It was a weekend to stay at home
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Star-Ledger Staff
The weekend weather could have been worse, but not much. Thunder, lightning, rain and east winds combined to scare off all but the hardiest anglers in the morning, and very few showed up for afternoon party boat trips.

If Capt. Victor Medina of Newark hadn't entered the Wiggle Rig Fluke-Master Tournament, Team Wellcraft wouldn't have left Twin Lights Marina in Highlands Saturday morning. It was too rough to get down the beach, but we worked Ambrose Channel for a pick of N.Y. 18-inch keepers, though Matt Calabria of Hazlet, Art Berkman from Pompton Plains, Steve Struniewski of Riverdale, and Orlando Arana of Newark couldn't find the bigger fluke we needed. After the rain and wind, conditions actually got better by late morning, and we were holding with relatively light jigs and sinkers before the wind came back up again by early afternoon and we returned early. Our three-fluke total, weighed at Julian's Tackle in Atlantic Highlands, had us in first until reality set in when anglers weighed in at Jersey Coast Tackle in Brick.Fred Heydorn and Ron Fraga won the contest on Miss Vic II out of Tuckerton by weighing in a catch totaling 16 1/2 pounds. Bob Casale and Dave Morra of Brick were just a quarter-pound behind. Rich Johnson, John Cole, Ron Fillman, and Frank Florio weighed in at 15 pounds at Jersey Coast for third. Though Al Fasano was well back of the leaders at 13 1/4 pounds on Nikki Jean, he boated the single largest fluke at 9 1/4 pounds.

As bad as it was inshore, those who were canyon fishing Friday night had an even tougher time. Captains Dave Bender and Kevin Gerrity ran Jenny Lee from Manasquan for a Friday overnighter after getting a forecast of light winds for Saturday, but it was already ugly by the time they reached Hudson Canyon with the Tim Cunningham party from Colts Neck.

A white marlin was lost and a 40-pound albacore boated while trolling. Chunking started well in the dark as four yellowfin tuna up to 70 pounds were caught before the bite died. The only other excitement came when the swordfish rod went off, but the fish that came up after over an hour's battle was a hammerhead shark over 350 pounds. Jenny Lee left at dawn to sail home through severe thunderstorms.

Fred Hill fished to virtually the last moment before dying in his sleep Saturday night at 91 in Atlantic Beach, N.Y. Hill's Four Queens was a familiar sight in N.Y. Bight-Raritan Bay waters, and Jesse York of Atlantic Beach was running it Saturday morning when they caught stripers on clams off the Rockaways. Hill hooked his last bass before handing the rod to his nephew. Hill's health deteriorated rapidly this year. He had to be carried to the boat, and needed oxygen tanks with him, but never gave up his first love. That 1987 55-foot Hatteras is now up for sale.

Last week's Mid-Atlantic $500,000 Tournament enjoyed generally fine weather and a hot white marlin bite. The big winner was Steve Castellini's's Uncle T, with an 88-pound white marlin that brought a tournament-record single-fish cash payout of $803,415.

Capt. Rich Swisstack and Dave Torrick took a break from striper fishing out of Morgan to join Jim Elek of Woodbridge on his Negotiator with Capt. Ken Gallop. They started out well when Swisstack boated a 61-pound white, though that didn't prove big enough. Torrick released a white Thursday before a blast of bigeyes provided them with what they needed. Swisstack boated a 123-pounder that took second in that division, which earned $87,460.36 for Elek while their tuna total also earned the points award.

Another tournament record was set by Al Conan's Ditch Digger for both most white marlin and overall points with 1,950 as they released 26 whites. The contest total came to 533 whites released and 16 brought to the scales. With 16 blues released and six weighed, the total of 577 billfish was another tournament record -- and over 95 percent were released. Since 176 boats each fished three days, the average was better than one billfish per boat per day.

Joe Fishler of Keyport brought a 10-pound doormat fluke into Crabby's Tackle in that town a week ago, and followed up last week with fluke of 13, 12.5 and 9 pounds on snappers off Sandy Hook.

Al Ristori appears regularly in The Star-Ledger. He may be reached at