Spent top of the tide looking for Bass and Weakfish with no success. Giuys chasing fluke were rewarded on outgoing tide. I will probably chase fluke tomorrow. Water is still cold

Columns | Thu, 04/25/2013 – 10:47 am | Updated 1 day 8 hours ago | Read 15 | Commented 0 | Emailed 0
By Rosemarie Whelan

“I caught my first striped bass in 1950 on the day the Phillies clinched the pennant,” said local legend Bill Shillingford (Bucktail Willie), noting that the size of the fish was “19 inches.” Shillingford was the guest speaker at the April meeting of the Strathmere Fishing and Environmental Club, and he was certainly a wealth of information as he spoke about “fishing in this area for over 60 years.”

Remembering the ’62 storm, Shillingford said that “there were a lot of changes in Fish Stocks after the storm.” He remarked that “winter flounder picked up a disease and were wiped out, summer flounder started a rapid decline, striped bass were declining, and finally there was a moratorium on striped bass until the late 90’s.

” Shillingford added that “weakfish were abundant from the early 60’s to the early 90’s,” and that “the sizes were huge – 15 to 17 lb. weakfish were common up and down the coast before they experienced a rapid decline.” He continued, saying that “in the mid 90’s weakfish disappeared,” but “there are signs in the past couple of years that they may be returning.”

Shillingford spoke about becoming involved with the “American Littoral Society Tagging Program in 1989, after seeing the decline of my favorite fish,” and he has been tagging ever since. He has tagged over 17,000 fish, and discussed interesting fluke recaptures. One fluke was tagged in Strathmere on Sept, 27, 1998 at a size of 11 inches, and the tag was returned noting that it was recaptured on May 25, 2000 at 16 inches in Baldwin, NY.

Another was tagged on June 24, 2008 at 14 inches on the Intracoastal Waterway in Ocean City and caught on June 13, 2010 at 19-1/4 inches in Merrick Bay, NY. If you catch a fish with a yellow tag and return the tag, along with information about the fish’s recapture, both you and the person who tagged the fish will receive a “fish tagger’s jacket patch.”

For more information about the American Littoral Society, including downloading the form to return a tag, or if you are interested in becoming a tagger, visit www.littoralsociety.org.

Fluke-catching techniques were also discussed by Shillingford. He said that “every year I come up with new ideas,” and that he is “always experimenting.” He described what to look for to find flounder, what he uses to catch summer flounder, and he spoke about bait options.

Shillingford brought copies of fluke biology and migration patterns for distribution, and then took questions from Club members.

I asked Bucktail how his name came about, and he said, “I started making my own bucktail jigs back in the late 60’s,” and “came up with a torpedo style bucktail that I began using for striped bass.” He added that “I gave some of my bucktail jigs to a long-time Strathmere resident,” also named Bill, “who was the best striped bass fisherman I ever knew,” and “he caught fish on them that very day and began calling me Bucktail Willie.” As “time went on, the name just stuck and stayed with me over the years, and friends and others picked up on it.”

Bill Shillingford (Bucktail Willie) is a New Jersey Representative on the Summer Flounder Advisory Board for the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Council.

For further information about the Strathmere Fishing and Environmental Club, including becoming a member, visit www.strathmerefishing.org.