The well-known and popular stretch of sod bank at Gravelling Point on Great Bay produced its first keeper striped bass this week.
Scott Albertson reported Friday from Scott’s Bait and Tackle that Vincis Kudirka, a longtime regular and fixture at Gravelling Point, carted a 10-pound, 30.5-inch striped bass into the shop in the Mystic Island section of Little Egg Harbor Township on Wednesday. Kudirka claimed bragging rights and the $100 gift certificate Albertson offered as a first-fish incentive.
According to Albertson’s comprehensive post on the shop’s website, it was caught at 7:45 a.m. and was the third first-keeper title Kudirka has earned in the past seven years. His first was in 2013, an 8.3-pound bass, and again in 2017 with an 11.5-pound beauty.
“As far as hours,” nobody puts in more time than Kudirka, Albertson said.
Albertson said Gravelling Point has produced a lot of undersized striped bass but has not had a lot of fishers out there trying due to the chilly weather. The wind does blow unimpeded across Great Bay and the marshlands at times. He said they had the first appearance on March 16 of shorts less than the 28-inch minimum to be legal.
Scott’s interesting record of the first-fish history at Gravelling Point, Pebble Beach and Mystic Beach — the contest boundaries — shows a wide time spread.
Last year, it was Richie Calkins with a 7.2-pounder on March 31. In 2016, Dylan O’Connell took the honors for youth fishers with a 7.83-pounder on March 12. Jake Adair got one April 13, 2015, that weighed 7.5 pounds. On April 19, 2014, it was Dave Curry with an 8.87-pounder.
And now, Scott said the locals are starting to talk about looking for black drumfish and bluefish to start appearing.
We are starting to hear about a few striped bass moving into the ocean. Noel Feliciano said one of his fishers sent him a photo of a striper doubleheader he caught on the T-jetty in Atlantic City.
Jeremy Koestel, of the Blackwood section of Gloucester Township, said he caught five short bass in less than hour despite the chilling winds. Koestel said he was not dressed for it, so he lasted about 45 minutes.
Feliciano said the local striper hounds report catching them up in Lakes Bay. And they hint at a bluefish or two cruising. Noel said he can’t confirm any of that about the blues.
Striped bass continue to reside off the beach and bulkhead at Fortescue. Cliff Higbee at Higbee’s Marina has not weighed a keeper yet. The surf-casters there also are picking off white perch.
Tautog fishing has been adversely affected by the chill winds and rough ocean during the first week of the season that opened Monday.
Mike O’Neill runs the charter/open boat Stray Cat from Seaview Harbor Marina whenever conditions allow. He made it out twice during opening week. He said both trips were a slow pick because of the still-chilly water.
O’Neill said it got better Thursday afternoon on a great weather day when ocean temps inched up to 47 degrees. He said each fisher on board caught two or three keepers more than 15 inches long. Sounds a little better than a “pick.”
Trout season opens Saturday in the state’s stocked lakes and ponds. Birch Grove Park in Northfield and Heritage Park in Absecon and Hammonton Lake always get decent crowds for the opener.
The Landisville Gunning Club runs its statewide white perch tournament April 13.
Adult anglers can sign up for $30, ages 10 and under for $15 and active military and disabled veterans for $10 in person from 6 to 9 p.m. April 12 at the clubhouse at the corner of Fourth Street and Cape May Avenue in Estell Manor or online at njwhiteperch.com.
The contest offers $1,000, $500 and $250 and a $1,000 bonus if the state record is broken. Fishing is for anywhere in the state starting at 6 a.m. next Saturday (April 13) with the weigh-ins at 2 p.m.
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Michael Shepherd is the retired sports editor of The Press. His column appears Saturdays in print and Fridays online.