Story by Tom P.

There's still time to enter the 26th Annual Governor’s Surf Fishing Tournament at Island Beach State Park. Fluke regulations are set. Memorial Day weekend kicks off the camping “season”. Time to enjoy the woods!

Since it was moved from the first Sunday in October to the third Sunday in May, the Governor’s Surf Tournament has witnessed great catches and plenty of fun for both the serious suds prowler to the family out for a day of fishing fun.  Last year, there were 600 registered anglers.

The massive springtime invasion of cocktail-to-chopper bluefish certainly helped in keeping the rods bent and smiles wide. A total of 245 blues were beached, and so far this spring it looks like it will be a repeat of last year’s catch-fest that also included a trio or stripers.

The event is this Sunday, May 21st, and registration is at Pavilion 1 in Island Beach State Park beginning at 5 a.m. Fishing is from 6:30 a.m.-1 p.m. and from the beach only. No boats or kayaks and no fishing in the bay. The awards ceremony kicks off at 2 p.m.

Entry is $20 for adults and $5 for youths 13-17 years of age. All youngsters 12 years old and under will be admitted free, but they must be accompanied by an adult.  All contestants 16 years of age and older must be in possession of their 2017 NJ Saltwater Registry.

The categories are bluefish (14-inch minimum), striped bass (28-inch minimum), red (18-27 inches) and black drum (16-inch minimum), kingfish (10-inch minimum) and weakfish (13-inch minimum). The angler catching the overall largest fish will have his/her name engraved on the Governor’s Cup that is displayed at Island Beach State Park.

Dakota Hahn, winner of the 2016 Governor's Surf Tournament with a 43-1/2 inch striped bass. Photo by NJ Divison of Fish & Wildlife
Dakota Hahn, winner of the 2016 Governor's Surf Tournament with a 43-1/2 inch striped bass. Photo by NJ Divison of Fish & Wildlife

At last year’s tournament, Dakota Hahn took top overall honors with a 43-1/2 inch striper. He won a pair of premium rod/reel combos, a pair of very pricey Costa Del Mar shades and a plaque.  Fishing tackle is awarded to those catching the biggest fish in each species category.

Be a part of what is a great outdoor event. For more info visit

Fluke season: After much back and forth from those who wanted a shorter minimum length limit (18 inches) and those desiring a longer season (128 days) with its 19 inch minimum length limit, the New Jersey Marine Fisheries Council decided at a meeting on Wednesday evening at the Avalon Community Hall to go with a 104 day season extending from May 25th through September 5th and an 18-inch minimum length. The bag limit will be three fluke.

Delaware Bay anglers will have a 17-inch minimum length and three fish max and those surf fishing in Island Beach State Park will have a two fluke limit with a 16-inch bottom end.

Camping: Tent (ground or on a platform), lean-to, cabin, yurt, pop-up camper, fully outfitted RV…private or state, New Jersey offers many camping opportunities. Be it a hardcore overnighter who prefers to pack everything in on his/her back or by boat, or a family looking to enjoy a weekend in comfort while exploring the outdoors, there is something for everyone.

The private campgrounds are far more “family friendly” insofar as facilities and activities, with state camping areas running the gamut from easy peasy to primitive campsites off the beaten track but still accessible by vehicle (Wharton State Forest/Atlantic-Burlington-Camden counties) to having to hike in or get to the campsite by boat (Round Valley State Park/Hunterdon County).

To be sure, the Garden State’s diverse topography and surprisingly expansive rural tracts, from the Highlands Region to the Jersey Shore, with camping opportunities to satisfy those who enjoy overnighting in the outdoors as well as fishing, ‘yakking and canoeing, hiking and exploring. By all means, if planning on hiking and exploring, be sure to be protected against ticks and, in southern NJ, those godawful chiggers.

Following is a short list of some private campgrounds (Google these) and state parks and forests worth investigating.

Private: Tip Tam (Jackson/Ocean County); Baker’s Acres (Little Egg Harbor/Ocean County); Surf & Stream (Tom’s River/Ocean County); Timberland Lake (Cream Ridge/Ocean County); Birch Grove Park (Northfield/Atlantic County); Indian Branch (Hammonton/Atlantic County); Buena Vista (Buena/Atlantic County); King Nummy Trail (Cape May Court House/Cape May County); Whippoorwill (Marmora (Cape May County).

State*: Allaire State Park (Monmouth County); Belleplain State Forest (Cape May County); Bass River State Forest (Atlantic County); Spruce Run State Park, Vorhees State Park and Round Valley State Park (Hunterdon County); Wharton State Forest (Atlantic/Burlington/Camden counties); Brendan Byrne State Forest (Ocean/Burlington counties; Stokes State Forest (Sussex County) and High Point State Park, Swartswood State Park and Wawayanda State Park (Sussex County).

*To reserve a site in a state park or forest, you must call Reserve America (1-855-607-3075; 8 a.m.-8 p.m. M-F and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

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