Posted by the Asbury Park Press on 08/20/07
BY KAREN E. WALL
Monica Oswald thought she had hooked the bottom.
She was drifting for fluke at the Shrewsbury Rocks, spending a couple of hours on Friday fishing after a nursing shift, when she felt her line snag.
"When you're drifting, you know, you're going over mussel beds, you get hooked on the bottom all the time," the 45-year-old Neptune resident said Sunday.
She was hooked all right, but not on the bottom: Oswald caught a 24.3-pound fluke, a potential world and state record fish.
"I was really shocked," she said Sunday en route to another shift at Riverview Medical Center, Red Bank, where she has worked since 1990. "You never know what you're reeling up."
Oswald was fishing a Spro bucktail with a stinger hook and tipped with squid on 65-pound Power Pro braided line in 50 feet of water. When she first hooked the fluke, which measured 38 inches long, she said, it didn't move. So, thinking the jig was caught in the rocks, she backed up her boat to try to free it.
No luck. She started reeling some more, and then felt it start to move.
"Little by little I was making my way," she said, but whatever was on the other end of the line was not coming to the surface quickly. In fact, she said, she got the fish up toward the surface, but it dove away.
"I knew it wasn't a striper or a bluefish," she said, "they go ZING and they're gone. I thought maybe it was a cow-nosed ray," which Oswald said she has caught before.
Finally, after about 20 minutes or so — "you don't look at your watch when you're fighting a fish," she said — she got the fish back up to the surface and with the assistance of her friend, Eric Neuier of Ocean Township, got it in the boat.
"I thought, "Oh my God,' " she said.
The current New Jersey state record for fluke caught on rod and reel is 19 pounds, 12 ounces, set in 1953 by Walter Lubin for a fish he caught off Cape May.
The current all-tackle world record, according to the International Game Fish Association, is the 22-pound, 7-ounce fluke caught Sept. 15, 1975, by Charles Nappi.
"I've pulled up different junk from the bottom," said Oswald, a long-time angler who set the all-tackle world record for weakfish with an 18-pound, 1-ounce caught on Aug. 25, 2006. She said she's brought up things such as a shower curtain and even a fiberglass sink, so she didn't get excited by the possibility of what might be on the end of her line.
"Until you get a fish up and actually see it," it's easy to think it's something it's not, she said.
Oswald said she called Scott's Bait & Tackle in Bradley Beach, where she is a frequent customer, to tell them she was coming in with a big fish. But she had no idea, she said, that it might be a record.
"I've seen pictures of people with really big fish and I thought this was about the same as those," Oswald said.
A New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife conservation officer examined the fish on Saturday, she said, and the process of submitting the paperwork and other information needed to confirm it as both a state and world record is under way.
Roy Christensen, who owns Scott's Bait & Tackle, said in his 63 years of living in Bradley Beach he had never witnessed anything like it.
"I've never, ever seen a fluke that big," Christensen said. "They have been saying that this is the year that the fluke record could be broken, but whoever thought that the fish would be weighed in here at our shop.
"It really is unbelievable, especially with it being our 10-year anniversary here at the shop and all."
"Like anybody else, it's being at the right place at the right time," Oswald said.
Staff writer Justin Sauer contributed to this story.