LONG BEACH ISLAND REGION — The 2019 fishing season is drawing to a close. There are still a goodly number of small stripers in the surf for those hardy enough to get on the beach and wet a line.

In addition, I continue to get reports about the continued hot blackfish action on various inshore and further out structure. This is a great fishery right now. There are still various captains running trips. I know that Brett Taylor of Reel Reaction Sportfishing is still fishing as he keeps sending me pictures of happy and successful anglers holding big tog.

The results of the Long Beach Island Surf Fishing Classic are in, and they show a dramatic drop in numbers of fish weighed in. Only 15 striped bass were entered, and not a single bluefish.

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Mike Curtin took top prize with his bass that weighed 35.72-pounds. Mike caught the fish on November 7. Brandon Pomykacz took second with a fish weighing 25.12-pounds, and Chris McIntee took third with his fish weighing in at 17.18-pounds. Congratulations to the winners and all those anglers who participated. Here is hoping that next year we see a rebound.

We are coming down the home stretch for Christmas now. With time running short, I figure I had better try to get my shopping done at least a few days before the stores get really busy, and the shelves start to empty out.

When I am doing my Christmas shopping, I try to shop at the local level as much as possible. By local I mean the bait and tackle shops and other stores we often call “mom and pop” businesses. I know that big box stores and online shopping have their place, but we would be in sad shape if our local places closed.

A goodly number of these places stay open until Christmas to handle those of us looking for fishing related gifts. Some even have Christmas sales. This can be a good time to shop as the stores will have their new lines of merchandise in the spring and they would like to clear some of the shelves now to make room for the new items.

One of my favorite local stores is the Boat Shop in Manahawkin. Lynn and Dave Schuda provide a wide range of items for both casual and serious boaters and at good prices. They recently sent me a note that they have expanded their store and now sell an extended line of boating and fishing clothing.

Right now, the brands are Marshwear, AFTCO, Mojo and ExtraTuff Boots.  The store will be adding a more clothing brands after the new year. I don’t want to be guilty of plugging one business over another, but I plan to stop by this week just to check out their new lines. 

And now here is my Christmas gift to each of you who read this. It comes in the form of a tip. Why don’t you get a jump on the fishing year 2020? Take two minutes right now to renew your New Jersey fishing registration. It does not cost anything, and you will have it done for when you make that first trip next year. Don’t be one of those people who forgets about it until you are out on the water. Here is the link for the registration https://www.nj.gov/dep/saltwaterregistry/index.html. Be sure to have a blessed holiday season and see you next year.

Anyone with questions or fishing reports is welcome to contact me at jamesghutch1@aol.com.