As surf fishing at the Shore goes, there is no place where it is as celebrated each season as on Long Beach Island.
For many anglers, tomorrow is Memorial Day: the kickoff of a season at the beach. But forget swimming, it's surf fishing season. The island's annual Surf Fishing Classic, a months-long tournament that will last through Dec. 4, will kick off bright and early. On the island, anglers come in droves weekend after weekend, hoping to hook the striped bass that will land them a valuable cash prize.
The entire tournament is sponsored by the Southern Ocean County Chamber of Commerce, as well as local tackle shops where anglers can sign up and get in on the action. For a $30 entry fee, anglers can hit the beach armed with a chance to win the pot of prize money, as well as a new hat and a few other goodies thrown in.
But for prospective anglers (as well as seasoned vets hoping to hone their skills) who want to hit the beach with the skills necessary to notch a winning fish, practice makes perfect. To that end, the contest organizers host a surf fishing clinic on the beach in Ship Bottom each year on the tournament's opening day. The clinic is hosted by "Team Mullet," a local fishing club, whose members show anyone who shows up at 9 a.m. at the Chamber's headquarters on Route 72 East in Ship Bottom (on the left-hand side, just past the Country Corner Market) how to bag the big ones. After a quick introduction (which includes free donuts, coffee and prizes) at the Chamber, the clinic moves to the Ship Bottom fire house, then to the 9th Street beach to round out the lesson.
It's a great, comprehensive and fun way to kick off the fall striped bass season, and I encourage anglers from across our area to check out the clinic tomorrow morning. I've attended myself, along with family members, and we always have a great time. Two years ago, I also happened to win one of the prize packs filled with all kinds of fishing equipment – I'm still using some of it today!
The clinic not only demonstrates some practical fishing methods, but covers everything from bait selection to casting techniques to driving a four wheel drive vehicle on the sand.
For more information, check out the tournament's website.
As for the fishing action, most of the local party boats are on the porgies, including the Dauntless. According to a report from the crew, action on porgies and blackfish is steady, however no stripers have been boated yet.
In Barnegat Bay, it's mostly blowfish action at the BI and BB buoys, from what I've heard this week. The striper run has yet to start in earnest, though local schoolies are available in some of the usual spots, including near the various bridges and in hidden-away locations like Turtle Cove off Manahawkin, opposite Surf City.
Surf fishing for stripers is still relatively slow, but keep an eye on the water temperatures. As they get cooler, the stripers will move in. For now, anglers near the Manasquan Inlet should try to hook some blues on bunker.