There were some very impressive winning entries in the 2016 Salt Water Anglers of Bergen County Big Fish of the Year Derby. The successful club members were honored at Tuesday's annual Past Presidents Dinner held in Mountainside Inn at Clifton.
Bob Cameron entered two trophy fish by any standard -- a 13.6-pound blackfish and a 13 1/4-pound fluke. Jim Catanzaro was also a double winner with a 32.3-pound striped bass plus a 16 1/4-pound bluefish. Bill Fish added a 4.5-pound sea bass and a 3.5-pound winter flounder. Other winners were Mark Capalbo, 2.14-pound porgy; Dan Tobia, 14.6-pound cod; and Don Lohse, 3-pound ling.
Butch Pawson, one of the many former presidents honored at the dinner, told me that he's been doing well with flounder in Toms River.
The SWABC was founded in 1937 by veteran outdoor writer Bill Backus, and continues to be one of the largest and most active fishing clubs in the state. John Toth serves as president, as he has many times over the years,while also being active in the JCAA and NJOA.
Wednesday's strong northwest wind and bitter cold was a setback for local fishing, but those winds did settle the ocean. The Ocean Explorer from Belmar had a nice day offshore on Tuesday when there was lots of life on the bottom even if most bites were from bergalls plus short cod and pollock. They are looking forward to fishing for cod over the weekend.
There's been no news lately from the surf, though school stripers usually are being picked on sand worms and clams by this time. Grumpy's Tackle in Seaside Park reports anglers have been buying blood worms and getting into flounder, school stripers and white perch in the bay.
As waters warm up again, the striper nite on clams should resume in Raritan Bay, and boat fishing with clams in the back of the bay usually gets started by the end of March. Dave Lilly of Hazlet says he knows when the bass are ready to bite when he spots worms coming out of the ground after a rain -- and that hasn't happened yet.
Mark Roy of Warren is still in Florida, and had a great trip on Wednesday of last week with Capt. Jon Cooper (305 724-6870) on Dive-Version out of Miami. Mark Levine of Slate Professional Resources in Freehold and Chris Fahmie from Hollywood, Fl. were also aboard the 35-foot Contender as they went five for five on sailfish releases with live baits under kites, along with a 12-pound almaco jack and a 35-pound cobia plus little tunny. It was so chilly that day that day that Roy had to wear a heavy jacket -- but the fishing was hot. This Wednesday's trip only produced a couple of almacos and three mutton snappers in poor conditions with little current.