail this weekend.

There are reasons they are optimistic. First, there seems to be a dedicated collection of anglers who like to go fishing in the winter and show up in decent numbers. And the other reason is that tautog fishing is more than decent.

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There is a theory that big tog - aka blackfish - start to move into our waters later in December. Recent reports indicate that is happening. So when the weather allows, a number of party boats and charter/open boats take the opportunities when they get them.

Sea bass season is closed for two months, and the tog daily bag limit is now four fish. But given the size of the tog reported lately, four big tog is plenty for dinner.

Tom Daffin on the Fishin Fever out of Utsch's Marina had a few trips recently that prove at least some of the bigger tog have arrived. On Thursday, his group cranked up 27 keepers, with some weighing up to 10 pounds. The New Year's Eve day outing totalled 25 keepers with three 12-pounders. On Dec. 29, the haul was 19 keepers, with a 13.8-pounder among them. The win streak started Dec. 28 with 10 keepers and a 17.6-pound heavyweight.

Paul Thompson last had the Porgy IV out on New Year's Day. The biggest tog on board that day weighed 9 pounds, and they had a "couple" of limits. But Thompson said the one interesting thing about that day is that he had a very sizable crew of 30 anglers to get the new year under way. Thompson has the Porgy IV berthed at South Jersey Marina in Cape May. He said he was going to try to invite anglers who called about a trip for today to give Sunday a shot instead.

The last couple of trips on the Ocean City Fishing Center-based charter boat North Star also resulted in 9-pound tog. Capt. Tim Barrus has the North Star on a regular daily schedule, including a 16-hour offshore journey on Sunday.

The North Star boasts three world records, including the 25-pound tog caught by the late Anthony Monica of Hammonton on Jan. 25, 1998. They have a commemorative trip schedule on the North Star on that date this year.

The other records are a 2.4-pound bergall caught by Ken Stulack of Smithville on July 24, 2005, and a junior sea bass record of 7.61 pounds by Phil Adams of Ocean City on Jan. 5, 2008.

The Starfish has been doing "fairly well," with tog up to 7 pounds, according to owner/captain Bob Rush. The Starfish is docked at the Sea Isle City fishing center, 42nd Place and the bay. The Starfish will sail on a regular basis this winter, too.

A report from Jamaica II out of Brielle put codfish in the mix off North Jersey, so they might be moving down our way soon. A 41-pound pool winner was caught last Saturday, and a 38-pounder was taken a couple of days before that.

Porgy and ling should start to show up in decent numbers.

Winter fishing seems to be off to a good start.

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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:


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