It’s winter. It’s the holiday season. It’s also very good fishing in the ocean for black sea bass and tautog!

A couple of recent reports show the offshore waters have been a gift for the wreck and reef fishers off South Jersey.

Dan Ponzio runs the charter boat War Dance out of Atlantic City. He joined up with Mark Schrenk on his Brigantine-based charter boat Jessie James on Saturday.

They pooled resources and knowledge and worked an underwater deep-sea rockpile 65 miles out.

Dan said Monday his nephew Greg Goff was among the crew on board. Dan estimated they caught 160 sea bass.

Some were “monsters” of more than 6 pounds. He said he had a tripleheader of fish up to 6 pounds.

“Good stuff,” he said.

He also said his arms were “screaming” the next day from the workout.

Steve Palmer of Jingle’s Bait and Tackle in North Beach Haven posted a similar account on the store’s website.

He was out with Nick Perello on the Pension Plan with a crew that included Nick’s brother Rich, Cheyne Lenhard and Alex Plick. They racked up 75 keepers and probably 30 others they released. The fish weighed 2 to 4-plus pounds, according to the report.

Mike O’Neill said he had a good day for tog Monday with “quite a few limits” and a heavyweight of 91/2 pounds. He said he anchored the Stray Cat charter/open boat once and caught from the time they started to the time they decided to head back to the dock at Seaview Harbor Marina in Great Egg Harbor Inlet. Mike said he will switch to sea bass next week.

Tom Ferrara was headed back to the dock in Atlantic City on the party boat T-Wrecks on Monday afternoon when he returned a call from the local scribe.

He did not go far off, anchoring up in 75 feet of water to fish for tautog. One of the 16 keepers weighed a fat 10 pounds.

He said it was “good action” and that the ocean was “beautiful.” They left the dock at Gardner’s Basin at 10 a.m. and were headed back by 3 p.m.

His Saturday trip racked up nine keepers with 40-plus throwbacks.

Ferrara said he will run an open boat this Saturday. Most of the for-hire boat captains take the holiday off.

A report from Fisherman’s Headquarters in Ship Bottom described nice catches of tog by store regular Matt Sorrentino, of Ship Bottom, on the Osprey party boat based in Atlantic City. Sorrentino had keepers both trips, including an 11-pound tog.

Another item in that Fish Headquarters post showed small striped bass are keeping the surfcasters active on Long Beach Island and are just outside Barnegat Inlet for the inshore boat captains and crews.

Sounds like a decent welcome to winter.

And here’s wishing a merry Christmas, happy Hanukkah and an enjoyable Kwanzaa to all!

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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.

Contact: 609-350-0388

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Follow Shep at


Michael Shepherd is the retired sports editor of The Press. His column appears Tuesdays and Saturdays in print and Mondays and Fridays online.

Contact: 609-350-0388

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