Shep on Fishing hotspot

Fish the Brigantine surf for black drumfish, bluefish, striped bass and weakfish with clam, bunker and mackerel as bait.

It seems that we are kind of in between a couple of seasons. Tautog closed Tuesday, while summer flounder opens May 18 and sea bass on May 19.

Not to worry, however, as a lot of stuff is happening or just getting started.

Linda Davoli is a well-known Brigantine surfcaster, private boat angler and outdoors-woman. She had two very interesting reports from the Brigantine beach.

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On Wednesday, she caught a 7-pound, 28½-inch weakfish, and she said she lost another in the surf.

That was neat, but she topped that Thursday when she caught a 38-inch black drumfish that she estimated to be 50-65 pounds. She said she had a couple of taps and then "my line was screaming."

"What a battle," she said.

Another surfcaster, who she said was named Brian, was up the beach from her and came running to watch or help, but she yelled to him that she was coming his way with the fish. She finally got the "beast" on the beach and took a couple of photos.

She did not have an accurate weight measurement because her hand scale maxed out past the 50-pound limit before she even got it lifted off the sand. Then the helpful angler picked up the drum - "like a baby" - walked it out and put it back in the ocean alive and kicking as it swam away.

"I was so happy," to see it released, she said. "I had such a good day."

And, oh, by the way, she caught a 20-pound drum on the same day, which she kept. The right size for dinner, she said. And she had bluefish and small stripers.

Yeah, that's a good day.

Tog season report

Tog season was "absolutely phenomenal," particularly in the last two weeks of the season, according to Capt. Adam Nowalsky of the charterboat Karen Ann II based in Atlantic City. He said it was the best fishing of the spring.

Mike O'Neill, captain of the Stray Cat charter/open boat, said the last fish on the last trip of the tog season weighed 10 pounds. Mark Sydow of Egg Harbor Township hooked it up with 10-pound test just before O'Neill fired up the engines to head for the barn at Seaview Harbor Marina in Great Egg Inlet.

With the gap created by the close of one season and the opening of the next, local captains are trying other things and getting creative.

The wind seems to be nonstop these days, so Nowalsky suggested captains and anglers downsize from striper gear and go fishing for blowfish in the back bays to avoid bouncing around in the ocean or inlets. He said he has never known blowfish to be here this early

Nowalsky runs Karen Ann II from Kammerman's Marina.

Brook Koenecke is cranked up and ready to go with the Duke of Fluke back-bay partyboat that operates next to the public dock in Somers Point. He had a private charter for this afternoon, and then he plans to try something new. On Sunday, he is going to take the back-bay pontoon partyboat up the Great Egg Harbor River and connecting streams to try for striped bass and white perch.

John Herron will also start up today. He will target bluefish from The Keeper that runs out of Margate. He will sail at his regular 8 a.m. departure time and leave for his 1 p.m. afternoon trip if he has enough people show up.

Robin Scott said her son Scott is "splashing" their rental boats and getting ready for flounder season at Ray Scott's Dock in Margate.

It look as though Bob Cope, captain of the Full Ahead charterboat, had the first good Delaware Bay black drumfish catch, at least among the boats docked at Utsch's Marina in Cape May. Fred Klug at Baitn Tackle said Cope kept six out of seven fish between 20-30 pounds while fishing on the Delaware side with clam as bait during the day Thursday.

Striped bass were reported to have slowed in Mullica River. But John Berchtold of Laureldale showed that maybe that isn't so.

Ken Price is one of his fishing buddies; back for a week from a stint as an electrician in Afghanistan. They lived across the street from each other as kids and have been fishing around JRs Ranch since then. The first thing they did was go fishing.

Berchtold, who is 54 and works at the Borgata, caught a striped bass Friday afternoon that weighed 21.8 pounds and was 40 inches in length when measured at Capt. Howard's Bait and Tackle in Egg Harbor City. Berchtold's only regret: That he caught the bass and not Price.

Press Contest starting

The Press Fishing Contest opens Sunday. This is the 60th year for the South Jersey contest that runs to Oct. 31. Contest entry forms are available at bait and tackle shops and marinas all over South Jersey.

The contest offers $100 gift certificates for Striped Bass, Summer Flounder and Bluefish; Boat Bay and Inshore (inside three miles); Offshore (beyond three miles); Other Than Boat; Most Unusual; Youth Freshwater and Youth Saltwater (both under age 15); Women; Senior (age 65 and older). There is no entry fee or registration. All you have to do is catch a fish in waters surrounding Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland and Ocean counties and take it to a weighstation for verification and either on-line with photo and details at or mail to Press Fishing Contest, P.O. Box 125 Linwood, N.J. 08221.

Davoli's reports from the Brigantine beach are good news and timely for the season's first Association of Surf Angling Club's surf-fishing tournament. The ASAC teams along with individual anglers will be there this morning for the 51st H.W. Shaner contest. The ASAC tour of contests continues next Saturday with the Karl J. Boehert contest, now in its 32nd year.

Sign up for that from 5:30 to 7 a.m. at the Sea Isle City Community Lodge, 300 JFK Blvd. The cost for six-person teams is $50 and individuals $10. Four-wheel drive permits are waived for the May 11 contest. The committee will provide transportation for those with a beach buggy. It is run by the Delaware Valley Surf Anglers Club. Call 609-624-1427.

The Simply Bassin tournament opens today on Long Beach Island. The surf-fishing contest runs to June 30. Sign up for $20 at Jingle's Bait and Tackle in North Beach Haven, Fisherman's Headquarters in Ship Bottom and Surf City Bait and Tackle.

Prizes for this one go to eighth place. Margaret O'Brien at Jingle's said that if 200 people sign up, first-place prize will by $1,000.

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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:

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