Today is one of the most anticipated days of the year for local fishing. Flounder season is now open. Anglers have been catching and releasing some nice-sized fluke in recent weeks, and as of Friday, May 22 they can catch and bring them home for dinner.

Regulations have remained at five fish at a minimum of 18 inches. In recent years, early-season fluke have been on the larger side, and keepers are easier to hook up to. As the weeks go on the keeper ratio begins to dwindle, so get out there while you can.

Drumfish season is in full swing with charters catching their limit. The Delaware Bay is loaded with them – good eating for the great white shark visitor Mary Lee who has pinged in the area last week. 

Captain John Wilkinson of Babu Charters out of Brigantine reported he had some shark action last weekend, but his charters were hooking up to sand sharks. Wilkinson hosted the Smith family from DuBois, Pa., for a six-hour bay trip. They fished Great Bay and had the rods bent throughout the entire trip because of sand sharks and skate.

The Smiths did manage a few blues to take home for dinner. The blues all hit at the bottom of the tide. They were chumming and using bunker for bait. The catch count was more than 40 sand shark, over 15 skates, and three blues in the 8- to 10-pound range. Wilkinson said he didn't try any float rigs, but looking back he should have.

Bill “Bucktail Willie” Shillingford of Swainton fishes almost daily out of Whale Creek Marina in Strathmere. He said he had a slow week but did manage to get a few fluke up to 20 inches before opening day. He also had three short bass and a 26-inch weakfish. He said the dropping water temps seemed to have slowed the bite down. He is also seeing that the excellent run of large bluefish is over, since he only hooked four last week up to 28 inches.

Tammie Carbohn of Avalon Hodge Podge said the biggest bluefish caught last week was an 11.7-pound, 36-incher caught by Rick Van Ham and his son Rick Jr. from Philadelphia. They had several around that size fishing with mullet in south Avalon. Carbohn said the blues are sticking around the Avalon area. She believes it’s because there is an abundance of herring in the water. 

Captain Frank Breakell of Brynnie-B Inshore Fishing reported a good week of fishing. Last Wednesday he ran the back bays bridge-hopping, landing three short stripers and losing a few others. He used quarter-ounce and three-eighths-ounce jigs with assorted plastics and teasers that did the trick.

Last Saturday, he hosted Joe Kenney of Philadelphia for a back bay trip. They plugged the sod banks and then drifted a channel with assorted bucktails, jigs and Gotcha lures to land a bunch of 5- to 10-pound bluefish. On Sunday he said he hit the surf in Sea Isle City with Chris Farschon of Dennisville using clam and bunker. He landed a big doggie, two skates and then three stripers, with one being a keeper and released it.

Cathy Algard of Sterling Harbor Bait and Tackle in Shawcrest is had a lot to report. She saw tuna, tilefish, sharks, bluefish, drumfish and the first of the weakfish come into the shop for weigh-ins. She has customers catching yellowfin tuna in the Wilmington and Spencer canyons.

Joe Gillen and crew of the Y-Knot out of Wildwood had 12 yellowfin tuna in the 30-pound range while trolling the Wilmington Canyon. The crew also weighed in a 35-pound golden tilefish for angler Drew Bakley of Cape May, a 27-pound golden tilefish for angler Harry Cowan of Green Creek, and a 20-pound golden tilefish for angler Kyle Killen of Wildwood. Bob Fritz of Philadelphia checked in with a 68-pound black drumfish. Dave Hirsch of Cape May Court House landed a 55-pound black drum.

Algard said the striper reports have been scattered, with a few fish being caught off North Wildwood beaches, Cape May Point and the Delaware Bay beaches. Nice bluefish from 2 to 20 pounds are being caught off the beachfront, around the jetties and in the back bays.

On the kayak fishing scene, Dr. George Reinhart of North Cape May landed a 29.6-pound striped bass on a bunker chunk while fishing the Delaware Bay on his Hobie Mirage Outback kayak. Mike Brier of Villas had three black drumfish up to 80 pounds while fishing fresh clam in the Delaware Bay on his Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 14 kayak.

Jim Mooers of Grassy Sound Marina in North Wildwood said they are catching blues, flounder and stripers from their pier. Turtle Creek in the North Wildwood area has been producing some nice flounder, but he hasn’t seen any weakfish in his area yet. Chris Bannon of Philadelphia caught 10 blues and four flounder with two keeper size all on mackerel during the incoming tide. Mike Fenerty also from Philadelphia had a striper off the pier and some catch-and-release flounder.

Captain Mike Brocco and captain Andy Merendino on the Cape Queen out of Utsch's Marina in Cape May have been out taking advantage of the recent drum bite even though the fish have been a little finicky. On Saturday, May 16 during the day they were marking fish all over and had a few runoffs, but got none to the boat. On the later trip Brocco and captain Bob Leach onboard took out Bob Volker and his group from Philadelphia, and they brought 10 out of 11 ranging from 25 to 60 pounds back in with them.   

Captain Ray Szulczewski, a fly fisherman who charters his boat Tide Runner out of Cape May, said the beach water is hitting the upper 50s. He had some good fishing last week, plus, he ran into the bluefish invasion and caught his first few weakfish on the fly. The wind was a factor during the week causing him to cancel a couple of trips, but he had good luck fly fishing on the trips he did do. Bluefish ranged from 18 to 31 inches, weakfish to 26 inches with one fluke up to 21 inches. Everything was caught using chartreuse/white clouser flies and fished on sinking lines. Three bluefish were kept for dinner and everything else was released.

Szulczewski commented that if he ever keeps a weakfish for customers he has them only take the males and release all the females that are loaded with eggs, hoping it will help rebuild their stocks back to normal. 

All anglers must inquire about the free saltwater fishing registration. See www.countmyfish.noaa.gov or call 888-674-7411 to find out if a license is needed to fish a desired species, or stop in any bait and tackle store for details. Print out the certificate and keep it on your person while fishing.

Fishing Notes:

- Cape Queen Sportfishing out of Utsch’s Marina in Cape May is taking calls daily for trips. They will be fishing for fluke, sea bass, tuna and shark. Call 609-884-0001 or see www.capequeencharters.com.

 - Sterling Harbor Bait and Tackle in Shawcrest will help you get out on the water in a Hobie, Jackson Wilderness Systems or Ocean kayak. Custom rigging is their specialty and they have a large selection of kayaks and accessories.

  - Capt. Tom Daffin of Fishin’ Fever Sportfishing out of Utsch’s Marina in Cape May has openings for drum, tilefish and sea bass trips. See www.fishinfeversportfishing.com

 - A Flounder Opening Day Fishing Contest will take place Saturday, May 23, hosted by Grassy Sound Marina in North Wildwood. The largest flounder weighed in by a slip holder and a nonslip holder will each receive a $100 gas certificate from the marina or a full-day boat rental. There is no entry fee; just come weigh in. Save the date. The Ninth annual Grassy Sound Marina Flounder Tournament is set for Saturday, June 27. For information or to register see www.grassysoundmarina.com.

- The Royal Flush head boat will be sailing weekends for right now, Saturday and Sunday 8 a.m.-noon, and 1-5 p.m. The boat is located on Rio Grande Avenue and the bay in Wildwood.

- The Ladies Invitational Bluefish Tournament will be held Saturday, June 27. This year the tournament has been expanded to include prize categories for flounder, and for the first time in history men will be allowed to fish. The three weigh-in locations continue to be Atlantic City at Golden Nugget, Longport-Margate at Seaview Harbor, and Cape May at Utsch’s Marina. For information and registration see www.fishlibt.com.

- Skip Jastremski of Stalker II out of Snug Harbor in Cape May is fishing seven days a week. Call 609-972-5218 to book a private or open boat trip.  

- Avalon Hodge Podge in Avalon is open Monday through Saturday 6 a.m.-8 p.m. and Sunday 6 a.m.-6 p.m..

 Fishing reports and photos can be emailed to Heather Holtzapfel James at heatherholtzapfel@yahoo.com or faxed to 609-938-6978. Reports need to be in by Sunday evening of each week.

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Capt. Tom Daffin said once they got it on the boat and on the scale he knew the angler had a shot of capturing a record fish. “It was something else” he said. They called ahead to Bobby Duckenfield at Jim’s Bait and Tackle to get the certified scale and paperwork out. The fish is being mounted. They had to have a biologist sign off on it. It didn’t take long to real up the fish – they had to break it away from the wreck. Open boat charter. Guy is from Brigantine who him and son has fished with him before.

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