waderman1

Cartoppers found the fastest way to the fish

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Posted (edited)

Great article in the APP today (Hook, Line & Sinker section).....

 

The stories alone about the pop up markets that used to exist to sell fresh fish.  "The future ain't what it used to be..." *Yogi*

Edited by waderman1

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Cartoppers found the fastest way to the fish

1406746355000-john-oswald.jpg John Oswald, @oswaldapp 8:16 a.m. EDT October 30, 2015
 

 

635815567442277977-NCM-0181.JPG

 

 

Elizabeth Petillo

 

 

(Photo: Photo courtesy of Frank Petillo)

 

Envy is among the seven deadly sins. Yet, watching the fishermen push the boat off from the beach in Sea Bright to catch fish that couldn’t be reached from the sand, I was filled with it. The nuns at Holy Cross would have considered my soul lost.

This was a long time ago, when Bob Hensler, then the owner of the Sea Bright Bathing Pavilion on Ocean Avenue would push his wooden boat, The Glass Slipper, into the waves at dusk and head off into the night.

George Moss, Rumson, a bit younger than I, had his own boat and would often launch from the same beach or fish with Hensler. Moss had started working at the beach club when he was 14 and Hensler had taken him under his wing.

That’s the ticket, I thought, go to the fish.

You certainly can’t count on them coming to you. So often the fish would come achingly close to the beach, but stay just out of reach.

At such times, I’d wade up to my neck and make casts that loosened my shoulders. Still, the lures landed short and all that was left was the sound of fish taunts.

But these guys suffered no such embarrassment. The rolling waves and unpredictable surf were more of a challenge than a barrier as they found the quickest way to the fish.

Hensler and Moss were cartoppers, and they weren’t alone. There were a number of guys taking their small boats and outboards down to the beaches of northern Monmouth County, usually launching from the sand at Little Monmouth Beach Club or the USO Beach in Long Branch.

The trick was to wait for a lull in the waves, start the engine while still on the beach then push off into the flat spot.

On the return, the boats stayed behind the breaking waves, then gunned the engine at the right moment to put them on the beach.

635815433200841240-2015-10-23-17.47.12.j

 

 

 

 

coming into the beach

 

 (Photo: Geroge Moss)

 

Getting ahead of the wave was to invite disaster with a tipped boat, lost gear and potential drowning.

“I had a boat, but my big problem was, that at 14, I didn’t have my driver’s license,” said Moss. He relied on his father to drop him off and pick him up.

Unfortunately, those little engines have gone quiet. But not before bringing a lot of excitement to the shore fishing scene.

There was a lot going on with the cartoppers – excellent fishing, some commerce, loads of camaraderie and even a little lunacy.

Frank Petillo, Middletown, was already a storied fishermen when he started cartopping in the early 1970s. He caught his first 50-pound bass in 1967.

 

 

Mosquito Fleet

He refers to the group of guys who fished in small boats as the mosquito fleet and they were sort of renegades. A teacher in the Keansburg schools, Petillo said he spent nearly all of his time out of the classroom fishing. He supplemented his teacher’s salary by selling all the fish he caught to markets and restaurants, which was permitted at the time.

“I was a pinhooker,” he said.

Petillo started with a 12-foot Starcraft he fit into the back of his 1962 Chevy station wagon with the 9½ horsepower Evinrude riding shotgun in the front seat.

The boats, that ranged in size for 12 to 16 feet, could fit on the roof of a car, but many of the fishermen used trailers. The motors, which were usually Evinrude or Johnson, were anywhere from 15 to 35 horsepower. Some were even smaller.

He and a buddy, often Paul Newmier, would carry the boat and motor over the sea wall in Sea Bright to a small beach. “We were young and stupid,” Petillo said.

He was on one of those trips chasing blues, bass and albacore and returned to find that his friend, Ed Galley, had written “wife having baby” in borrowed lipstick on the windshield of his car. “I went to the hospital in my waders,” Petillo said. His son, Frank Jr., had been born. “I got one albacore on a yellow hellcat that day,” he told me.

Eventually, Petillo moved up to a 16-foot boat that he would launch in Sandy Hook Bay and take around the tip of the Hook. He ventured as far south as Barnegat Inlet. Petillo said they brought extra fuel but once they miscalculated and he ended up trading a 20-pound bass for enough gas to get home.

He made it clear that he and his fellow cartoppers were not the first to launch boats from the local beaches. That distinction, Petillo said, belongs to Joe Renzzo and his brother, Vince, who fished off Long Branch in the 1940s in a wooden boat equipped with a “one lunger.” A one lunger, he explained, was an old outboard with just one piston.

“They used to troll eels for bass around the jetties in Deal and Long Branch,” he said.

Jim Stonaker, Long Branch, was among the early cartoppers and in an effort to help protect the pursuit, helped found the Monmouth Beach Cartoppers.

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Jim Stonaker with two bass on his cartopper

 

 (Photo: Photo courtesy of Jim Stonaker)

 

“We were all friends and we started running into beach access problems,” Stonaker said. A number of them launched from the USO beach in Long Branch and, when the county took over the beach, there were rumblings that the boats would not be welcome.

Stonaker also said that there were problems with the bunker boats, netting big schools of fish close to the beach.

One day, he and fellow members Ronnie Sickler and Danny Eppinger were fishing in a school of bunker off Monmouth Beach when one of the boats dropped a net around them.

“All of our props got tangled in the net and we tried to cut them loose and then the captain of the boat came out on deck with a shotgun,” Stonaker said. There was a growing movement at the time to get the bunker boats off the beach. The incident provided further impetus to get the regulation passed that moved the netters offshore.

He bought his first cartopper with money he saved from selling fish he caught on the beach. Gaskins Fish Market in Long Branch and Lockwoods Seafood on Ocean Avenue in Monmouth Beach, were among his customers.

“I would catch a fish on the wall, walk over to Lockwoods and sell it, then go back and catch another,” he said. Often, he said, small crowds would gather in the parking lot in Monmouth Beach at night just to see what was caught or to buy some fresh fish.

It was different time, said Stonaker. “There were no electronics, no cell phones and we stayed out all night long,” he said.

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bass at SBBP

 

 (Photo: George Moss)

Kings of weakfish

Cartoppers were the kings of weakfish, he said, and they would also catch big blues, fluke and bass. The limit for stripers was 10 fish at 18 inches then.

Now, lamented Stonaker, all the jetties have disappeared and the lumps are covered over from beach replenishment. “A whole lifestyle is gone,” he said.

While Petillo was never a member of the Monmouth Beach Cartoppers, he was a kindred spirit.

“It was a wonderful time in my life,” said Capt Fletcher Chayes, who was president of the club for 12 years.

“It was fishing like the 'Old Man and the Sea,’ pushing through the ocean, dealing with the waves, hurricanes. It was lots and lots of fun,” said Chayes.

There were never a lot of members, he said, just about 30. His partner-in-crime in the club was Tom Hogan and the pair would brave hurricane surf, hanging tight to the north side of the Monmouth Beach jetty and shoot out to chase albacore and weakfish. They’d also fish at night and tangle with illegal gill netters.

“It was like the wild, wild west,” said Chayes.

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Cardtoppers coming to the beach

 

 (Photo: George moss)

 

By launching from the beach, he said, cartoppers beat all of the boats coming out of Sandy Hook and the inlets.

“It was easy access to the Shrewsbury Rocks and at first light, we were all out there.” Chayes said they used to hold $5 tournaments all the time and Pete Jakubecy, Fair Haven, won them all.

While that kind of fishing may have disappeared, the club hasn’t. The current president, Eric Lendick of Toms River, said there are about 40 or so members now. “I was looking for a club to join and ran into a guy on the beach and he talked about it. After attending seven or eight meetings Lendick found the club’s laid- back style to his liking and joined in the early 90s.

“We fish from the beach and boats so it’s the best of both worlds,” said Lendick.

It’s still possible to launch from Monmouth Beach as access to the ocean at the Monmouth Beach Pavilion was secured by the Monmouth Beach Cartoppers. Lendick said no one has done it for a while as replenishment has made the beach so wide it’s hard to drag a boat to the water.

Stonaker said the last time he launched from the beach was about two years ago.

For those interested, The Monmouth Beach Cartoppers meet the second Wednesday of every month at Bahrs Restaurant in Highlands. Call Erick Lendick at 908-910-9789 for more information.

John Oswald: joswald@gannettnj.com

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Thank you for this.  I came to surf fishing about 15 years ago and missed all of this. 

 

I wonder what we have today that will be looked back on with nostalgia in 40 years?  "I remember when we were still allowed to fish on the beach, back before it all become privately owned and posted with no trespassing signs....."

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Posted (edited)

Permits, Fees and Licenses today to buy and sell off a boat................

Edited by Mr. Bigdeal

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You all realize that this is our own Squidlips.

 

There were never a lot of members, he said, just about 30. His partner-in-crime in the club was Tom Hogan and the pair would brave hurricane surf, hanging tight to the north side of the Monmouth Beach jetty and shoot out to chase albacore and weakfish. They’d also fish at night and tangle with illegal gill netters.

 

I remember fishing off the little Monmouth jetty barely picking at a small fish here and there while watching these guys hammer big fish a couple hundred yards away.

And watching them launch and land it always amazed me that no one got chopped up by a prop. Some of those guys were certifiably nuts !

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You all realize that this is our own Squidlips.

 

There were never a lot of members, he said, just about 30. His partner-in-crime in the club was Tom Hogan and the pair would brave hurricane surf, hanging tight to the north side of the Monmouth Beach jetty and shoot out to chase albacore and weakfish. They’d also fish at night and tangle with illegal gill netters.

 

I remember fishing off the little Monmouth jetty barely picking at a small fish here and there while watching these guys hammer big fish a couple hundred yards away.

And watching them launch and land it always amazed me that no one got chopped up by a prop. Some of those guys were certifiably nuts !

 

September 1989....me and my brother launch a 14ft tin boat from Little Monmouth. We're out there, jigging for fish and we see a red cartopper with a lone fisherman in it. We somehow drifted close enough to talk. My brother asks, "Is your name Tom? tom Hogan?"   "Yeah, that's me". Hogie showed us how to circle around off the Sea Bright Wall so you didn't spook the weakies. My brother hooks a flipping pig of a weakie. We didn't have a Boga or a net, and....gulp....I lip landed the thing. While my thumb was cut to ribbons and bleeding like crazy, it was worth it to pull that big girl out of the water and then let her go.

 

I wish every politician, contractor, property owner etc who supports beach replishment was buried under the sand that now covers the Wall.

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Wow...... these stories make you smile and cry.

   They should be preserved in real book form with lots of pictures...

How quickly it all went to sh..

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Frank Petillo is the one guy I would like to go fishing with. He taught in the town I'm from and friends through teaching with my sister in laws hubby bill cotty Collins. That man can catch some fish.

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Wow, a nice nostalga piece, when we all should be out hauling fish. Should be the meat of the season and there jack chit out there.

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Posted (edited)

I fished through this time but never from a Cartopper. I know I talked to a lot of these guys while they were getting ready to launch and I was hanging out waiting for the fish to get within a surfcaster's range. I have memories of guys tonging weakies - big tide runners -  just off the tip of Big Monmouth. I used to bring my wife and son to the little beach at the pocket formed by the broken jetty just to the north of Big Monmouth - the one with the homemade catwalk to get you out a little further - and we would have dinner of hamburgers on the hibachi as the son went down. That was a 65 mile round trip for me and we did it several times a week  But that was when there was very little traffic on 287 at rush hour and it was a reasonable trip. I used to do it in my '64 Rambler Classic with the seats that would fold down to make a bed between the front folded seat and the back seat. Outdoor Life used to have adds for Ramblers as the ultimate camping vehicle.

I caught my first big bass of Big Monmouth during a Nor'Easter and am - to this day - grateful to the one other guy who was crazy enough to be out there with me and help me land that fish. Took it on a Gibbs yellow bottle plug. I can still see the fish come up and hit that wobbling plug through the foam and rough seas that I thought would make it impossible for a fish to spot a plug. I must have fished with that guy fifty times but never learned his name and wouldn't even recognize his face - it was always hidden by the hood of a yellow slicker because we never fished in good weather together - but we shared a lot of information and spent a lot of time together on that jetty . We didn't have cell phones back then so you had to be there to know what was happening - a phone call after it was all over didn't mean a thing and you had to leave the beach if you wanted to call somebody to tell them what was going on.

 

It sickens me to see what has happened to the beach and the jetties. I'm an environmental consultant and maybe more than most realize what a crime has taken place and what damage has been done to a thriving ecosystem. I know I will never see those days again but make it down to the beach each weekend to catch a few shorts, hope for some big fish to show up and to relive a lot of beautiful and special memories. I don't come down in the week because the traffic is too bad and, I now commute 60 miles a day instead of walking to work.

 

I didn't mean to hi-jack this car topper thread but it brought back memories of such happy times I just couldn't hold back. I'll stop now or else I'll end up writing a book.

Edited by impalervlad

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I fished through this time but never from a Cartopper. I know I talked to a lot of these guys while they were getting ready to launch and I was hanging out waiting for the fish to get within a surfcaster's range. I have memories of guys tonging weakies - big tide runners -  just off the tip of Big Monmouth. I used to bring my wife and son to the little beach at the pocket formed by the broken jetty just to the north of Big Monmouth - the one with the homemade catwalk to get you out a little further - and we would have dinner of hamburgers on the hibachi as the son went down. That was a 65 mile round trip for me and we did it several times a week  But that was when there was very little traffic on 287 at rush hour and it was a reasonable trip. I used to do it in my '64 Rambler Classic with the seats that would fold down to make a bed between the front folded seat and the back seat. Outdoor Life used to have adds for Ramblers as the ultimate camping vehicle.

I caught my first big bass of Big Monmouth during a Nor'Easter and am - to this day - grateful to the one other guy who was crazy enough to be out there with me and help me land that fish. Took it on a Gibbs yellow bottle plug. I can still see the fish come up and hit that wobbling plug through the foam and rough seas that I thought would make it impossible for a fish to spot a plug. I must have fished with that guy fifty times but never learned his name and wouldn't even recognize his face - it was always hidden by the hood of a yellow slicker because we never fished in good weather together - but we shared a lot of information and spent a lot of time together on that jetty . We didn't have cell phones back then so you had to be there to know what was happening - a phone call after it was all over didn't mean a thing and you had to leave the beach if you wanted to call somebody to tell them what was going on.

 

It sickens me to see what has happened to the beach and the jetties. I'm an environmental consultant and maybe more than most realize what a crime has taken place and what damage has been done to a thriving ecosystem. I know I will never see those days again but make it down to the beach each weekend to catch a few shorts, hope for some big fish to show up and to relive a lot of beautiful and special memories. I don't come down in the week because the traffic is too bad and, I now commute 60 miles a day instead of walking to work.

 

I didn't mean to hi-jack this car topper thread but it brought back memories of such happy times I just couldn't hold back. I'll stop now or else I'll end up writing a book.

Wonderful post.

Tight lines.

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Back in the mid to late 70's a friend and myself used to rent a boat out of Stella Maris is Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn and putter over to fish for weakfish and blackfish off Sea Bright.  Great times. Envied the car-toppers  who often had big bass in their similar boats.

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A generation or so ago they were "cartoppers", now we're called kayakers. Same principle , different boats.

 

Sure, but depending on the conditions they can be very different experiences. Launching and landing a few hundred pounds of metal with an outboard and a gas can through the surf is just a bit different than doing the same in 70lbs of plastic.

 

80-85 I did this a lot with my neighbor Freddy S. in Lavallette. Had a 14 ft Starcraft with a 25 hp. We built a frame/ ramp on the back of his pickup to slide the boat on and off. One of the last times we launched, we were pushing it. High tide with a formidable swell for a boat launch. When we got to the beach, the birds were working big time about a mile off. We looked at the waves, looked at each other, and said screw it, let's go.

He backed the fully rigged boat down, released the hand winch, and she slid right off the old Ford bed on to sand perfectly. Freddy parked the truck high and dry as I spun her around bow first into the surf.

We did this so many times that we barely had to speak a word. I was always the oarsman, and he worked the engine. As we inched her into the wash, we both keyed in in the rhythm of the swell, keeping an eye on the outside waves looking for a lull. A few minutes in, a quick nod of commitment, and we shoved her into the water. Freddy pushes from the stern, I'm along side at the middle, and just as she floats, I hop on board, set the oars, and heave with everything to keep her moving forward and dead straight into the waves. Freddy gives one last shove and hops in just after me. Right now, this point, it's all or nothing. My back is to the ocean watching him as he, with one hand on the engine, pulls the rip cord and fires her up on the first pull, perfect!! But as he turns to face me, I watch his eyes widen and look up over my head. His jaw drops as he lets out an "Oh FV€K! ". I brace for what I know is about to meet us head on, he guns the throttle, and the boat starts climbing. The bow punches through a wall of green water and we come out the other side. We slammed down on the surface so hard that the wooden bench seat broke under my ass. The engine died, and there was enough water in the boat to float the gas can. Then she turns and starts drifting broadside to the waves. I scramble to get her straight, but with no seat and all that extra weight, it's not happening. Freddy's pulling on the ripcord, 1, 2, 3 times, nothing ,and the next wave is heading down on us. As drift up the face of the next wave, with the boat parallel to the beach, we both grab the gunnels as if we can stop the momentum. At one point, halfway up the wave, I swear we were both almost inverted, but we came over the top and settled down Into the tough. Freddy again start pulling frantically, and finally she kicks over. With just enough juice to turn her into the sea, we slowly ride up and over the next few waves and get out of the breakers. We take a quick break to settle down, then he pulls the drain plug, turns it to full throttle, and the water drains out as we head out to the fish. Honestly can't remember if we caught anything, but it was a great trip!

 

(Sorry for the long story, but like impalervlad, I got nostalgic too)

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