Carl Sheppard took the Beach Haven charter boat Star Fish out into the inshore waters early Monday and had a very decent day in advance of what might be a rough week in the ocean.
After he got back, he said, “The fish are out there, and they are biting.”
He has been catching that inshore mix of Spanish mackerel, 2-pound bluefish with the occasional 3-pounder, bonito and the occasional little tunny (aka false albacore).
And he has been racking up some summer flounder, which he said were migrating and biting as of Monday morning.
Sheppard said he enjoys combination trips of trolling for the Spanish, blues and bonito and bottom fishing for summer flounder.
He said they caught a lot of summer flounder, with about one keeper for every seven caught. That is a very good keeper ratio.
He said there were no boats out in the morning on Little Egg Harbor reef, where he was fishing, but they were headed out as he was steering the Star Fish back to the dock at Morrison’s Marina.
Steve Bent runs the Free Spirit out of Margate, and he had a similar quality Labor Day report.
He said he also is catching Spanish mackerel and little tunny, plus summer flounder. Bent said he also has been enjoying catching small dorado (mahi) with light tackle. He said he backs up to a pot and has his crew cast small pieces of bait close to the pots.
Steve said cobia are still around and a spinner shark put on a display by leaping 4 or 5 feet out of the water chasing bait.
Quality summer flounder have not left town. Robin Scott at Ray Scott’s Dock in Margate reported they weighed a 6.6-pounder caught over the weekend.
Robin said there is a “huge blitz” of lizardfish in the back bays, many cruising the surface. She has one regular who keeps them and cooks them up.
Robin said Labor Day is a transition day for her. She will no longer get up early enough to open the doors at 5:30 a.m. It will be a less demanding 7:30 a.m. launch until next season.
There surely are some uncertainties going forward this week. A brush with Hurricane Dorian or its remnants might play a role, particularly out in the ocean. Surf fishing could take a hit, too. Caution is needed with the high seas, riptides and the extremes of high and low tides.
A lot of stuff coming up in early September. One of the traditions is the Atlantic City-Atlantic County Surf Fishing Derby. It starts Sept. 23, according to tournament director Don Brown.
The contest features a $500 first-place prize for the heaviest striped bass, with $200 for second place and $100 for third.
The derby also has divisions for bluefish, tautog and kingfish, with $200, $100 and $50 for first, second and third in each.
Sign up for $25 at Ray Scott’s Dock in Margate; Ship Shop in Ventnor, One-Stop Bait and Tackle in Atlantic City; Riptide Bait and Tackle and Bayside Bait and Tackle, both in Brigantine; Absecon Bay Sportsman Center in Absecon; Tight Lines and Point Tackle, both Somers Point.
Brown said Monday the sign up and rules and regulation sheets, and badges will be available this weekend.
The Association of Surf Angling Clubs opens its fall tour of South Jersey beaches Saturday with the 56th annual H.W. Shaner Surf Fishing Tournament in Avalon. Six-person teams can register for $150 and individuals for $10 starting at 5:30 a.m.
Fishing will run from 7-9:30 a.m. at station one and from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the second station. Avalon Community Center, 3001 Avalon Avenue, is the tournament headquarters. For more details, call Lynda Greaves at 609-214-0939.
After the conclusion of the ASAC opener, Tim Davis and Mike Kulick with C.J. Walsh will have a Century Rod casting demo from 1-4 p.m. on the beach near the Avalon Fishing Pier. Davis said anyone interested can show with or without their favorite reels.
In Brigantine, the Riptide Bait and Tackle Fall Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby, organized by Andy Grossman, starts Sept. 9 and runs through Dec. 9.
Sign up for $30 at Riptide. It offers $500 for the heaviest striped bass, $300 for second place and $150 for third, plus $300, $200, $100 for first, second, third for bluefish.
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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.