Our fans recently chose six top captains in the annual Sport Fishing Charter Captains of the Year contest for 2017.
Congrats to captains Peter and Brian Bacon (Snug Harbor, Rhode Island), Rob Crocitto (Staten Island, New York), Adam Peeples (Destin, Florida), Jay Sconyers (Murrells Inlet, South Carolina) and Jason Stock (Anna Maria Island, Florida).
But, of course, there are thousands of great offshore charter skippers and inshore guides around the United States who might not be nationally recognized for what they do, but who are recognized day in and day out by anglers who come to fish with them and leave with great memories.
To all these professionals, I say bravo and offer a sincere thank you.
You guys are ambassadors to our sport, and serve on so many levels. Most of you are conservation-oriented stewards of marine game fish and the environment, from protecting habitat to teaching best practices for releasing unharmed those fish not kept for dinner.
Many of you, at various times, serve as a gateway to the sport at its best, taking out folks who might not have fished much or haven’t fished salt water, or perhaps haven’t ever fished anywhere at all.
While I have fished with guides who were gruff or irritable, I’ve found those to be exceptions. Mostly, pros in this game are naturally patient and are great communicators. After all, if they don’t enjoy people, they’re in the wrong business to begin with, since guiding is about people, even before it’s about fish. Typically, anglers become captains because they’re passionate about the sport and want to share that passion.
And, particularly, most of you skippers have opportunities to take youngsters fishing. That could well be their first time on a serious fishing outing, which makes such a day pretty important: A bad experience could turn off kids to fishing; a great one could cement their enthusiasm as anglers for life.
Does a “great fishing experience” mean catching lots of trophy fish? Hardly, especially to young anglers. I think it has more to do with feeling good about whatever they catch, and most fishing guides get that. I’ve seen kids walk away from a guide’s boat after catching nothing that you or I would think worth mentioning. Yet a good guide’s enthusiasm rubs off, so at the end, they’ve learned a bit, and had a great time and a fun day — and isn’t that what fishing’s all about?
I only wish SF could recognize all the great guides out there, but — I’m glad to say — there are just way too many. So we’ll just whittle away at the larger universe of professionals, naming a few at a time every year. On that basis, I hope lots of you will be ready to nominate any great captains or guides with whom you’ve fished when our 2018 Charter Captains of the Year contest opens up for names next fall.
Doug Olander is editor-in-chief of Sport Fishing magazine.
Sport Fishing welcomes opportunities to share a variety of perspectives from prominent or influential participants in issues related to recreational fishing and fisheries.