Offshore fishing off South Jersey is improving, but there is no doubt the hot spot for bigeye and yellowfin tuna and big sharks is down south at Washington Canyon.

John Sowerby went the distance of 100-mile plus out of South Jersey Marina in Cape May for another 24-hour overnighter Monday to Tuesday on the Hooked Up II with a group from Bergen County, plus Cape May angler Bob Kurtz. And it was another remarkable journey.

Sowerby reported he saw more mako sharks than he has ever seen in one canyon, and he said he has made a thousand offshore runs. He said they were mixed in with pilot whales.

They hooked a mako that ran the boat and got tangled in the props, so they cut it off. They also pulled the hook on a white marlin. Then, he said, it was non-stop action on hammerheads before they started sight-fishing mako by pitching baited hooks at them. They got tired of shark fishing and switched from chunking sardines that the sharks ate to butterfish that the tuna ate.

They racked up a 175-pound bigeye tuna, 18 yellowfin tuna and released four hammerheads.

Whew!

Jerry String on Under Cover Charters was another who made the trek to Washington Canyon for the phenomenal bigeye. String said it was a 105-mile trip from Townends Inlet, and it was worth it because he his crew brought a 207 pounder back to the dock at Sea Isle Marina. Jason Hearon was on the stick for more than three hours from 8:30 p.m. until they gaffed it around midnight Sunday. It was weighed at Two Chums in Sea Isle City.

The other anglers on board were Mike Tracey, of Ventnor, Mike Fitzpatrick, of Dennis Township and Mark Salvadore, from Delaware County, Pa. String and Hearon also are from Dennis Township.

The crew was busy during the night because it had two other brutes hooked up that broke off. "Good trip," String said.

Offshore but closer

Now offshore closer to home, Steve Bent took the Free Spirit charterboat to an area between the 20- and 30-fathom lines Thursday and Friday and brought yellowfin back to the dock at Captain Andy's Margate Fishing Center. Bent had nine yellowfin, a 30-pound bull dolphin and a 4-foot wahoo. He was back to the dock by 2 p.m. Friday: two hours out, four hours of fishing, two hours back, five yellowfin.

He said the ocean was "gorgeous" Friday and so "comfortable". He trolls in a zig-zag pattern with spreader bars, lures and ballyhoo. Bent said he has been fishing a lot inshore, and he had 13 yellowfin last weekend. Look for the slicks and chickie birds.

He also said he had been having real success fishing inshore for flounder. In fact, he was going flounder fishing today so he could sleep in until 6 a.m. rather than the 3 a.m. wake-up time for the tuna trips.

Mid-Atlantic $500,000

The glamour offshore tournament, the Mid-Atlantic $500,000, opens five days of competition Monday among boats from all over the East Coast, including a number of local captains and crews.

Last year, James Diller on Canyon Lady out of Stone Harbor was the overall points winner and white marlin for released fish. The tournament is based at Canyon Club in Cape May and also at Sunset Marina in Ocean City, Md.

The purse last year was $1.5 million and "change," with some outstanding payouts that include the Calcutta side-pool wagers among the captains.

Captains who might want to join the festivities in Cape May that include fishing, along with dinner and entertainment under the famed white tent can still do so. The basic entry fee is $6,000 and then there are the Calcuttas if interested.

A personal note

Whenever Lou Rodia was mentioned to me, I had an immediate response that was genuine: "He's my hero."

He helped me out with advice when I took over The Press Fishing Contest decades ago when I was sports editor. And he accepted me into the "fraternity." In recent years, he went his way and I went mine, but the respect was always there.

Lou, 88, passed in his sleep at home Wednesday night in Cape May Court House. He was a well-respected fishing columnist, and his varied career was covered in a story that appeared in The Press on Friday.

I know I sum this up for those who knew him: Thanks Lou!,

The tributes from people he had regular connections were immediate.

Fred Klug at Utsch's Marina in Cape May: "All of us in Cape May County lost a great person in our fishing industry, Lou Rodia. I always liked his fishing reports in the local papers. All of us at Utsch's Marina want to say thank you to Lou. May God be with you and your family."

One of his old pals, Ben Callaway, will be live on Shep Talking Fishing On Air today from 7-8 a.m. on News-Talk 1400 WOND. Call 609-927-1100.

More reports

Mary Ann Anagnou at Dad's Place in North Wildwood said it was slow Friday morning, but then a crowd showed up between 10:30 and 11 a.m. She said flounder fishing was "really good."

Mike and Debbie Gallo of Green Creek took one of her rental boats. Mary Ann said Debbie predicted that she - not her husband - was going to catch the keepers. And, Anagnou reported that's what happened. Debbie got three keepers and Mike none.

And, Mary Ann said in another rental, a 9-year-old girl had two keepers, her grandfather one and her father none.

A helping hand

New Jersey Beach Buggy Association members were back doing their tireless work on behalf of shore-bound fisherfolk.

NJBBA president Paul Harris said Friday he had just come from Holgate on the south end of Long Beach Island where volunteers placed numerous signs at the Forsyth Wildlife Refuge delineating where beach access is permitted. And he revealed that as of Sept. 1, the beach at Holgate will be open to beach buggy traffic and beachgoers. You just have to stay within the bounds established by the signs.

Harris also said beach buggy drivers need to be aware that the sand is soft, so anyone driving on the beach there should "air-down," or take some of the air out of the tires.

This is another great example of the NJBBA working with wildlife refuge managers and beachfront communities.

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Mike Shepherd is the retired sports editor of The Press. His column appears Saturdays and Tuesdays 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: