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Hop Aboard Mighty Heron Charters for Family-Friendly Fishing Trips

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Mighty Heron Charters owner Michael Doebley is joined by crew member Logan Monteleone on the company's 28-foot fishing boat.

By KELLY McCARTHY

It’s a sunny, warm Saturday afternoon in mid-summer and a father and his young son, who is grinning from ear to ear, are about to go out fishing on a three-hour bay trip adventure with Captain Michael Doebley, of Mighty Heron Charters at Seaview Harbor Marina, in Longport.

Previously, Mighty Heron was docked out of Smith’s Marina in Somers Point.

Doebley, known as “Captain Mike,” works hard to find some of the best catches. And he knows where to drop a line. So, the father and son are pretty much guaranteed a stellar fishing experience.

“Since we had pretty good luck yesterday at this same time, my intention is to go right up behind Longport,” says Doebley. “If we get into the flounder there, great! If not, I’m thinking, move over to the Great Egg Harbor Inlet and see if we can find some croakers.”

If you’ve never heard of a croaker, according to Doebley, it’s a small, silvery and beautiful fish. And they’re edible. Something that’s a win-win for everyone on board.

“Croaker’s take bait very easily,” says Doebley. “When you get into them, they are thick, non-stop action. And if you catch enough of them and I clean them up, the filets are small, but I show them how to make fish tacos.”

Flounder are a favorite fish to catch. (Photo courtesy of Mighty Heron Charters)

Doebley, who after a day of running his charter trips, will come home and cook a myriad of delicious fish dishes for his wife, Deb, co-owner of Mighty Heron, and the namesake of its vessel, a 28-foot Steiger Craft boat, with twin Yamaha 250-horsepower engines, named Miss Debwa.

Doebley is clearly all about family, and fishing. About his father, Gene Doebley’s role at Mighty Heron Charters, Michael says, “He’s our pit crew.”

A mentor, Doebley also believes in bringing up the next generation of sea-loving staff as his boat crew.

“I pride myself on hiring young people,” says Doebley. “Like Captain Greg Harwig, who helps me out so I can get a couple of days off. He’s a sophomore at West Chester University. Logan Monteleone just graduated from Ocean City High School and is going to college in the fall. John Williams is going to be a sophomore at Ocean City High School. I like to find them young with the right personality. They understand they are there to help and guide.”

Michael Doebley holds a net filled with croaker fish caught on a charter trip.

Doebley’s own passion for fishing began early. You could say he grew up on the water, having been raised right outside of Cape May. It’s an inner joy that he likes to share with the families that he takes out fishing, making memories for his clients, and reliving some of his own fond recollections.

“We used to go to this little creek that kind of ran alongside the parkway, and we would go there and crab, and catch spot fish or snapper blues,” recalls Doebley. “It was exciting. We’d go out with my parents and my brothers. And you just never knew what was going to come up next.”

“Just being outdoors and learning about the birds and the crabs, and the fish. For an inquisitive kid who likes the action of fishing, it was a great place to be,” he adds.

Today, that kid who was full of curiosity is living the dream. Doebley spends his days at the helm of Miss Debwa, enjoying the seafaring craft.

“The nice thing about Steiger Craft is they are built by fishermen for fishermen,” says Doebley. “So, it’s very spacious. It’s very stable. It’s got very powerful motors. And just a lot of features that make it a good fishing boat.”

Mighty Heron Charters’ 28-foot Steiger Craft returns to the dock at Seaview Harbor Marina.

Not only does the Steiger Craft have great power, but it offers those necessary creature comforts whether clients are on a tuna trip offshore, where the day out at sea can be 12 to 16 hours, or more often during the summer months, those three-hour bay trips that are perfect for families with children ranging from all ages.

“We have a small cabin where there is a toilet, and then there’s an enclosable helm station, so if you want to get out of the sun or get out of the rain, you can duck up under that and when we’re fishing in the cold in November and December, we can actually enclose it in canvas and warm it up,” Doebley says.

According to Doebley, Mighty Heron’s popular three-hour fishing trip is primarily done on the Great Egg Harbor Bay, where fishing takes place between Somers Point and Ocean City, or behind Longport and Margate.

On these excursions the catch is mostly flounder, sometimes weakfish, and small bluefish, and due to this season’s large numbers, croakers.

Then there’s the five-hour fishing trip, where the Miss Debwa goes out up to 10 miles in the ocean, where a variety of fish are typically caught. Doebley likes to run those trips when the water starts to get really warm, around mid-June until around the middle or end of September, when the catch might include cobia, Spanish mackerel, and the little tunny fish.

Asked what some of the biggest catches that were caught during a Mighty Heron charter trip, Doebley says, “We break that down into categories. Like a shark would be, let’s say eight, or nine feet long. For tuna, the biggest caught on this boat was 189 pounds, biggest stripper 40 pounds, biggest flounder about eight and a half pounds. Each fish’s size, shape, and weight are different.”

A young fisherman shows off his catch on a Mighty Heron Charters trip. (Photo courtesy of Mighty Heron Charters)

Doebley says the first thing to expect from a fishing trip with Mighty Heron Charters is that the entire crew is there to help guests every step of the way. You can show up with zero experience, and the crew members will offer lessons and guidance so you can pick up the basics of fishing.

“We clean and bag your catch for you,” says Doebley. “We always try to incorporate a little bit about the biology of the fish. We point out the various shore birds that we go by, such as osprey nests and herons.”

Doebley offers a family fun day, and he assures parents that when they are fishing on the bay, it’s really like fishing on a small lake. It’s calm. So, if there’s any concern about motion sickness for young children, it’s a very safe, stable environment.

“It’s funny,” says Doebley, “We target fish that people like to eat, but what the kids get excited about, more often than not, is the sand sharks. That gets them going and squealing with delight. And they’re just fascinated with the idea that they caught a shark.”

“It’s really a smooth dogfish,” adds Doebley, “but, hey, to them it’s a sand shark, and life is good.”

The Mighty Heron Charters boat is based at Seaview Harbor Marina, 303 Longport Boulevard, Longport, N.J. For more information about charters or to book trips, visit mightyheroncharters.com or call (609) 513-4427.

Mighty Heron Charters is based at the Seaview Harbor Marina in Longport.