When Captain Mike Platti of Little Egg Harbor arrived at the dock on the morning of June 10th he had one thing on his mind - fluke. Because of his reputation as an excellent captain on his own boat ?Reel Time?, and also as a mate on some of the more popular fishing boats in the area, Mike had just been hired to pilot the newest party boat in Barnegat Light on Long Beach Island. Aptly named ?Islander? , Capt. Mike was anxious to take her out on the scheduled 8:00 am open boat trip and put his fares on some fat summer flounder. Unfortunately, the boat is so new to the area they didn?t even have a sign yet to announce that they were available to sail for fluke that morning. Hence, they didn?t get a large enough turnout to leave the dock.
Somewhat dejectedly, Mike and "Islander" first mate, Dennis, decided to get some breakfast. Not wanting the day to be a total loss, the crew chose to spend the day scouting some fluke holding spots. Captain Mike told me, ?We decided to take the boat and go north for some fluke, and see how strong life was tight to the beach.?
They pulled out around 10:00 and arrived at the fishing grounds about a
half hour later. The first drift produced a few shorts. Subsequent
drifts in that area yielded similar results. Moving further north
seemed to confirm that the fluke were around, but keepers were few and
far between. Noticing a flurry of activity from a school of bunker,
they changed plans. According to Mike, ?We noticed a lot of bunker
activity and decided with no fares on board to switch to snagging and
some live-lining. Put some live ones in the boat for later use and made
a few drifts. No takers.? Then things got interesting.
Heading even further north Captain Mike got a phone call. The stripers
were biting not far from where they were. Arriving at the scene Mike
and Dennis quickly snagged a few more bunker and sent their livies to
the bottom. The stripers were definitely home and hungry.
The crew had two on almost immediately, only to have them break off close to the boat. Mike estimated those fish to be in the 30 to 40 pound class. ?Not a good day to use light leader?, remarked Mike with a grin.
The crew re-rigged with some heavier line and decided to continue north in search of a pod of bunker with more action on it. It proved to be the right move. ?What we found was a bass bonanza crushing the bunker!? exclaimed the captain. ?We made it just north east of the pod and started our drift through them. Hooked up with two more and they came un-buttoned close to the boat.?
Then it happened. As Captain Mike explained, ?We moved up one more time and fish on! (The fish) peeled line like a shark, then headed to the bottom to sulk. It would not budge. (It) felt like I was hung up on the bottom as the boat drifted from the fish.? It looked as though whatever Mike had hooked into was going to spool him.
?I toyed with the idea of having Dennis run the boat after the fish so I would not get spooled, or risk breaking off this fish.? But that option quickly fell by the wayside as Dennis was now hooked into a big fish also. "Now it was a rodeo! Going under over and trying to keep these two apart was a blast. We got the fish to the boat about the same time. They (the fish) actually looked at each other and ran again. With one more short fight we get them back (to the boat).? With a net in one hand and a doubled over rod in the other, Mike worked his way up the rail to net his mate?s fish. Once the huge striper was in the net, both anglers hoisted it over the side. But Captain Platti still had one hanging on the end of his line. As the humongous fish came to the surface both Mike and Dennis looked at it in amazement before finally netting it and bringing it aboard. Once on the deck, with the fish side-by-side, Mike and Dennis did a congratulatory high five. ?Wow!? exclaimed Mike ?We were psyched!?
Both fish were weighed in at Barnegat Light Bait and Tackle. Dennis? big fish weighed 40 lbs. even. While Captain Mike?s behemoth striped bass was taped at 51? and pulled the needle to 51 lbs. 3 oz.! ?Another 14" and the fish would have had me?, said Mike with a smile. ?Wow! Now I was part of the fifty plus club. That was an awesome feeling for me!?
As pictures were taken and the story was being told outside the tackle shop, the big stripers drew quite a crowd. So much so, that the "Islander" was able to secure enough fares to sail that afternoon. But that trip would not be for fluke.
Reel Time Sport Fishing