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Ristori: 34 1/2-pound striper sets bar

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Star-Ledger Staff

No sooner had Steve Hewko of Middletown jumped this season's standard for striped bass up to 25 pounds Thursday night at the Spy House Pier than Jay Bardenhagen of Union Beach made that fish look small when he beached a 34 1/2-pounder Saturday morning.

Phillip Sciortino of the Tackle Box in Hazlet said Bardenhagen brought the bass in at 8:30 a.m. after catching it on a sandworm at Union Beach. Stripers that large are unusual even during the peak of the Raritan Bay spring run.

The 10th annual John Murphy/Bob Hunter Memorial Flounder Tournament was a success Saturday as the weather was perfect and there were lots of big flounders. Tom Morford of Atlantic Yachts in Middletown reports the $300 first place went to Gene Bradford of Rumson with a 2.54-pounder from the Shrewsbury, which edged a 2.46-pound entry by Roger Housman of Sayreville who collected $150. Bill Ferraro from Highlands took the $75 for third with a 2.22-pound flounder that was matched by the boys under-12 winner, Kyle Bisaccio of North Haledon. Nicole Kondratyka from Laurence Harbor led the girls with a 1.91-pounder.

Morford said this was the best event they've had as over 100 flounders were weighed and Bahrs Landing was "splitting its seams" with people watching the weigh-ins. Morford and his wife, Sasha, ran a Stamas 27 from Twin Lights Marina in Highlands up the Navesink but managed only three flounders and didn't see any better on other boats. Then he returned to Twin Lights only to find a young girl fishing in his slip had seven flounders in her bucket!

Raritan Bay flounder fishing, in the western end, was quite good over the weekend. Henry Kong of Colonia said he fished Saturday with Jeff, Jack and Tom Orr on Capt. Vito Manzi's Miss Lynn out of Morgan as they left the flounders biting at 3 p.m. after putting 106 in the box. There were only two undersized flatties and one short striper, but they had so many skates at the first drop that a move was required.

The weatherman was up to his old tricks again Sunday with a horrible forecast of gale-force winds and storms that resulted in party boats sailing with only a few customers aboard for a morning that turned out to be beautiful. Capt. Joe Bogan of the Jamaica II from Brielle said the wind didn't come up offshore until 4 p.m.


The Jamaica II got out Sunday for what has become the usual pick of ling plus some cod from Mud Hole wrecks. Mike Prozor of Old Bridge was high hook with 18 ling and four cod. Brian Ward from Freehold had 16 ling, two cod and two pollock. William Edgars of Paterson won the pool with a 10 1/2-pound cod. The good news was that the surface water temperature was up to 42 degrees in the Hole, and there was some life on a wreck as shallow as 140 feet. Reservations (732 458-3188) are required for a 5 a.m. Good Friday Special to the Mud Hole, and Saturday's 15-hour cod special, which departs at 2 a.m. There will be an open 5 a.m. trip on Easter Sunday.

Capt. John Connell was pleased with the flounder fishing he found off Cliffwood Beach during his first trip with the Capt. John from Keyport. Catches Saturday ranged up to 10, and everyone got in on the action.

Capt. Stan Zagleski enjoyed the weekend action to the west with his Elaine B. from Highlands. A total of 71 flounders were boated on a single drop Saturday as they picked away throughout the trip. Kirk Thomas of Middlesex led the way with 14. He returned Sunday to bag 17, but Zagleski said the fishing wasn't as good. After a fast start, it declined steadily though Thomas was able to score even as the skipper couldn't get a bite alongside him.

At Atlantic Highlands, Capt. Tom Buban fished Saturday morning off the Navy Pier and had a decent pick with catches on the Atlantic Star ranging up to five or six flounders.

Capt. Art Hilliard ran his first charter of the season, fishing the back of Raritan Bay with his Eagle for the Independent Pipe & Boiler Co. party from Kenilworth. Though they got off to a slow start in the flounder fleet, there was a highlight when Red Shine of Rahway boated a 30-inch striper. There were a couple more bass hits, but they were lost. A short move to the east resulted in better flounder action and they ended up with 35 keepers plus just one short. John Porter of Kenilworth took the pool with a 2 1/4-pound flounder.

The Misty Morn from Morgan had a good weekend with flounders. Larry Briegle of South Amboy and Rick Canfield of Laurence Harbor combined for 27 up to the pool-winning 2 1/2 pounds Saturday, and George Calloway from Monmouth Junction took Sunday's money with a 2 3/4-pounder. The Misty Morn will sail open at 7 a.m. Friday through Sunday.

Brielle Tackle reports flounders are starting to show in Manasquan River by the Rt. 70 bridge. Rob Cashin Jr. of Toms River weighed in a 2 1/4-pounder caught on a sandworm. Capt. Dave Bogan is back at the helm of his Paramount and had a high hook of 15 ling on his Mud Hole trips last week, with some of those red hake running up to 4 pounds.

Capt. Bobby Bogan of the Gambler from Point Pleasant made his first blackfish trip Saturday and managed to scratch out a few despite surface water temperatures of only 40 degrees. Only one keeper and some shorts came off a wreck in 90 feet, but a few more were taken in 120 feet. No one had more than two keepers, but some bergall life was a positive indication. As is usually the case during early spring, clams produced more action than crabs. Bogan will continue blackfishing daily.

Crabby's Tackle in Keyport reports the best flounder fishing on the Keyport flats in years for those who chum heavily. The crew on No More Promises had 52 up to 2 pounds Saturday, and 45 Sunday, which included a 3 3/4-pound snowshoe. Some flounders are also being caught from the Keyport bulkhead, and bunkers are moving into the harbor already.

Capt. Howard Bogan Jr. said his last far offshore wreck trip with the Jamaica from Brielle produced a mix of 5-to-12-pound cod, pollock up to a 25-pound pool winner, white hake and ling. John Manning of Philadelphia was high hook with five cod, one pollock, and a dozen ling. Those trips continue by reservation (732 528-5014) at 1 a.m. every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday this month plus Good Friday and May 1, 5, 8 and 9.

Capt. Hans Kaspersetz of Weehawken got down to Old Bridge beach too late for the tide Sunday and didn't get a striper hit, but he stopped by at Vikings Marina in Laurence Harbor to watch a boat unload 40 flounders up to 2.6 pounds.

Al Ristori appears regularly in The Star-Ledger. He can be reached at [email protected]
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