The variety of fish took on another dimension over the weekend.
Saturday was "black drumfish day."
That's the way Scott Albertson described it Monday from Scott's Bait and Tackle in Mystic Island. Fishers sent him cellphone photos — "too many to count" — of black drum they caught. He said the black drum looked as though they were mostly in the 12- to 20-pound class but with maybe a big-fish 40-pounder among them.
He said they were caught in Great Bay at low water to the top of the tide, and then they turned off. He said they were a pale silver, leading him to believe they were moving in from the ocean with the tide and not yet discolored by the mud flats of Great Bay.
Striped bass have been beefing up a little with more keepers in the catches, but we still have a load of short "schoolies," less than the 28-inch minimum just about everywhere.
The Atlantic City side of Absecon Inlet has been home for schools of striped bass. But the rock stars fishing from the T-jetty and the other Atlantic City jetties no longer have a monopoly.
Rich Passarella, of Brigantine, put the first keeper on the books at Riptide Bait and Tackle in Brigantine. Andy Grossman certified it at 10.5 pounds and 30.5 inches.
It took the $100 first-fish in-house gift card and took the early lead in the Riptide spring fishing derby.That contest runs to May 19 and offers prizes for black drumfish and bluefish.
Andy said Passarella caught it with fresh bunker from the south jetty in Brigantine on Sunday.
Noel Feliciano obviously got itchy from weighing and taking photos and videos of striped bass and other fish while he is behind the counter of his One-Stop Bait and Tackle in Atlantic City to post online.
So Sunday, he took some time, starting 4 iin the morning, and went fishing.
He said he had the "time of my life" plugging pink Zoom lures. He said the bass were in the 12-to 25-inch range, which is common, it seems, from the Barnegat Inlet to the Delaware Bay.
He said everytime he said he was going to make one last cast and then leave, he got another hit. He said another fisher out there on the rocks told Noel he made that statement six times and then caught a bass each time before finally packing it up to go open One-Stop.
Noel said other jetty jockies are racking them up, along with boat fishers who have started trolling. On Monday, Noel said reports from up and down the coast and in the Delaware Bay describe a "massive" body of striper. He had the photos and videos to verify some of the catches.
Paul Thompson made the first inshore wreck runs of the season over the weekend on the popular Porgy IV party boat based at South Jersey Marina in Cape May.
A 12.5-pound tautog and many limits of four tog got the captain's season off to a decent start. He had what he described as a handful of customers Saturday, and they racked a few four-fish limits, along with shorts less than the 15-inch miimum and plenty of bites. On Sunday, he had four customers rack up limits on the day the 12-pounder was caught.
It was a "nice crowd" Sunday, Paul said Monday.
The spring run of 2- to 3-pound bluefish and even the hint of a rumor of a weakfish surfaced recently.
We're getting there.
The first surf-fishing contest of the season is April 27 with the third Nicole Born Memorial orgaized by RH Custom Rods.
The tournament follows the Association of Surf Angling Club format with divisions for teams of up to six, individuals and youth 15-and-under. The cost is $100 for a team, $30 for individuals and $15 for youth.
Register from 5:30 to 7 a.m. at Surf City Volunteer Fire Company, 713 N. Long Beach Boulevard in Surf City. The top three teams, individuals and youth with the heaviest single fish will win prizes, and there will be awards for the largest and most fish caught.
Rich Hedenberg is the contest organizer.
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Michael Shepherd is the retired sports editor of The Press. His column appears Tuesdays and Saturdays in print and Mondays and Fridays online.