Story by Tom Pagliaroli

Fishing tournaments centered around striped bass and bluefish are springing up like May dandelions, some offering 100% paybacks, some donating part of the entry fees to a specific cause or charity, and some more giving it all to the former.

Lengths of the competition range from a weekend (the October 13-15 Hi-Mar Striper Club’s 3rd Annual Bob Kamienski 40-hour Striped Bass Tournament, for example) to the Surf City Bait & Tackle Striper Tournament that continues to 11:59 p.m. New Year’s Eve.

No doubt the longest running and most popular suds shootout that draws hundreds upon hundreds of entries every fall is the Long Beach Island (LBI) Surf Fishing Classic that extends through December 10th.

With eight weeks remaining, this cash and prize-laden tournament is celebrating an amazing 63rd year, and offers myriad daily, weekly, segment and grand prize awards for stripers and blues, and even grants a special $100 cash prize for the first red drum brought in to one of the four weigh-in/registrations stations. The grand prize for the heaviest bass is a wide-smile $2000, with a wallet-pleasing $1000 prize for the heaviest blue. In the interim are dozens upon dozens, upon dozens of more prizes ranging from $500 cash, to premium reels and rods, lines, plugs and bucktails to $50 WaWa cards, and just about everything in between. There are special youth division prizes as well. It’s strictly a land-based tournament and is restricted to the 18-miles of sand stretching from Barnegat Light south to Holgate.

The entry fee is $30 for adults and $15 for youngsters 15 years of age and under.

Registration and weigh-in stations include Fisherman’s Headquarters (Ship Bottom), Surf City Bait & Tackle (Surf City; features an always fully stocked Halloween candy dish at the register), Captain’s Quarters (Long Beach Twp.) and Jingles Bait & Tackle (Beach Haven).

John DeBona/Fisherman Magazine

Skinny Stripers

Speaking of stripers…while waiting for the oceanfront run to get underway, do not overlook the hot skinny water striper fishing occurring in the back bays, tidal rivers, and ICW. From the Manasquan River to the Mullica River, it’s been ranging from fire to inferno with bass that are blasting poppers, swimming plugs, bucktails, and jig head/Gulp! combinations. They are also assaulting eel and spot baits in criminal fashion.

The downside, if there is one, is that about 90% of the stripers will be sub-legal, as in 16 to 24 inches, significantly less than the 28-inch minimum. But…if you have a striped bass bonus tag (visit www.njfishandwildlife.com, click on the saltwater fishing link and then the application form…the cost is $2), you will be able to keep one bass from 24-inches to just under 28-inches. An upside? There are still decent size pods of bluefish present in the back gorging on mullet and peanut bunker, and these will range from 2 pounds to 20 pounds. Throw in husky keeper weakfish to 18-plus inches and, yeah, let’s get in the back.

No boat? No worries, as some good fishing occurs along the sedge banks and other access points such as docks and bay beaches. Still, a float will get you to more fish as more water can be covered. Three top charter outfits are Hi Flier Sportfishing (Capt. Dave DeGennaro; 732-330-5674), Miss Liane Sportfishing (Capt. Cool Ray Lopez; 908-319-6751), and Absecon Bay Sportsman (Capt. Dave Showell; 609-484-0409).

"Blueclaw Boss" Moe Bilicki with two bushels

Getting Really Crabby

Sure, crabbing is a fun time, summertime thing…ideal for families and an enjoyable way to put a dinner or two together.

However, from now through the first, maybe second week in November (barring a frigid mud-digging early autumn blast), it’s CRABBING TIME as in crustaceans point-to-point the size of dinner plates and claws with the muscle (read: meat) power to snap an index finger.

And in bushel-busting numbers.“I always wait until the first, maybe

“I always wait until the first, maybe second week in October to really get on the crabs,” says Shrewsbury River/Barnegat Bay “Blueclaw Boss” Moe Bilicki, exclaiming “They are at their biggest sizes of the season and are eating like crazy getting ready to go in the mud for the winter. Sure, it’ll be really chilly out and the water is getting colder, but they eat right until it (the water) reaches about 54 degrees. Big crabs, lotsa meat and hardly anybody is out there with traps or hand lines. Can’t beat the action!”

Fall crabbing is chicken chomp time. Sure, bunker or a small bluefish or a bluefish fillet will catch crabs, but not like chicken backs, necks, legs or thighs will. For whatever reason, biddy meat is preferred, and will pretty much out-catch other baits exponentially.

Just load up on the Old Bay, big time…

More from The Hawk: