Menu
CapeMay.com - Cape May NJ Travel Guide and Vacation Planner

CapeMay.com Blog

Category: Fishing

MA500 Tournament Results

After a week of fishing that saw white marlin bite in record numbers, it was another down to the wire finish at the 2010 Mid Atlantic $500,000! For the first time in the tournament’s 19-year history, the blue marlin category went unfilled. Although several blue marlin were caught and released, the 400-pound minimum weight was tough to crack and all the prize money for the category was rolled over to the white marlin category and equally divided among winners. Next year’s tournament which will mark the 20th anniversary of this most prestigious event.

MA500 Photo Gallery

Final Standings

Weight Standings

Heaviest White Marlin – tie – 88 lbs. Billfisher – Bill Zimmerman – $791,442, Lady Luck – Steve Ramsey – $298,514

3rd Heaviest White Marlin – 82 lbs. – Cracker – Chris Schultz – $204, 573

Blue Marlin – No qualifying blue marlin were caught so prize money was rolled over to the white marlin category and divided equally among the winners.

Heaviest Tuna – 177 lbs. – Impulse IV – Matt Kriedel – $168,812

2nd Heaviest Tuna – 105 lbs. – Reel Chaos – Anthony Matarese – $100,265

3rd Heaviest Tuna – 84 lbs. – Fin-Ness – Don Pyle – $78,893

*Heaviest Dolphin – 56 lbs. – American Lady – Russell Baiocco – $10,000

Heaviest Wahoo – 49 lbs. – Shelly II – Don Haines – $10,000

*Denotes new tournament record.

Boats receiving calcutta money but not receiving tournament purse money for various catches during the week include the following:

Toplesss – Scott Steele – $27,427

Tar Heel – Mike Chrysanthopolis – $24,510

Singularis – Jeff Citron – $20,425

Krazy Salts – Dave Anderson – $15,172

All In – Curtis Maycomber – $12,255

Lil’ Man – Steve Dayton – $12,255

Canyon Lady – William Diller – $7,002

Point Standings

Most Points White Marlin – 1575 pts. – Judge – Marty Judge

2nd Most Points White Marlin – 1350 pts. – Shark Byte – Peter Cherasia

3rd Most Points White Marlin – 1200 pts. – Viking 70 – Pat Healy

Most Points Blue Marlin – 300 pts. – Fin-Ness – Don Pyle

2nd Most Points Blue Marlin – 300 pts. – Emanon – Brian Sullivan

3rd Most Points Blue Marlin – 150 pts. – Reel Joy – Susan McCart

Most Points Tuna – 214 pts. Krazy Salts – Dave Anderson

2nd Most Points Tuna – 98 pts. – Tar Heel – Mike Chrysanthopolis

3rd Most Points Tuna – 96.5 pts. – Toplesss – Scott Steele

Most Points Overall – 1575 pts. – Judge – Marty Judge

*Please note that point ties were broken based on time of catch.

Catch Report

White marlin released – 527

White marlin boated – 31

Blue marlin released – 11

Blue marlin boated – 2

Tuna weighed – 26

Wahoo weighed – 2

Dolphin (mahi-mahi) weighed – 14


Cowboys of the East

Text by Bill Godfrey. Photographs by Stephen Spagnuola. Originally published in the Spring 2007 issue of Cape May Magazine.

Boats at Lund’s

It was a crisp January morning in Cape May. A bitter wind howled out of the north, burst pipes were flooding local businesses and the ice was thick on the bay and the ocean. I stepped out of my car in the parking lot of Lund’s Fisheries on Ocean Drive in Lower Township and grimaced as the wind slapped my face.

I was here to peek into the world of commercial fishermen, “harvesters” they sometimes call themselves (– “Enjoy seafood?” asks a common bumper sticker, “thank a harvester.”) The perpetual winter gale stood me upright and the piercing fish smell on the docks assaulted my uninitiated nose and pried my eyes open like, well, like another slap in the face. I’d made arrangements to meet Stephen Spagnuola, a local guy who spends a lot of time on the water and has crewed on commercial boats. But Stephen hadn’t arrived, so, not being one to wait for an escort, I walked toward the docks.

Seagulls over the water

The seagulls were thick like a Hitchcock movie. One landed a few yards in front of me and fought off several pilferers before gulping down a fish twice the size of his mouth. He managed a mean stare in my direction before taking off. I passed a tough-looking gent in a black rimless leather hat (he didn’t look like a fisherman to me), stepped over ropes, hoses, pallets and assorted fish gear and found myself on a slippery wooden dock staring at a dozen or so commercial fishing rigs including the 120-foot Laura McCausley out of Portsmouth, NH, her hull and rails thick with ice. Crewmen onboard passed words and cigarettes to a man in work overalls on the dock. They looked at me funny.

I caught up with Frank Carroll, a crewman from the Cape May boat Starbrite. He was checking on the boat to ensure the pipes weren’t bursting from the cold – Starbrite wasn’t going out anytime soon, the weather was too rough. As Carroll stood in front of Starbrite with the sun at his back he looked right out of central casting: Carhartt jacket, weathered face, big smile, broad shoulders. I shook Carroll’s sandpaper hand and admitted I knew next to nothing about commercial fishing.

“How could you unless you do it,” he asked.

Captain Charlie Esher aboard “The Kidd”

Two centuries before Cape May became popular as a seaside resort, fishing was the lifeblood of the community. Whalers were among the first to arrive, and today Cape May is fifth in the nation for commercial fishery landings as ranked by dollars ($68 million in 2004, the most recent year available from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and 13th for total pounds of fish landed (98 million). Tourism may be the golden goose but commercial fishing is still the backbone of the local economy in Cape May.

And the dollars that flow from commercial fishing feed many mouths.

“Commercial fishing is a huge industry,” said Kim Walker, wife of commercial fisherman Ron Walker (“Little Ronnie” to his mom even though he’s a grown man). “There’s the boat owners, the captains, the crew, their families, dock workers, truckers, ice sellers, boat sellers, fuel suppliers, equipment retailers – it’s bigger than you think.”

Still, unlike their more famous brethren who fish for crab in Alaska’s Bering Strait, Cape May’s commercial fishermen toil in relative obscurity.

A crew member aboard the “Golden Nugget”

“It’s sad they don’t get the respect they’re entitled to,” said Kim. “When people think of commercial fishermen they think of a big, fat, ugly guy with no teeth. But these guys provide food for the world. They work through the night in the dark and often don’t sleep for days. It’s a rough profession and there are a lot of rules and regulations. It’s very dangerous, one little thing can kill you.”

One group that doesn’t overlook commercial fishermen is the federal government, which keeps a close eye on every move these guys make. Commercial boats are required to purchase, at their own expense, tens of thousands of dollars worth of gear that makes it easier for the feds to keep an eye on them. Some welcome the federal regulations, arguing that it preserves fish stocks. Others decry them as destroying their livelihoods. Many are caught somewhere in between.

Ronnie Walker aboard “Constantino L.”

“One thing’s for sure,” said Kim, “it’s either in your blood or it’s not.”

I met Stephen Spagnuola at the Cape May Film Festival in 2003. He had a thick portfolio of photographs featuring commercial fishermen. Since then he’s committed much time and energy to ensuring that the story of Cape May’s commercial fishermen gets told. He interviewed dozens of local fishermen to get their stories and took photos that he hopes captures the spirit of these men, their families and their way of life.

What I discovered during the journey was a way of life that harkens back to a different time. Fishermen are sometimes out for weeks at a time. Their lives revolve around factors they can’t control, mostly the weather. “If you haven’t worked in awhile,” said Kim, “and the weather breaks, you’ve got to go out – family weddings, babies, birthdays, reunions, whatever – you’ve got to go out.”

The day’s catch

“My dad’s not a 9 to 5 guy,” adds Christina Walker, Ron’s twenty-something daughter. “I used to stand by the door and wave to him. Then I wouldn’t see him for two weeks. He was gone a lot but it didn’t bother me, I didn’t cry about it. But if he was in he was always there.”

The reasons that men go out onto the dark ocean are varied and personal and apparently too strong to resist. This is the reason Stephen Spagnuola is relentless about documenting their stories. He sees these guys as the cowboys of the East. Icons that represent all that’s best about Cape May and their romantic, misunderstood way of life – industrious, fiercely independent, upright and hard working.

Crew of the “Golden Nuggett” working in the cold air on deck.

Christina told me her dad had recently returned from a “bunker” trip. Bunker, or menhaden, is used mostly for cosmetics and other fish oil products; it’s not really edible. “There’s no eating bunker, it’s the smelliest fish in the world,” she said. Squid, better known as calamari in local restaurants, was the next trip. Commercial fishermen go out for bunker, porgies, mackerel, scallops, fluke, clams and more. Much of Cape May’s fish landings are sold overseas where the market for fish is stronger than in the states.

Some worry about the future of Cape May’s commercial fishermen. Some don’t. Rich Hill thinks it may be a fading industry.

“I worked all my life to get my own boat. I got a grandson coming up and all he wants to do is go fishing. I try to discourage him because the next few years I don’t think it’s gonna be there for us.”

Andrew Walker packs the net back on board the “Constantino L.”

As for the feds, well, Rich has an opinion on that too. Commercial rigs are often boarded by the Coast Guard looking for safety violations, proper paperwork, permits, illegal harvests and who knows what else. “Every time I turn around we got more rules and regulations and ground closures,” said Rich. “I can’t see why we need all these rules and regulations. Mesh size – that will regulate itself. Stuff is out there and it’s gotta be caught.”

Observers sometimes accompany commercial boats when they go out. Kim Walker told me if her husband is out on a mackerel trip and lands a flounder, he better not bring it home for supper or he could end up in a lot of trouble. “Rules and regulations are another stress factor. It’s a mountain of paperwork every month.”

Commercial fishermen also suffer from the public’s ill-informed perception that they are dragging the sea dry. Kim told me nothing could be further from the truth. “Commercial fishermen have a vital interest in keeping everything in balance.”

Crew member aboard “Golden Nugget” with a full bag of porgies and sea bass after a tow.

Dan Cohen, principal owner of Atlantic Cape Fisheries is from fisherman stock. Like a lot of fishermen’s sons, he thought he could steer a course away from commercial fishing. He was wrong. He sees a change in today’s commercial fishermen.

“The last 30 years have been significant. Psychological change has occurred among commercial fishermen who previous to regulation were hunters. Since management we have become more interested in the long-term sustainability of the resource. We’re now viewing this much more as husbandry, or stewardship, or farming.”

For the Walkers, fishing is a family thing passed down through generations. Darren Walker, 17, is the fifth generation of Walker men to go fishing, and both his parents and grandparents wish he would choose another career path.

“I swore I’d never marry a fisherman,” said Marie, whose home near the Cape May canal is adorned with oil paintings of her family’s fishing boats. Marie is married to Big Ronnie, 67, patriarch of the Walker clan, principle of Walker Fisheries Inc. He is Little Ronnie’s father, and part owner along with Albert Cortez of Cape Port Marine Supply. Marie’s father was a fisherman, as are her sons and grandson; Big Ronnie’s father was a fisherman, his father was a fisherman – like Kim Walker says, it’s in the blood. Still Marie would like to see a change in course.

On board the “Mary Anne.”

“I never wanted my sons to be fishermen and I don’t want my grandson to do it. We’ve lost two boats so far and we might not be so lucky the third time,” said Marie.

Undoubtedly, commercial fishing is a dangerous profession.

“Ronnie got stuck by a stingray one time,” added Kim. “It was in the net and got him on deck. They had to operate on him right there. They used a razor blade. Then there’s the occasional steamer that appears out of nowhere in the night and doesn’t see you on its radar. It could run right over you. There are so many factors. Ask Ronnie about the time the boat sank from under him. That story still sends chills up my spine. I went out many years ago. I remember that feeling when I couldn’t see land. It was very strange. I couldn’t do it.”

Crew member aboard “Mary Anne”

Ronnie Walker was aboard Stardust when it went down off Cape May in 1992. He took up roofing for a bit but has since returned to the sea. Many just can’t resist the siren’s song. “[After the boat sank] I bought a small conch boat and I was conchin’ inshore on a small pot boat for a year and a half, but I decided to go back. It was scary but that’s what I did all my life. I ended up going back,” he said.

In spite of the danger, the odd and unpredictable working hours, the maddening and sometimes contradictory federal regulations, the time away from family and the other innumerable reasons to avoid the commercial fishing industry, it seems some are drawn to it for reasons too strong to ignore.

“I tried to get away from it a couple times,” said Rich Hill, owner of the Tina Lynn, who’s been commercial fishing out of Cape May since the 1960s, “but once you get the water in your veins you always end up back in the water again. It’s all I know. It’s a good life if people leave us alone.”

Crew of the “Mary Anne”

Marco “Cobra” Genovese fishes from his boat White Dove.

“Real fishermen go fishin’ to make money but that’s not the main goal. It’s the thrill of the hunt. If you don’t have the thrill of the hunt you’re not going to be very successful. If it’s just a business deal then you’re in trouble,” said Marco.

“I started in 1954, that’s over 50 years in Cape May,” said Harry Axelsson who, like his father and grandfather, earned a living from the sea. Harry came from Sweden in 1954 and found a home in Cape May. “America has been good to me. I don’t regret any of it. I’ve got nothing but good to say about people and this country and everything.

A gull perches on the “Mary Anne”

“[When I started out] there was Italians, Norwegians, Swedes, Finns – It was a mix. They were all nice people and gave you straight answers. We always helped each other when something happened out there, you know? Most of them guys, they would have given their arms to help you out. If you tore a net they came around and helped you to fix it. They never charged nothin’ they just came and helped you out. But there was competition when you was out there. That was fine. Nobody had any problems with that. I enjoyed that.”

Harry’s ships are probably the most visible in Cape May Harbor, the Flicka and Dyrsten. Both are red (Harry’s favorite color is blue but red “shows up good on the water”) and are docked near the Middle Thorofare bridge.

“I thank God everyday for the ability to make a living from the sea.”

steve-spagnuolaAbout the Photographer
Stephen Spagnuola, a graduate of Visual Arts, New York City, worked as art director for many ad agencies in New York before leaving advertising to pursue fashion photography, and worked on such magazines as Stuff, Flatiron, and Zink. Stephen is a freelance photographer and marketing director for Sea Tow Cape May. Visit Steve online


Artificial Reefs: Insurance for Future Fishing

towing 3

An old boat is towed to the Cape May Reef for sinking

editors-note
This article originally appeared in Cape May Magazine, Winter 2008.

On any given day the most popular fishing ground off Cape May is none other than the Cape May Reef, aka the Sanctuary. Located 9.1 nautical miles from Cape May inlet on a course heading of 128 °, it is home to more marine species than any other marine structure inshore. The Cape May Reef is man-made and is the largest artificial reef, at 4.5 square miles, and the oldest artificial reef site in New Jersey. The Cape May Reef was originally started in 1982 by the Cape May County Party and Charter Boat Association. In 1984 the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Division of Fish and Wildlife took over all reef building responsibilities in the state from several private reef associations. It’s been a true success story between man and nature.

The objectives of the reef program are to provide:

  • Hard-substrate “reef” habitat in the ocean for certain species of fish and shellfish.
  • New fishing grounds for anglers.
  • Underwater structure for scuba divers.
  • Economic returns for tourism and sportfishing industries.

prep sinkingBy constructing and managing reefs, the goal is to spread the benefits of the reef’s resources to as many people as possible.

At less than 10 nautical miles from the inlet most boats have the range to fish the Cape May Reef. There are currently two other reef sites off the coast of Cape May County within 10 miles of major inlets: the Wildwood Reef and the T.I. Reef. There are a total of 15 reef sites encompassing a total of 25 square miles of sea floor in New Jersey. Part of the reef’s goal is not to change New Jersey’s marine environment, but to enhance a small controlled portion. Reefs such as the Cape May Reef are home to over 150 marine species. Some of the most common species preferred by anglers and divers are black sea bass, summer flounder, tautog, blue fish, Atlantic bonito, porgy and, of course, lobster.

sinking 2The Cape May Reef works like this: a hard substrate in the ocean provides an attachment surface for a variety of encrusting or fouling organisms called epibenthos such as mussels, sponges and barnacles. This creates a protective mat for species at the bottom of the reef’s food chain, which includes Crabs, Snails and Shrimp. In the middle of the reef’s food chain are bottom fish, like Sea Bass that feed on Crabs and Tautog that feed on Mussels. Schooling bait fish migrating through tend to like high structures such as sunken ships. Pelagic predators (free swimming) including Sharks, Blue Fish and Mahi Mahi are at the top of the reef’s food chain feeding on these bait fish and each other. Hard substrates also protect fish from not only predators but surges and current. Reefs create a cycle of life that is critical in supporting life in the ocean.

Removing the wheel house before sinking

The wheel house is removed prior to sinking

Since New Jersey has a very gently sloping, shallow coastal floor with very little hard structure such as outcroppings, and, although there are an estimated 500 to 3,000 shipwrecks off  New Jersey’s coast, many of these wrecks are slowly destroyed over time by the forces of the sea. The intentional sinking of vessels helps to replace deteriorating wrecks. As of 2007, the Cape May Reef is home to 21 sunken ships such as clam boats, Coast Guard cutters, cargo ships and tug boats. Other structures sunk at the reef are subway cars, barges, concrete ballasted tires, concrete castings and army tanks. All of these ships and structures have to be cleaned of all pollutants and pass a U.S. Coast Guard pollution inspection. All loose and floating debris must be removed as well. The next step is to vent all internal water, tighten bulkheads and, in some cases, cut holes just above the water line to assist in the sinking of the vessel. These holes are covered with a “soft patch” such as plywood to prevent leaking during the tow to the reef.

Reef balls

Concrete reef balls

Another very important structure are reef balls made entirely of concrete four feet in diameter and weighing 1,800 pounds each. These reef balls resemble small igloos with many holes. In the fall of 2007 over 500 of these reef balls will be towed by barge by Sea Tow Cape May and sunk on the reefs’ sites off Cape May County. It’s important to note that most of the sinkings of these structures are funded by the private sector such as the sportfishing fund and non-profit organizations that have raised donations from fishing and diving clubs. Without these clubs and organizations much of the success from the reef program would not be possible.

sinking1

Most of the fishing on the Cape May Reef is done by drifting and fishing off the bottom and, since it’s such a large reef with so much structure, fishermen can make long drifts and the reef can handle hundreds of boats fishing the reef at the same time. Most of the drift fishing is done in the middle of the reef in approximately 65 feet of water. The northern end of the reef is the shallowest area – about 55 feet. Wrecks and reef balls are spaced far enough apart that boats can easily anchor. The lower end of the reef is the deepest at about 70 feet. Here there are larger wrecks and subway cars. This area is preferred by scuba divers. Many party and charter boats fish the Cape May reef daily from late spring through the fall. Most of these trips last between six and eight hours.

sinking8

Artificial reefs such as the Cape May Reef ensure fishing for future generations. So, next time you fish the reef and your fishing rig gets snagged, think of what’s below you and all the work it took to enable you to catch that fish!

steve-spagnuolaStephen Spagnuola, a graduate of Visual Arts, New York City, worked as art director for many ad agencies in New York before leaving advertising to pursue fashion photography, and worked on such magazines as Stuff, Flatiron, and Zink. Stephen is a freelance photographer and marketing director for Sea Tow Cape May. Visit Steve online


Striper Season

steve spagnuola 2photo

editors-note
This article originally appeared in Cape May Magazine, Fall 2008.

Crisp west winds awake the Cape. Yes, fall is finally here! It’s the beginning of the season, for the most sought after fish – Striped Bass! Striped Bass or “Stripers” as the locals call them, is to New Jersey what Salmon is to Alaska. Stripers have made the biggest comeback of any fish species in modern history. In the late 70s and 80s the Stripers were on the endangered list. Before the 70s they were so abundant they were used for fertilizer. The comeback of these fish has created a spark in the local economy. It’s extended the boating season six to eight weeks. In fact, up to 60 percent of boaters and fishermen keep their boats in the water through “Striper season.”

The trickle down is that bait and tackle shops are loaded with customers each morning buying fresh bait and tackle. Local bars and restaurants are filled at Happy Hour with fishermen chatting about where the “bite” is. Wawa is packed to the gills every morning at 5:00 a.m. with people going Striper fishing.

off the hook b&t striper3There are two local tournaments for Stripers held in Cape May that draw anglers into town as well. Talk to one out of three locals and, I’ll bet you, they fish for stripers or know someone that does. You might say Stripers are a way of life in Cape May.

Stripers have a lot going for them. They are very good eating, can be caught close to shore, and are great fish to catch because of their great fight. The two most common ways to catch Stripers are chunking and drifting live baits. Chunking generally starts the second week of October. Look for these fish in areas like Sixty Foot Slough, Twenty Foot Slough, Brandywine Shoal and the Horseshoe where chunking boats will anchor up and fish four lines. The tackle used is a 36 inch/50 pound leader tied to a 5/0 hook with a fish finder rig with a 4-8 ounce weigh.

off the hook B & T striperFresh Bunker is the key. The fresher the Bunker, the more fish you will catch, period! Fresh Herring also works well. The baits are fished whole and cut into parts such as the head and body. If you want to catch trophy size Striper, chunking is the way to go!  Stripers range in weight – anywhere from 20 pounds to over 60 pounds!

The second most common method for catching Stripers is drifting live baits such as Eels, Spot fish and Croakers. The areas that are most common are known as “the rips,” an area where the bay and ocean meet around Cape May Point. In this area there are numerous shoals in which bait fish school up. Stripers feed on these bait fish. Baits are drifted over these shoals using 5/0 circle hooks with a 34” leader and 3-ounce drail weight. Fishing the rips is not for the faint hearted. It’s not uncommon to have 5-foot breaking waves moving over the shoals. Make sure you initially go out with someone who has fished the rips before.

Prissywick, Eph, Middle and Overfalls shoals are the most common areas when fishing the rips. Late November through December you can chase birds like “gannets” and gig bucktails with white or pink artificial worms. Stripers can also be caught off the beach on lumps and clam beds. The bait of choice is clam. This fishing usually starts late November until mid December. You can use the same tackle set up as you would drifting live baits over the rips.

off  the hook b&t striperYou do not need a boat to catch stripers. In fact the current IGFA world record of 77 pounds was caught on a jetty in New Jersey waters. When fishing from shore, use plugs and bucktails. At night, drift live eels without the drail weight. The jetties and beaches from the “gun mount” to the point are always productive, as the jetties around Cold Spring Inlet or the Cape May Inlet, as it’s commonly called.

No matter how you fish for Stripers, the most important thing is to fish for them during the incoming or outgoing tide. Fishing around the change of tide is generally most productive.

steve spagnuola 1 photoWhen Striper fishing, there are some things to note: These fish are considered game fish and are protected. As such, the current regulations are two fish at 28” or greater per angler. Fish must be caught within three miles from shore. Three miles or greater is illegal. You will not see striped bass on any menus in restaurants in New Jersey because it is illegal to sell them commercially. If you do see it, it’s not “wild caught” striped bass, and will not taste nearly as good.

Charter and party boats all fish for striped bass. Most trips are eight hours. Boats will target these fish from mid-October until late December. So, if you have the summertime blues or football’s not your thing, give striper fishing a shot and don’t be surprised if you, too don’t “get hooked”!

steve-spagnuolaStephen Spagnuola, a graduate of Visual Arts, New York City, worked as art director for many ad agencies in New York before leaving advertising to pursue fashion photography, and worked on such magazines as Stuff, Flatiron, and Zink. Stephen is a freelance photographer and marketing director for Sea Tow Cape May.. Visit Steve online


Time for Variety

Photo by Jim Gatto

White Marlin. Photo by Jim Gatto

editors-note
This article originally appeared in Cape May Magazine, August 2007.

August – the month when summer is at its peak. This is none the less true for fishing in Cape May. The month of August brings forth the largest variety of fish species caused by the large numbers of bait fish both inshore and off shore….and as they say “the big fish eats the little fish.” August is a great time for tournament fishing as well, boasting one of the largest and richest tournaments in the world – the Mid-Atlantic $500,000 (MA-500).

The ocean temperature inshore and offshore is at its warmest this time of the year. Offshore, warm bodies of water broken off by the Gulf Stream called “eddys” form a temperature break. Find a temperature break, there you’ll find a number of “pelagic” fish such as Tuna, Marlin, Wahoo and Mahi feeding on bait fish. It’s truly something, this circle of life out in the ocean. Most of the areas that are affected by these temperature breaks are from the 30-fathom line out to the canyons to the 1,000-fathom line.

Boats will fish these areas using a couple of different techniques. The two most popular are trolling and chunking. When trolling boats will fish five or more rods pulling lures and Ballyhoo, Spanish Mackeral and Mullet. The boat will be moving between five and eight knots. When trolling, you want to create what is called a “spread.” Your spread looks like a school of bait fish to the fish below, thus causing them to spark into feeding mode, and the next thing you know: “Fish on!” Expect to catch Longfin Tuna, Yellowfin Tuna, Wahoo, Mahi, Blue and White Marlin.

Photo by Jim Gatto

Dolphin fish (Mahi). Photo by Jim Gatto

The second method is called chunking, which can be done day and night, as opposed to trolling which is done at night. Chunking using bait such as butterfish, peanut bunker and sardines are most popular in our area. Many anglers will also jig, using a technique of jerking the pole up and dropping it down at a certain depth with a lure.

Another great idea when chunking is to fish live bait such as bluefish or spotfish. Most boats will fish four to five fishing rods with baits at different depths and drift or anchor over structures such as lumps, canyons and depressions. On the chunk, you’ll catch yellowfin tuna, longfin tuna, mahi, and, at night, swordfish. Both chunking and trolling involve running out 35 to over 75 miles offshore, and most trips run by charter boats are from 12 to 30 hours.

Fishing inshore is also a great way to spend some time on the water. It’s a great month for Flounder, Sea Bass, Bluefish and Bonita. Flounder can be caught in the back bays, Delaware Bay and in the ocean. In the back bays Grassy Sound and in front of the Coast Guard base are always great spots for Flounder. You’re fishing the bottom using Flounder rigs, live minnows or stripped squid as bait. This holds true for fishing the Delaware Bay as well. Areas such as Brown Shoal, and the light houses such as Brandywine, Fourteen Foot Bank Light, Abandon Lighthouse, aka the Oldhouse or Blockhouse, and Miah Maull Shoal are great spots.

Photo by Stephen Spagnuola

Wahoo. Photo by Stephen Spagnuola

When fishing for Flounder in the ocean, areas like the Cape May Reef and the Old Grounds are two of my favorites, except to catch larger flounder, but make sure you make your baits a bit longer. Do not be surprised to catch a mixed bag of sea bass and bluefish when fishing in the ocean, as well. The last couple of years have been banner years for inshore trolling for bonitas and bluefish at East Lump. FA buoy and Five Fathom Shoal are a few of the more popular spots. Both party boats and charter boats run inshore and offshore trips. Most trips are from four to eight hours long.

If fishing off a boat is not your game, try fishing under the Ocean Drive bridge and the back bay sod banks during the incoming tide. You’ll catch Bluefish and Striper using lures such as “bucktails,” plugs and jig head with artificial worms or sassy shads. On the ocean side fishing Poverty Beach and all the jetties down past The Point will produce just as well, both day and night.

Well, the month comes to the end with the MA-500 August 16th through the 21st. Boats from around the world come to compete in, boat for boat, the richest fishing tournament in the world! This is also one of the biggest White Marlin tournaments. In 2006 over 250 boats competed in the MA-500 with total prize money close to $2 million. Weigh-ins start at around 4 p.m. and are open to the public free of charge. It’s a standing room-only crowd with hundreds of people on the dock during weigh-in hoping to catch a glance at some of the biggest fish in the ocean.

So, if you’re ready to get in on some of the hottest fishing on the east coast the month of August in Cape May is where it’s at. Fishing not only makes great stories, it brings family and friends together for more than just the average everyday at the beach.

steve-spagnuolaStephen Spagnuola, a graduate of Visual Arts, New York City, worked as art director for many ad agencies in New York before leaving advertising to pursue fashion photography, and worked on such magazines as Stuff, Flatiron, and Zink. Stephen is a freelance photographer and marketing director for Sea Tow Cape May.. Visit Steve online