When the NJ Marine State Police came to make a report on my friend Al's boat, Nothing But Net, the trooper said there's no box on his boat accident form for "whale."

There's collision, storm, fire, but no box to check off for whale-flipping.

Al Mostrangeli has been enjoying some afternoons fishing this spring, since he has been kept home from his job as a gym and health teacher at Steinert High in Hamilton. He didn't have time to fish Monday, so he let his friends, Rob and Jay, take the boat out for some striper fishing.

They set out from Surf City inside Barnegat Bay and headed north about 10 miles to the beach in front of Seaside Park. They were following schools of bunker, a kind of oily bait fish about 10 inches long that break the top of the water as they feed. Stripers and other predatory fish feed on them below while fisherman throw treble hooks into the school to snag one. Once snagged, the wounded fish is easy prey for the bigger fish.

This happens up and down the Jersey coast in spring and fall, and this past weekend some big fish were being caught pretty close to the beaches from Island Beach State Park to Sandy Hook.

Photo credit Lauren Cilento Carannante

Rob and Jay were fishing a few hundred yards off the beach in about 25 feet of water when suddenly and violently, they were thrown from the boat before they even knew what was happening. Rob, who was running the boat, said it came out of the water, landed on top of the t-top and gunnel of the boat, coming two inches from his nose and tipping the boat on it's side, facing the horizon. They were tossed into the water and Jay was actually standing on the whale for a brief moment before it submerged, not to be seen again.

It happened just before noon and the boat was removed from the beach by about 3:30 p.m.

Both men swan back to the boat, which had righted itself, but took on water that was up to the guys' knees. Rob started the engine and the bilge pump started pumping some of the water out of the boat as it powered forward. With the engine running, he had two choices. He could try to head the 10 miles south to the Barnegat Inlet and safe harbor, or head for the sand and beach the boat a few hundred yards away. He made the right choice, not know what structural damage the boat may have suffered in the impact.

Rob doesn't usually like going out front into the ocean, preferring to only run our friend's boat in the bay. Yesterday he found out exactly why it makes him uncomfortable. I was on that boat with Al and some friends last summer and all we saw were some undersized fluke that we had to throw back into the ocean. When we got back to the dock, someone asked, "any luck today?" We said no, but now I know just how lucky we were that day. Rob and Jay were even luckier but have a much better story to tell.

The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Dennis Malloy. Any opinions expressed are Dennis' own.

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