Black sea bass season opened Oct. 8, but it did not really start until the unrelenting winds of last week finally gave locals a shot at getting after them Sunday and Monday.

Reports make it obvious that the popular wreck and reef inhabitants were plentiful and biting.

Mike O Neill was piloting the party/open boat Stray Cat back to its dock at Seaview Harbor Marina in Great Egg Harbor Inlet mid-afternoon Monday with limits all around caught by noon. That was the second straight day a crew limited out on the Stray Cat with its allowable allotment of 10 fish at a minimum of 12.5 inches in length.

Mike said the pool winner Monday was 19 inches long and weighed 41/2 pounds.

He said they only had to travel 15 miles to get to black sea bass range. He said this time last year they had to travel 20 to 35 miles for them.

He said it was “gorgeous flat, calm” Monday. On Sunday, it started out windy but settled in the afternoon.

They also caught ling and bluefish. And he said they saw eight 40- to 50-pound bluefin tuna. He said the bottom is covered with sand eels.

Mike will run open boats Friday and Monday, and he is chartered up over the weekend.

The Starfish party boat also sailed Sunday and Monday, and everyone on board also limited out, according to Johh Nigro, dockmaster at its Sea Isle City headquarters.

He said they had only a handful go with them Sunday, but everyone of them returned Monday to be part of a 24-person Columbus Day crowd and to take part of what surely sounds like epic fishing.

Irv Hurd got back to the dock and had another excellent description of his day fishing for black sea bass.

“A nice, fun day!”

That what he said when he got the party boat Miss Avalon tied up to the dock at Avalon Sport Fishing Center late Monday afternoon.

His customers also counted limits all around, including doubleheaders.

And they also had triggerfish and tautog, plus six keeper weakfish.

He said a highlight was watching eight whales swimming around the boat and blowing air nearby.

Bob Cope also was headed back to the dock with a charter on the Full Ahead on Monday. He was too far off to make a good cell phone connection on the first try, but he called back a few minutes later when he was 3 miles off, and the connection was made.

He also has had excellent catches of black sea bass for all on board. He said it was not “up and down” fishing but more of a grind and not easy work. They had to do “some work” to find them, and sometimes they would catch for a half hour and then the fish would shut off completely.

Sounds like Captain Bob was working hard for his charter customers, and it paid off. He said they had limits of decent-size fish 13 to 17 inches long.

The surf finally cleaned up starting Sunday afternoon and created excellent Monday conditions in spectacular fall weather.

It sometimes can be insightful to check out what is going on to the north of here this time of year to get a hint of what soon might be headed our way in South Jersey.

A report posted on the Betty and Nick’s website was more hopeful than anything else. Betty and Nick’s is located at Seaside Park, above Barnegat Inlet.

It revealed that the surf was “clean and green” with a light wind.

The posting also reported that one surfcaster had three striped bass casting bucktails at high water Sunday. They measured 24, 26 and 32 inches long. The minimum to be a keeper is 28 inches.

One of the key components of a report from Jingle’s Bait and Tackle in North Beach Haven was that the water in the streets in front of the store had receded.

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.

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