Captain Lures Fishing Enthusiasts to Open Waters – 1986
Captain Lures Fishing Enthusiasts to Open Waters – Suburban May 14, 1986
Sayreville resident fulfills dream with 55-foot boat
By Glen Kelson
Photograph by Michael Guiliano
Follow the yellow brick road through Oz and you'll find The Wizard. Follow the red brick road through Sayreville and you'll find The Captain. His path isn't as hard to travel.
Hang a right off southbound Route 35, head down the bumpy old-fashioned pavement of Old Spye Road, and look out at the rickety wooden pier in front of the host of boats floating on Cheesequake Creek. If you don't see him right away, just ask one of the regulars. They all know who he is for he's been coming there all of his life. It's easy to spot Gary Bouchard working on the deck of Misty Morn, a sleek 55-foot green and white fishing vessel. Beneath his striped cap and above his mustard-colored beard you can see a wide smile. That's because Bouchard is aboard his dream boat, and he's its captain.
A few years back, when the 47-year-old Bouchard first became a full-fledged boat captain after passing a rigorous Coast Guard exam, he was the proud owner of a modest 32-foot boat. Every weekend from April to November he used the boat to sail fishermen out into the Raritan Bay and Sandy Hook area to catch fluke and bluefish. The vessel, named WACKY after his brother, had enough space, though, for him to take out only six customers at a time.
But one day last year, while he was travelling through New England with his father, Bouchard saw a boat, LADY MARCIA ANNA, for sale on the Merrimack River in Massachusetts. Already looking to acquire a larger vessel, he said he knew it was the boat he'd been searching for. Finally, after several months of financial haggling, it was his. "It took a week to finally get it down here in October and it was in rough shape," Bouchard recalled. "But since then my sons and I have worked on it every single weekend and every night. It's totally rebuilt, repainted, rewired, and relighted now. People from the Coast Guard came down here to check out its bottom and they said 'for a 30-year-old boat it sure looks great.''
Although Bouchard pointed out that the boat was ready for its maiden commercial voyage in April, this weekend the hours of hard work and financial investment will pay off when he takes a group of would-be-fishermen into Raritan Bay.
While the fee for an excursion on the WACKY escalated over the years because of the boat's small capacity, customers will find rates on the MISTY MORN reasonable, he said. "The average working man can't spend $50 to $60 a day to fish," Bouchard said. "The new boat will cost them only $20 a man. I supply the poles and they bring the beer and lunches."
Beside the boat's cost, Bouchard pointed out that his fishing operation has several advantages that larger commercial oceanfront businesses can't offer.
"Everyone from North Jersey has to pass by my way to get to the shore and places like Atlantic Highlands. Past me they have to drive down Route 36 and sit in traffic and at lights for another 45 minutes," he said. "What I can do is take them out there on the water for those extra road minutes and make it a more pleasant trip. That's a big difference."
Bouchard noted that from the dock on Cheesequake Creek to the open seas of Raritan Bay, it takes only 25 minutes before his customer's fishing lines are cast.
Though he claimed he can take customers out into the Atlantic Ocean to tackle larger fish, the Raritan Bay, Bouchard said, has the best Fluke fishing on the east coast. The flat, flounder-like fish, he noted, is one of the most delicious to cat and one of the easiest to catch.
"I don't even have to anchor. All you have to do is drop your line down and as long as it hits bottom you'll get Fluke. You don't need to go to the ocean for that," Bouchard said. "A lot of big rivers pour into this area and there's great weather and calm waters. I guess that's why all the Fluke come here."
MISTY MORN, he added, is an ideal party boat for clubs and organizations to use. Sayreville groups such as The Elks and Knights of Columbus, Bouchard noted, have rented his boat in the past.
"Last year my customers had such a great season and they're all coming back. Knock on wood. Word of mouth gets around, so this could be the best year," he said. "I'm going to sail every weekend and I've got four weeks of vacation coming up to go out too. You can't get me out of the water."
Some things never change. As a small child, Bouchard, who was born and raised in South Amboy and now lives two minutes away from the boat in Sayreville, said he was constantly at Cheesequake Creek and other local water holes, baiting for crabs and fishing for bluefish with his brothers and his friends
"Well, one day we're sitting at the Miniditch, a beach in South Amboy, and this 12-foot rowboat comes floating to us," he remembered. "We put an ad in the paper and no one claimed it so it was all ours. Ever since then I've owned boats. Next it was a 14-footer and then an 18-footer."
Hopefully, Bouchard said, MISTY MORN, his biggest and best vessel yet, will be his last boat. If his plans for the future come true, it could also become his livelihood.
Bouchard said that when he turns 55 he'd like to retire from his 20-year job as a lineman for Jersey Central Power Company, Freehold, and work full time on the boat with his sons in a family business. When he's not on the boat or fishing, he added, he wants to be duck hunting.
"I've thought about it a lot and my sons want to get into it. They all chip in already and pick up easy money. That's what they'd like to do," he said. "My oldest son Gary is 22 and he just got out of the Marine Corps. He'll go for his captain's test soon."
Bouchard's other sons are 18-year-old Michael, an award-winning wrestler at Sayreville War Memorial High School; Phillip 16; and Sean, 11. His wife Claire, along with his daughters Jacqueline, 20; and Tara, 8; operates a small concession booth at the Cheesequake Creek dock.
"So you see my whole family has everything they need right here. I could never move away and I've never wanted to," Bouchard said. "This is what I've wanted to do all my life. What could be better than to sit down here on the boat and relax for the rest of my years?"