by Capt. Johnny Luchka
The New Jersey Shore was truly devastated after Sandy and spending a good portion of my life fishing this area with my Dad since I was a young boy (I'm now 49), was something very difficult to see as I joined Capt. Mike Bogan and his crew aboard the party boat, The Gambler out of Pt. Pleasant NJ for my first Striper trip post Sandy.
The somber drive down to Pt. Pleasant which is maybe 45 minutes from my home was something I tried hard to prepare myself for but the carnage was very tough to see. The many people I became friends with that lost homes, businesses, and boats seemed unreal to fathom until I pulled into the Gambler parking lot across the street from the USCG station. There I spoke to Capt. Mike Bogan and his mates Todd and Chris as we just looked around at the blown out buildings, their sign which was half gone, and saw in their eyes that it was time to try and get back to normal.
With each passing minute fishermen pulled into the lot each with a story to tell and all eager to come and support The Gambler who lost many weeks not fishing but more importantly not making a living as bills piled up. Capt. Mike said, "We gotta move forward, help friends and family and get busy living!"
I joined Capt. Mike at the helm as we navigated out of the slip and inched our way out of Manasquan Inlet. We passed house after house along the inlet that were either destroyed or ready to be leveled by the town. Capt. Mike looked at me with such a hollow stare because The Gambler has been a tradition for many years as he said he and his brother Capt. Bob who also runs the boat used to mate for their Dad on the original Gambler and the destruction witnessed was something no one could have ever fathomed. I snapped some photos and walked outside just to take it all in. It was overwhelming as Capt. Mike and I just shook our heads as he told me that one of the USCG Engineers told them how eerie it was to patrol at night and not see the lights of the boardwalk all lit up to greet them. There were about 30 people on board, all eager to fish and catch a Striper. We headed north and my eyes could not focus on anything but the shoreline of ruined homes and a beach usually filled with surf fisherman was barren. I wiped a few tears away and glanced over at Capt. Mike who was working the fishfinder and yelled out,"Bait!, look at all that bait!". As we pressed on, we saw a lot of bird life as rainbait and even bunker were around. Water temps hovered in the 49 degree mark and a new enthusiasm took over the boat. Total strangers on board became friends and Capt. Mike hit the horn to drop the lines. Fish on at the bow, one on the side and the mates were back to working. A smile was on my face and Sandy was not about to take this away from us. This crew and Captain worked hard as they always do as each angler enjoys being on this beautiful vessel. Capt. Mike and Capt. Bob have such a love for what they do and to see people come down to support them was truly heartfelt. I wanted to thank Capt. Mike, Capt. Bob, Chris, Todd and the rest of the crew for having me on board and please patronize this NJ business and many others who need support.