NJ fish-tossing teen’s dad did time for mob ties
The attention given to a viral video showing a 19-year-old Hazlet resident throwing motionless fish back into the Raritan Bay took a bizarre turn on Wednesday when reports surfaced that the teen's father once attracted some notoriety of his own.
NJ Advance Media confirmed John "Johnny Bucktail" Contello's dad, also named John Contello, spent three years in federal prison after pleading guilty to a 2008 racketeering and conspiracy indictment that identified him as a captain in the Bonnano organized crime family.
Reached for comment by NJ Advance Media, the elder Contello — referred to as "Big John" in the indictment — bristled when asked about his mob connection.
"What's that got to do with my son catching fish?" he replied, while adding that he thought the strong reaction the video spawned had more to do with other fishermen's jealousy than anything else, though he told his son not to brag too much.
On Wednesday afternoon, the younger Contello posted a lengthy apology on Facebook for the way the video depicted his handling of the striped bass. Commenters had called him out for failing to make attempts to revive the fish or treat them more humanely.
"I know the video looks bad folks, but it's not what it seemed," Contello wrote, also saying that none of the fish he threw back were actually dead, and that all of them swam away rather than floated. "If perhaps I've treated this great fish in a way other than with the great respect it deserves, I'm sorry -- and I've learned a great deal from this experience."
Patrick Lavery produces "New Jersey's First News" and is New Jersey 101.5's morning drive breaking news reporter. Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.