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Species Quest — An Angler’s Obsession

I never got out of the "catch anything" phase

October 26, 2012

First off, I am not the Steve Wozniak who invented the Apple computer. If you were looking for that Steve Wozniak, you’re in the wrong place. He is shorter, hairier, and a lot richer than me. In my defense, I have caught more species of fish than he has. So there.

Oddly enough, I have met the Apple Wozniak. I suppose he dances better than me too.

Now — how to explain my particular angling obsession? Remember when you were a kid and it was cool to catch ANY fish, no matter how tiny, no matter where it was? But then you grew out of it and started chasing the dignified stuff, whether it was stripers, marlin, or anything in between? Well, the main point — and tragic undercurrent — of “Species Quest” is that I never got out of the “catch anything” phase.

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I went all the way to Rio and this was the biggest thing I caught.

In my defense, I do occasionally catch decent-sized fish. This one is a Potato Grouper in Mozambique.

I certainly love to get the big stuff, but I have made a career out of catching all critters great and small, in glamorous locations and in hotel fountains, and then hitting the books and figuring out exactly what it was that I caught. This list of species, as of press time, sits at 1,169, and was caught in 40 states and 74 countries. It has been a lot of fun and a lot of work, but hey, it keeps me out of trouble. Except for the time at the sacred pond in Laos. Oh, and the fountain at the Royal Hawaiian in Kona, but how often do you get a shot at a Milkfish?

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Like a lot of strange accomplishments, some of it is due to plain old unhealthy male competitiveness. The actual keeping of the list began as a late night “mine is bigger — no, mine is bigger” conversation with buddy Mike Rapoport. We broke out the legal pads, and thank goodness, I had in fact caught more types of fish than he had. My handwritten scribble has grown into an elaborate spreadsheet, whereas Mike’s was likely trash-canned in petulant snit. We remain friends nonetheless, and indeed, much of the story of my quest is about the friends I have made along the way. Many of my catches have been due to the absolute, unsolicited kindness of strangers, and the willingness of golf course security to look the other way.

I also seem to have a deep-rooted need to give a moment of glory to some of the “underrepresented fish” — stuff no one wants to catch or no one has ever heard of. Many of these are incredibly beautiful — before I started this, I had no idea what a variety of amazing creatures were swimming around out there.

Another “tropical whatsit” — a Christmas Wrasse from Oahu.

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There are no “junk fish” in my world — only new species to add to the list and write about. To paraphrase Captain Kirk — “To boldly catch what no one has cared about.”

Of course, every Captain Kirk needs his Darth Vader, and I too have an arch nemesis. Actually, two of them. Both of these individuals live to catch species I have not and torment me about it, and while they may appear sympathetic to you readers, I must emphasize that they are both evil. One of them is Jaime Hamamoto, 14 year-old daughter of one of my best friends, and the other one, awkwardly, is my girlfriend Marta. Do not be fooled by their outward appearance of kindness.

Steve and Jaime Hamamoto in Oahu. Jaime probably caught both of these fish.

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Marta. And yes, she caught the bigger fish. Is there no end to this abuse?

Two and a half years ago, I decided I needed to share my pain with others and started writing my blog, 1000Fish.Wordpress.com. This has covered species #950 and up through the present day. Some of it is — gasp — freshwater fishing, but for this space, we will focus mostly on saltwater episodes, unless something completely ridiculous happens at a local pond or I’m about to miss a deadline.

Something ridiculous always seems to happen in ponds. There’s a long story behind this photo, and I pray I never have to tell it.

So, more or less every two weeks in this space, you can look forward to (or not) an account of a catch of a new (and likely obscure) saltwater species, or at least something that went horribly wrong in the attempt. I will try to mix it up between current events and some “greatest hits” from the past, because sooner or later I have to confess about how, circa 2005 in Portugal, I learned why you never bring a big Moray on to a small boat. Sure, this may seem like common sense to you, but it was species #389 to me, and in hindsight, the boot print on my forehead was a small price to pay.

I am thrilled to have a spot here at Sport Fishing magazine, and I look forward to hearing from you, unless that was your livewell I raided looking for a Green Jack, in which case, that wasn’t me.

Cheers,

Steve

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