Motor Troubles Lead to Record Catch off Jersey

Sometimes a tuna fishing trip cut short still has a happy ending.
New Jersey record kingfish
Joe Vricella and his dad, Dominic, with their record-setting 67.45-pound king mackerel caught 5 miles off a New Jersey beach. Joe Vricella

On the last Sunday in July, Joe Vricella and his dad, Dominic, caught a “boogeyman” swimming in New Jersey waters — a 67.45-pound king mackerel. If all the submitted paperwork goes through without a hitch, their kingfish will takeover as the new state record. Dominic Vricella’s catch outweighs the current record by more than 10 pounds — a 54-pounder, caught by Fernando Alfaiate off Cape May, in 1998.

The Vricella team encountered a mix of bad luck and good before the catch happened on July 30.

“We lost an engine while out on the bluefin grounds [around noon] and started limping home,” said Joe Vricella. “Being on one engine, I figured we’d put out a little spread, with 2 wide-trackers and 2 Clarkspoons for Spanish mackerel or bonito.”

King mackerel are not a common species in Jersey waters, hence the use of the word “boogeyman.” In fact, you barely hear of a handful caught each summer. The Vricellas truly hit it big with their unusual catch.

“At around 2 o’clock, we were about 5 miles off the beach near Manasquan Inlet and we got a knockdown on a Clarkspoon,” Vricella detailed. “The hit just about spooled our Avet MXL twice. We couldn’t back down the boat, so we put some heavy drag on him and were able to turn him.”

Vricella’s kingfish catch was even more unexpected, as it was taken on light leader — they still cannot believe they landed the fish in under 10 minutes on 30-pound leader.

New Jersey king mackerel
Dominic Vricella landed this likely New Jersey record king mackerel on 30-pound leader. Joe Vricella

“My dad was on the rod the whole time, and he saw it first and had no idea what it was until we got it up close,” added Vricella. They actually thought it was a wahoo or a tuna for awhile.

“I ran to the back, saw the fish come up, and reached out and stuck him with a gaff after we realized it was a kingfish,” said Vricella. “No joke, my first words were: ‘I don’t think we understand what just happened.'”

You can definitely say that again. New Jersey probably won’t see another king mackerel like this for another 30 years. The Vricellas weighed the kingfish at Hoffman’s Marina in Brielle, New Jersey.