A couple of recent reports support the possibility that signs of change are developing here in South Jersey as the fishing season heads toward fall.

The weather got chilly, particularly at night, and the ocean water temps dropped into the upper 60s to 70 degrees, and as a result bait fish are starting to “school up” along the beaches.

Greg Cudnik had probably the best report of what’s developing. He said Monday from Fisherman's Headquarters in Ship Bottom that fall fishing has definitely begun at Long Beach Island.

Mullet are moving along the beaches there. He said one angler was driving on Beach Haven Boulevard and spotted birds diving in the surf. He pulled over, grabbed a fishing rod, made three casts with an SP Minnow and hooked up two stripers. And then the whole commotion moved up the beach and scattered, which is another typical happening this time of year.

David Spatz, one of the fine local voices at News-Talk WOND 1400 radio with Curtain Call and South Jersey Edition among his busy schedule, added “chief Atlantic City beach correspondent” to his tasks when he reported seeing a flock of birds diving on bait in the surf at the Chelsea Avenue beach.

That fall-fishing indicator was also reported in the back bays of Margate, in Townsends Inlet and the Avalon back bays.

It's not peak-season levels by any standards, but it sounds like we might have a promising start.

Cudnik also said surfcasters reported little tunny sightings near the beach, which is unusual.

Most of the catches in the surf have been dominated by spot with some kingfish and croaker. And bluefish from snapper size to 2 to 5 pounds are starting to increase, too.

Flounder catches are, and have been, excellent. This time of the year, we hear more about flounder migrating to the inshore wrecks and reefs while still holding in the inlets and deeper channels of the back bays. We have eight more days to fish for flounder. The season is open to Sept. 24 after an eight-day extension or it would have ended today.

The Press Fishing Contest continues to roll in its 60th year. Fat flounder are still plentiful. The Press Fishing Contest runs to Oct. 31 and offers $100 gift certificates in 12 categories from participating bait and tackle shops and marinas located throughout South Jersey. Part of the contest program is a weekly best-catch certificate.

For the week of Sept. 1-7, we had two more hefty flounder. Joe Reese, an 85-year-old from Avalon, picked an 8.7-pounder from Paddy’s Hole in the back bays of Avalon on Sept. 5 and entered into the Senior Division at Moran's Dockside in Avalon. Ed Pickul, of Philadelphia, caught one Sept. 5 he entered into the Other Than Boat division at Off The Hook Bait and Tackle at Hinch Marina in Cape May.

The bragging-rights weekly certificate, however, goes to Tyler Bennett, of Northfield, with a 35-pound golden tilefish he caught Sept. 7 at Baltimore Canyon. Brennan Marine in Northfield was the weigh station.

The Press Fishing Contest had another significant entry more recently. Ray Martz, of Lower Gwynedd, Pa., caught an 86-pound wahoo he weighed and registered at Off The Hook.

It might get a little windy over the next couple of days. One of the spots you can fish in the wind is the William B. Demones Jr. Recreational Fishing Park at the Seawall in Atlantic City. Noel Feliciano, at One-Stop Bait and Tackle in A.C., said there is a lot of action going on with spot, croaker, kingfish and even flounder.

The Women's Surf Fishing Club of New Jersey runs its 29th surf-fishing tournament Saturday in Brigantine. The Women's Surf Fishing Club is the second-oldest female fishing club in the country and celebrating its 61st anniversary. The tournament is open to women, men and youth teams and individuals. The cost to enter is $10 for individuals and $60 for six-member teams. Signups are 6-7 a.m. at Community Presbyterian Church, 1501 Brigantine Ave. in Brigantine. A one-day beach-access fee costs $10 for those who do not have Brigantine four-wheel drive permits. The tournament chair is club President Christine Pancoast, 609-264-7754.

The club members run the event — signups, beach placement for the surfcasters, measuring each qualifying fish, keeping score and managing all the other stuff required to make the contest go smoothly. And, according to Andrea Tamburelli, the tournament emphasizes catch and release, so they make an extra effort to measure the fish quickly so they can be returned alive, if the surfcasters choose to do so.

The 29th Atlantic City In-Water Powerboat Show makes its annual appearance at Sen. Frank S. Farley State Marina in Atlantic City from Sept. 26-29. The cost of admission is $15 for adults, free for children. The hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

The badges and dash cards for the Sept. 23-Nov. 3 Atlantic County/Atlantic City Surf Fishing Derby are available for $25 at Absecon Bay Sportsman Center in Absecon; One-Stop Bait and Tackle in Atlantic City; Fish Finder Marine, Bayside Marina Bait and Tackle, Riptide Bait and Tackle in Brigantine; Brennan Marine and Dolfin Dock in Somers Point; Captain Andy's Marina and Ray Scott's Dock in Margate; and Ship Shop in Ventnor. The beach-access permits are now available at participating communities, but surfcasters can’t drive on the beaches of Absecon Island until the Derby starts. The Derby offers $500 for overall heaviest striped bass; $300 for bluefish, tautog and kingfish; $50 weekly awards in each; and $300 for the Mabel “Doc” Johnston heaviest fish caught by a female; and $300 for heaviest fish caught by a youth 14 and under.

Shep’s Hot Spot

Fish for kingfish, spot and croaker with bloodworm and spot at the William B. “Bill” Demones Jr. Recreational Fishing Park at the seawall in Atlantic City.

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