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A few years ago, NOAA warned northern anglers that they'd better learn how to catch red drum since that southern species would be moving north with Climate Change. Yet, red drum remained almost unheard of north of Cape May (which gets a modest showing of puppy drum in late summer) until very recently. A Spring Lake surfcaster caught a small redfish on sand fleas last month, and Frank Conover did the same while casting a paddletail jig from shore in Shark River. Yet, it still seemed as if hooking into one was little more likely than being attacked in the surf by a white shark. Sunday afternoon I was casting leftover sandworms for blackfish with light tackle (Canyon 3500 reel with a 7-foot Bogey custom spinning rod) when I hooked a fish that started running for the surface. I had been surprised by a 26 1/2-inch striper while trying for blackfish the day before, and figured that's what I had until it came to the surface and I spotted the narrow snout that looked like a red drum. Sure enough, when it turned on its side there were the black spots near the tail. After lifting my first N.J. red drum over the fence, there were a few cell phone photos of the 22-incher before releasing it. The last few dead sandworms I took to the canal Monday morning were so far gone that I could hardly get them on a 3/0 circle hook, and not even a bergall or toadfish bothered them when I cast on the turn of the ride. Yet, as I lifted the light egg sinker off the bottom, the bait got smashed and I was into another running fish that turned out to be a 20-inch redfish. Could there be a school in the area? The minimum size for red drum is 18 inches, and if I hadn't released mine I'd have limited out on red drum two days in a row as the limit is just one per day not exceeding 27 inches. I suspect I'm in a very small group that's caught two red drum in two days of fishing northern Garden State waters, but all I've learned so far is that dead sandworms work. Readers of this column have probably read my documentation of the fact that red drum were common in N.J. over 100 years ago. Indeed, long before Al Gore ever heard of Global Warming, channel bass (as they were called then) were the primary large inshore game fish along the Central Shore, rather than stripers or blues. Anglers from across the country came to Ocean County to fish areas such as Barnegat Inlet in the fall for channel bass that were all over 20 pounds. The first two world records came from N.J. before the concentration of big red drum moved south to North Carolina. The leftover sandworms I was using came from last Friday's trip with Chuck Many of Annandale on his Ty Man from Gateway Marina in Highlands. There was a hard south wind that morning, so he hid in the Hudson River where we had to fight a wind against tide condition that still produced releases of 24 school stripers up to 28 inches, 15 blues from about 3 to 7 pounds, and a 13-inch blackfish. The bass preferred worms, while blues jumped on live peanut bunkers. The White Marlin Open in Ocean City, Md. is being contested by 353 boats fishing three out of five days from Monday through Friday for a $4.9 million purse. The first two days were rough, and few boats fished, but a couple of N.J. boats got good starts. Jim Stavola boated a 64-pound tuna on Milling Around from Atlantic Highlands on Monday to take the lead for a possible $460,000, but was bumped back the next day by Blue Runner from Manasquan with a 67-pounder. The good weather arrived Wednesday, and 297 boats sailed. The tuna lead went to Intents from Fl. with 68.5-pounder that's in line for $460,000, while Warden Pass from Cape May tied Blue Runner with a 67-pounder  The big story Wednesday was the first white marlin weigh-ins to make the 70-pound minimum. Business from Key Largo, Fl. brought in a 76-pounder to take the lead for $2,600,000, but before the day was out, Griffen from Palm Beach weighed a hard to beat 86-pound white for that big payoff. Team Player from Stone Harbor took over third an a possible $80,000 with a 70.5-pound white. A 55-pound wahoo on Hog Wild has led from the first day, and there have been no eligible blue marlin or dolphin as of Wednesday. I'm doing a late night blog after the weigh-ins in addition to my daily blog at nj.com/shore/blogs/fishing. Last Saturday's JCAA Fluke Tournament was contested by 252 boats weighing in at nine ports on a day that started with storms but ended up fine. A 10-year-old was the hero as Dylan Cole of Andover hoked a 9.69-pound fluke on his father's boat to not only win at the Jersey City port, but also get bragging rights for the largest of the statewide contest. Capt. Kevin Coles. of Fattys & Flatties at Keyport, was fishing Sandy Hook Reef when the near-doormat hit a jig and pink slime Gulp combo. Since they were in the Calcuttas, Dylan won $12,881 The next largest fluke was a 9.2-pounder caught by Anthony Pansini of Brooklyn to win at Fisherman's Den in Shark River. Stanley Viola of S&S Bucktails won at Manasquan with an 8.87-pound fluke. Fluke pro Dave Lilly of Hazlet had to work hard offshore for a pick, but his 6.4-pounder that hit an 8-ounce Tsunami ball jig and new penny Gulp was not only big enough for second at Sandy Hook but also took most of the money because the winner wasn't in the two big Calcuttas. For complete results, check my blog last Sunday, or visit jcaa.org. Though there was no information supplied by the Leonardo Fluke Masters Tournament, Capt. John Contello of Just Sayin from Keyport noted on Facebook that he won with five fluke for 25.77 pounds while putting together a boat limit for a six-man party out of about 60 fluke caught. Tank Matraxia of Lyndhurst joined an open trip with Contello on Wednesday and quickly boated a personal best 9 1/2-pound fluke that was later matched by another angler. Matraxia tagged another 10 fluke for the American Littoral Society, and received word of his 181st tag return -- a fluke tagged on Sandy Hook Reef, July 29, 201i4 at 14 1/8 inches before being caught three years later, Aug. 5, 2017, at 18 1/8 inches on Barnegat Reef.  Capt. Ron Santee had a good day with large fluke Wednesday on his Fishermen from Atlantic Highlands. Tom Di Stanislao had a 9 1/16-pounder. Thursday was even better despite a slow morning drift. The Mike Nolan family from Holmdel, father, son and two daughters, limited on fluke and added sea bass while dad boated the first doormat of the season on the Fishermen -- a 10.4-pounder. Santee noted that there were also three over 7 pounds and several from 4 to 6 pounds. That boat is chartered Friday and Saturday.  The Golden Eagle from Belmar had a very good Thursday with sea bass as everyone had their two-fish limit, with some being among the largest of the season. Jim Hutchinson Sr. submitted the following reports for the Beach Haven Charter Boat Association: "The 2017 summer flounder season will be ending in a few weeks on September 5. Meanwhile, the current fluke action off Beach Haven is red hot and at its peak, especially on the inshore wrecks and artificial reefs. The boats of the Beach Haven Charter Fishing Association have been returning to the dock with satisfied anglers and in many cases with limit catches of big fish. Captain Gary Dugan of the "Irish Jig" reports the fishing has been "very good." He has had multiple trips with limits on fluke and some nice black sea bass and blackfish for good measure. He has seen some big fish come over the rails up to 26-inchers. He has been fishing the Garden State South Reef and some of his wreck numbers. Captain Ray Lopez of the "Miss Liane" has also been putting in some varied catches. One recent trip had good action on bottom fish early in the morning and finishing up with some bluefish on the troll. He did his fishing off Barnegat Inlet. Captain Larry Rosica had a group of five anglers fishing on the "Rascal" last weekend off Barnegat Light. The group found all the fluke they wanted as the entire group managed to limit out. John Banach boated the largest fish, a nice 24.5 inch flattie. Captain John Lewis of the "Insatiable" reports double digit catches of fluke with a keeper ratio some days approaching 2 to 1. Captain John joined Captain Ray Lopez and Captain Jimmy Zavacky on the "Reel Determined" to take the boy scouts from Troop 112 of Jobstown on a group fishing trip. All had fun with plenty of fluke and sea bass to take home. The boys outfished their adult chaperones. Captain John also reports that the offshore yellowfin catches are coming on strong both trolling and chunking during the day time so the night chunk bite should turn on soon."

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