BELFORD, N.J. — He was a retired construction worker who turned his fishing hobby into a low-pressure business, taking a delight in almost anything he brought back.

Unshackled from the industry’s harsh economy, he came and went on his own hours, defying some of the mantras of professional trawling. There are no sick days. Never get on the water alone.

Tom Andresen, 59, was on the water alone last week when something went wrong. The stern of his 40-foot boat, known as El Jefe, tipped backward just off the Sandy Hook peninsula. In an instant, the calm waters swallowed it, dragging the vessel to the bottom of a 75-foot-deep channel. Only an ice cooler floated to the surface.

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