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.

One of these days, we are going to get a stretch of a week or so with decent weather. Fishing has been good despite the rain and wind, and should be better than good when we get an extended break.

Back-bay reports are very decent with quite a wide variety from Barnegat Inlet to Cape May and into Delaware Bay. It is hard to believe that we already are coming up on the Fourth of July.

Many captains stayed in the back bays recently to play it safe from thunderstorms and rough ocean, and some surfcasters and pier anglers had some outstanding catches between puffs.

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Pat Curran is the piermaster at the Ventnor City Fishing Pier. She was there Monday, almost by herself through the waves of thunderstorms that covered the area. She said that for three days at the end of the week and into this past weekend, kingfish were "fabulous." And maybe for the first time this year, bloodworm were second-best choice for bait behind Fishbites artificial worms.

Lots of small weakfish, a few spot, sand sharks and skates, plus an occasional sizeable brown shark have been hauled up on the Ventnor Pier.

There is a scarcity of minnows but not a scarcity of summer flounder in the back bays. Reports of nice catches came in from just about everywhere.

Maryanne Anagnou called from Dad's Place on Monday to say one rental boat crew went out and stayed out to mid-afternoon despite the rain. She was expecting them back to the dock early, and when they returned she asked them why they had stayed out on the water. They told her they thought the rain was nice and that they enjoyed it.

And then they gave her their one keeper, an 18-inch flounder she said was still flopping on the counter at the North Wildwood marina and bait and tackle shop.

She was headed home early because her grandson Nicholas manned the store, and he had some rods to repair.

That was the second straight day someone gave her a nice flounder for dinner. On Sunday, one of the Dad's Place pier anglers caught a 19-inch fish.

Variety in the back bays

There were other outstanding reports of a variety of fish from Barnegat Inlet to Cape May, almost all from the back bays.

Steve Purul, captain of the Barnegat Bay-area charterboat Reel Fantasy, took no chances on going outside with threatening conditions by taking the opportunity to fish the inlet and back bays. Purul likes to fish light tackle, and his customers must have had some fun. They caught short striped bass that were 24-27 inches, bluefish from 2 to 9 pounds, weakfish to 25 inches, a mixture of short and keeper flounder, kingfish and blowfish.

A report from the Royal Flush partyboat out of Wildwood sounded similar. That popular partyboat had a good week in the ocean with sea bass, snapper bluefish, small croaker, triggerfish and "plenty" of kingfish. Richard Grant of Bensalem, Pa., had one of the more interesting catches of the week with a 3-pound triggerfish. Mike Lerza of Glendora in Camden County picked a 3-pound sea bass. Paul Dressic of Villas had a 2-pound flounder.

Obviously good fishing is not confined to the inside waters.

Margaret DiMatteo of Bridgeton caught her first flounder. According to a report from Sterling Harbor Bait and Tackle in Wildwood, it was caught on a minnow while DiMatteo was fishing out of her Hobie Mirage Pro Angler kayak.

It's hard to believe that it is time to start thinking about a fishing contest on July 13, but that is already less than two weeks away. The 20th Duke of Fluke fishing tournament is that day headquartered at Sterling Harbor. We'll have some details in the next week or so, but interested anglers can call Catherine Algard at 609-729-1425 for information.

Paddy's Hole inside Avalon is a popular spot for flounder. That's where Connor Seits of Avalon got a 2.93-pounder on Gotcha grubs, according to a report from Avalon Hodge-Podge.

Bill Dougherty of Wildwood checked into Grassy Sound Marina in North Wildwood with six keeper flounder to 20 inches. He said he was fishing at ICM 345 with minnow. A rental boat with a group from Berlin racked up five keepers to 23 inches in Jenkins Channel and Turtle Creek, two other well-known and productive stretches of water in Cape May County.

Flounder, kingfish and croaker were taken mainly on the incoming tide from the Grassy Sound Pier.

The Press Fishing Contest started May 5 and continues to Oct. 31 with $100 gift certificates in 11 categories from sponsoring bait and tackle shops and marinas.

In addition to those prizes, The Press Fishing Contest awards weekly best-catch bragging-rights certificates. For the week of June 16-22, we have three notable catches from two anglers.

Eric Chew of Millville caught a 40-pound cobia in Delaware Bay on June 21 and certified it at Higbee's Marina in Fortescue. Ryan Hearon of Woodbine had a great offshore trip to Baltimore Canyon. He reeled up a 15.59-pound blueline tile and a 19.46-pound golden tilefish. They were entered into the Youth Division at Jim's Bait and Tackle in Cape May, also June 21.

All it takes to enter The Press Fishing Contest is to catch a fish and take it for verification to a participating weighstation, which are located all around South Jersey. Then enter it on-line with a photo and details if available, or mail the form in. The entries appear all season on The Press of Atlantic City website.

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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 Fri-days, 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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