Cape May County fisherman's bounty lost on land

Matthew Camp , of Cape May County, with girlfriend Tabitha Bohn.
Matthew Camp , of Cape May County, with girlfriend Tabitha Bohn.
Posted: September 19, 2013

EVERY commercial fisherman has good days and bad days, stretches when the sea seems as barren as the moon and others when the nets are fat with fins, claws and shells.

Matthew Camp, of Lower Township, Cape May County, had a recent run of good days aboard a scallop boat, the F.V. Nancy Elizabeth, and things were set to get even better Sept. 9 when he planned to buy an engagement ring and propose to his longtime girlfriend, Tabitha Bohn.

Camp, 32, cashed a check for $12,000 at a bank that morning, stuffed the bills into his backpack and headed south on the Garden State Parkway on his motorcycle about 8 a.m. Then fate or a faulty zipper deep-sixed the day: All those bills fluttered out of his backpack, all those hours on the ocean tossed away like a shucked scallop shell.

Camp realized he'd lost cash once he got to the dock at Lund's Fisheries and called his girlfriend. He was "sick to his stomach," Bohn said. Having spoiled his plans to propose, Camp turned the motorcycle north.

"This season has been good, finally. Last season had been bad and we were at our wits' end," Bohn said. "Sometimes he can go out for a month and not even make a paycheck."

Back on the parkway, some New Jersey Highway Authority workers on a roadside-cleaning assignment had scooped up about $4,000 of Camp's cash, New Jersey State Police said, and gave it back to him. Other motorists - perhaps one in a silver Dodge pickup - may have grabbed the bills and scrammed, police said.

Police were initially skeptical of Camp's story, Bohn said, but his bank records confirmed the transactions. Police found no additional cash after a thorough search of the parkway and its shoulders.

Camp, preparing to set off on another scallop trip, didn't want to comment on the cash. His sister Michelle Godin, of Plymouth Meeting, said her brother is angry at himself and embarrassed about what happened, but she wants people to know who he is and what the loss means.

"He has four children he does everything for. He's a very family-oriented man," Godin said. "He has to leave them on land and go out for months at a time. It's a dangerous job."

Bohn, 29, and Camp said a caller who claimed to be the person in the silver pickup contacted them recently, but they hadn't confirmed it as of yesterday and weren't sure if it was just a cruel prank. Police said no one has come forward.

Somewhere, though, some folks must think they hit the jackpot. Bohn thinks they should know better.

"It can't possibly feel good," she said, "to spend someone else's hard-earned money."

Tipsters can contact state police at 609-296-0503.

On Twitter: @JasonNark

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