Thursday, May 24, 2018

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Great Catches

Hooked Up With Jersey Hooker

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On Wednesday, July 28th site sponsor and good friend of NJ Saltwater Fisherman, Captain Rich Wilkowski, piloted his new 43’ boat “Jersey Hooker” down to Long Beach Island to participate in the Beach Haven Marlin & Tuna Club 41st Annual White Marlin Invitational Tournament (BHWMIT). By Saturday night, he and his four man crew would be over $70,000 richer! Here’s how it happened.

The rules of the BHWMIT are fairly simple. It is a trolling only tournament. No live bait or chumming is allowed. The boat must choose one non-fishing day out of the three days of the tournament. Each boat may weigh in up to 3 tuna, 3 white marlin, 1 blue marlin, 1 dolphin and 1 wahoo per day. The heaviest single fish of the tournament wins.

After considering the weather reports, Capt. Rich chose to use their non-fishing day on Thursday. Their first day to fish was Friday. They shoved off from Morrison‘s Marina at 2:30am and they took their time heading out to the canyon. “It was sporty on the ride out,” explained the captain. “The weather report said it was going to lay down. Boy! Were they wrong! It was solid 4-7 foot seas with white caps all day and an occasional 10 footer.”

 

 

Once offshore, the captain studied his sea surface temperature charts and decided to set course for the 82 degree water east of Lindenkohl Canyon. At 8:00am, upon arriving at their blue water destination just inshore of the break line, the tournament committee boat called, “Lines in.” First Mate Captain George Paley put out the Jersey Hooker’s favorite marlin lures, which included a couple of Tuna Busters from Carolina Lure Company, which Capt. Rich described as “infamous”. Rich recounted the ensuing action. “Just as Big T (crew member Tom Wortmann) was letting out the outside rigger on the starboard side, a 56 pound yellow fin crashes the bait. The crew quickly landed him and got the spread back out. We had a white (marlin) window shopping, but it didn’t take the bait.” The trolling over the next few hours produced nothing. Then Capt. Rich noticed a slick out on the 1000 foot line and decided to work the area. That’s when it happened. “I looked toward the stern and here comes Mr. White,” explained the captain with a smile. The marlin took the bait and the controlled chaos of the experienced offshore crew began. Shouts of “Marlin! Marlin! Marlin!” were heard around the boat as Capt. George took the rod and the crew scrambled to clear the other lines. “The white freight trained a 50W (fishing reel) and just kept peeling line off. The crew was a little worried because all they saw was the bill and a shadow. They thought it might have been a small blue (marlin). But, after about fifteen minutes they got color. We realized that this could be a potential money fish.”
The fish was eventually brought on board and was measured three times. They confirmed the measurement of 69 inches and put the big marlin in the fish box. They trolled for a while longer and raised another window shopper, but couldn’t get it to bite. At 3:00pm they headed for the scale. It weighed 59.9 pounds. The Jersey Hooker would be the only boat to weigh in a white marlin on Friday.

On day two it was decided that they would fish Toms Canyon. However, heavy boat traffic persuaded Capt. Rich to change those plans. He opted instead to fish the 1000 line of the Carteret and troll south to where they had caught fish the previous day. One more looker and one small white marlin was caught and released. A few more hours went by without a touch. They then raised a huge white marlin. “It was a monster white! It was all lit up and thrashing the baits in the spread,” explained Capt. Rich. The fish was hooked but spit the hook quickly. Before packing it in for the day, they brought a hefty 20 pound mahi to the gaff. On the ride home the crew knew they had a good shot to place in the money. Reports of three other whites boated (including two in the last 20 minutes of the competition) had the crew on edge in nervous anticipation. “It was a nerve wracking three and a half hour boat ride back in,” laughed Capt. Rich.

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At the dinner prior to the awards ceremony, the crew learned from friend Bill Carroll that they had taken second place overall and split the third place with the boat “Last Call” which had won for heaviest marlin on Saturday. The crew and their families waited anxiously for the awards ceremony to start.. Capt. Rich described their excitement. “When we got called up for our second place trophy, we were all super excited! And after all the other contestants received their trophies, it was time for the fun part - the money!” The checks were awarded from smallest to largest. “Four The Boys” $1000, “Hot Shot” $1000, “ Bone Voyage” $7750, “Pez Machine” $16,412.50. It was at this point the captain felt like something was wrong. “I thought, Wait a minute! We haven’t been called yet. There’s no way we won more than 16K!” But the checks kept coming, and so far, no mention of the “Jersey Hooker”. “Hard Four” $24,043, “Jersey Cape” (the overall winners) $29,950.

“Then the committee lifts up this check that reads, ‘Jersey Hooker’ with the amount of $70,728.75!” The crew had won almost three times the amount of the winning boat partially because several boats had not been entered into the Calcutta. Said Capt. Rich, “I express no disrespect to the other boats. But, after being presented with that huge, fake check made out for over $70,000, the rest of the night was a blur! I just want to say thanks to the Beach Haven Marlin and Tuna Club and all of the boats and people who participated in this amazing event!”

The crew here at NJ Saltwater Fisherman would like to congratulate Captain Rich and the crew of the “Jersey Hooker “, Capt. George Paley, Tom “Big T” Wortman, “Mean” Dean Holonics and Kenny Burnes, on a terrific second place finish. Well done men!

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