There was a lot of enthusiasm and some decent fishing as the bay and river striped bass season opened Friday in state waters.

Dave Showell weighed in eight striper by late morning at Absecon Bay Sportsman's Center in Absecon, and a couple of his top prizes were claimed early.

Donald Bondiskey opened the doors at Captain Howard's Bait and Tackle in Egg Harbor City at 7 a.m. Friday, and less than a half-hour later he weighed a nice keeper.

Scott Albertson at Scott's Bait and Tackle in Mystic Islands said it has been a long time since he was this excited on March 1. Mo Albertson said it was nice to have people other than construction workers in the shop.

Showell said the first striper brought into Absecon Bay S.C. picked off two prizes. One was a $200 gift certificate for first fish and the other a $100 gift certificate for the first fish to top 20 pounds. It was caught by Adam Zakumerek, and it weighed 20.25 pounds. Showell actually weighed a heavier bass afterward. It went 22.15 pounds and was caught by Anthony Tremarco.

He said it looks like there is a good body of fish in the waters around the Oyster Creek Plant on Route 9 in Lacey Township. He thinks most of the first bass he weighed came from there, but he also thought two or three may have been caught around Beesley's Point in Great Egg Harbor Bay.

Showell said fishing in the area looks "interesting." He had reports from anglers fishing around JR's Ranch in the Mullica River that they saw "hundreds" of bass in the 14-16-pound class hooked and released before the season opened.

The striper weighed at Captain Howard's came from an "unspecified" location in the Mullica. Bondiskey said.

Beau Bosley, of Stratford (Camden County), brought a 14-pound, 7-ounce, 35-inch silvery striper before 7:30 a.m. By 7:45 a.m., Bondiskey was on the phone with the report.

Bosley's fishing partner is his 9-year-old son, Miles. They were out on the bank of the river fishing at 3 a.m. Miles caught "quite a few" striper, about 10 or 12, his dad said. Bosley said Friday evening that they had a total of 23-24 bass but only the one keeper.

Bondiskey backed up Showell about the reports of lots of fish caught at the end of February.

He said Thursday was phenomenal with a lot of short bass, and he said it was "hot and heavy" in the store. Several anglers did some pre-season planning and bought bloodworm and grass shrimp for bait so they could get an early start on a season that kicked off at 12:01 a.m.

Bosley won a rod and reel for the first keeper at Captain Howard's. The contest continues until closing time Sunday evening. The biggest bass will earn a $125 gift certificate.

Scott Albertson said he was "very surprised" about how many people stopped by to wish them well. Scott's Bait and Tackle was hit pretty hard by Hurricane Sandy, and they have been working every day - except for one Tuesday, Scott said - to get the shop open again.

He said he it was "far greater" than what he expected for March 1.

He expected to sell all his bloodworms, the prime early-season bait for striper. One of the best stretches of sod bank for surfcasters going for striped bass early in the season is Gravelling Point on Great Bay down the road from Scott's Bait and Tackle.

According to Scott Albertson, five anglers were out there giving it a try Friday. He said it is a tradition for some locals to get out there on opening day.

He also said it is as much a gab-fest among anglers just enjoying the experience. They sometimes do catch striper early in the season there, however.

Both Albertson and Bondiskey said white perch are starting to bite in the Mullica, and grass shrimp and small pieces of bloodworm are the best baits.

And just to keep things balanced, at the other end of Atlantic County, Chris Baliban at 24/7 Bait and Tackle in Egg Harbor Township said he was sent photos of a couple of pre-season bass caught Thursday at the Beesleys Point bridge. One was 32 inches and the other 28. Baliban said they were caught on clam.

This morning from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., the Ocean City Intermediate School Fishing Club has its annual flea market at the school, 1801 Bay Ave. Admission is $4 for adults, free for children under 6 with a paying adult. The flea market is the fund-raiser for the club's field trips. They will have loads of new, used and collectible fishing equipment for purchase.

An important meeting of the New Jersey Marine Fisheries Council is 4 p.m. Thursday at the Atlantic County Library on Jimmie Leeds Road in Galloway Township. Changes in flounder and sea bass regulations are coming.

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Mike Shepherd is the retired sports editor of The Press. His column appears Saturdays in the sports section. Call 609-350-0388 or email:

You also can hear Shep on 1400 AM from 7-8 a.m. Saturdays, plus reports Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 6:05 a.m., 9:45 a.m. and 7 p.m. on 1400 AM and on our website:

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