It's hard to believe it's getting to be August already, and it seems as though we have been through heatwave after heatwave with another forecast to be coming up. The heat seems as though it has wilted the anglers more than the fish, however.
It has not stopped 86-year-old Tony Pagano, of Cardiff, from fishing every weekday on the Duke of Fluke back-bay pontoon partyboat that operates from Somers Point.
In fact, when contacted while out on the Duke on Tuesday morning, July 26, Pagano was having one of his best flounder days. Duke of Fluke Capt. Brook Koeneke had the Duke drifting the last of the outgoing tide along the docks inside Longport out toward Great Egg Inlet.
With an hour to go on the four-hour morning trip, Pagano had a four-bagger going. Koeneke said they had five keepers on board and all but one belonged to Pagano. That brings his total to eight keepers this season, all on the Duke.
Pagano fishes only the morning trips. He is legally blind, so he does not drive. It just so happens that his daughter-in-law, Terry Pagano, works at Shore Memorial Hospital right down the street from Higbee Avenue, where the boat is docked.
She drops him off at 7 a.m. He gets a ride home from family members or friends.
While onboard, Pagano said mate Mike Mulkeen and Koeneke take great care of him. He said if it wasn't for them, he would not be able to stay as active as he does.
"I always manage (to keep going)," Pagano said as he took a quick break from catching fish for an interview after being handed the phone by Koeneke. He had a good workout Tuesday, with 12 throwbacks in addition to his four keepers.
As for the heat, Pagano said, "Today (Tuesday) is better than the last couple of days. But I never let the heat stop me from going fishing."
Koeneke said Pagano is a "treasure." And probably not just because Pagano gave Koeneke a recipe for meatballs. "Excellent," Koeneke said.
Koeneke said that even on some of those hot days recently, the colder water and breezes kept conditions on the covered boat feeling like it had an air conditioner.
He said the heat hurt him a little because of the fewer number of customers that showed up, and he thinks for a while it may have actually affected the fishiing. But Koeneke said that problem went away. On Tuesday, everybody on board was catching fish and having a good time.
The Duke fishes the back bays inside Great Egg Inlet to off Somers Point. Like all the other back-bay pontoon partyboats in the area, the Duke of Fluke sails at 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. daily.
Tuesday's morning trip is not unusual, but typical of the very decent flounder action in the back bays throughout the area. Flounder also are moving into the inlets and inshore, although some pros think cold water in the lower 60s may have slowed up that migration.