Posted by: 1000fish | October 14, 2022

All Dogs do NOT go to Heaven


I know there is a special place in hell for people who make fun of small, yappy, kick-dogs. But I’m going to risk it. “Little Bit” was an awful animal and the world should know.

The dog. It hated me. It hated everyone. And not just a Little Bit.

A toy chubacabra by AKC standards, Little Bit belonged to my buddy Steve Ramsey’s Mother, Rosie. This was long before small dogs were a fashion accessory, so you could say that Rosie was a pioneer of the decorative chihuahua movement – years ahead of Paris Hilton. 

The dog put on a good show in front of Mrs. R., but it snapped and growled at everyone else. Those who were roped into dogsitting got bitten. Houseguests and veterinary assistants also took high casualties. With this history, you can imagine my distress when I discovered that Steve’s guest room features a large photo of the now-departed* canine, and I swear its eyes follow me around the room. 

The tiny face of terror.

And how did I end up in Indianapolis? As always, it involves fishing and it’s a long story. If you want the summary, there were seven species, three new friends, six meals at Skyline Chili, four sports events, a funeral, (two if you count the Indians game) and another meal at Skyline.

It began, as many bad stories do, in Cleveland. One of Marta’s dearest friends had lost his Mother, and Marta wanted to attend the funeral. I fully agreed until I was told, well after the fact, that this involved going to Lima, Ohio. It’s easier to get to Lima, Peru. 

We decided to fly to Cleveland and drive it from there. Marta can make a cultural excursion out of anything, (see below,) and I can make a fishing trip out of anything, (see Ethiopia), so we made it work. 

We arrived, despite the best efforts of United Airlines.

As much as I like to pick on Cleveland, it’s actually a pretty cool place. We stayed in the theater district, and a buddy I’ve known since junior high, Sean Biggs, joined us for the Rock and Roll Museum and then an Indians game. 

This was an awesome place – I could have spent days here. Much better than the art museum.

Yes, I like ABBA. Deal with it.

Until you see this movie, your life is not complete.

Marta, Sean, and Steve at the baseball game.

Yes, I got some dirty looks for this. 

Marta makes friends at the stadium.

The next day, Marta dragged me out of bed at some ungodly hour and we were off to Ada, Ohio, which is near Lima. The area is infested with OSU fans.

We caught up with Scott, one of Marta’s best friends, and headed to the cemetery to say goodbye to his Mother. It was a very touching ceremony – an Ohio girl, who had spent most of her life in California, was buried minutes from where she was born. I thought of my own Mom, who we laid to rest about four hours north of here. I can’t believe that was 10 years ago.

After an extended lunch with Scott’s family, we headed back to Ada. We had a few hours before dinner, so it didn’t take me long to duck out and find a creek. It wasn’t much of a creek – but as I examined the water, I could see a bunch of carp and some shallow rocks that likely held darters.

Laugh if you will, but places like this hold a lot of fish.

I saw one variegate darter, which would not bite, and got a few rainbow darters, which are one of the most common animals in nature.

They do make nice photos.

I then turned my attention to the carp. They were big fish – 10-15 pounds, and since the area was so small, I had to be uncharacteristically stealthy. It was all sight-casting a small jighead and red worm, and after about half an hour, I hooked a big one. 

One of our dinner companions scoffed at the idea that there were fish in that small creek. I live for moments like this.

As if the day couldn’t get any better, Ohio State lost to Oregon. There was open weeping in the streets, which made me smile.

Just two months later, there was finally justice in the Michigan game.

The next evening, Marta and I drove back to Cleveland. We had a nice dinner, found ice cream, and put her on a flight home in the morning.

Then the serious fishing started, and other people’s internet connections came into play. One of my buddies knew a guy named Cody, who is based near Cleveland. He and I got trading messages, and he had a few ideas for species on the Cleveland/Columbus corridor. Cody is finishing up nursing school at Akron, so it was very generous of him to come out for a day with me. We spent most of the morning creek-hopping our way south, and I could tell the kid really knew his stuff.

We didn’t get anything new in the morning, but remember, I’m a hard guy to buy a gift for.

Everything turned out to be creek chubs. Everything.

The afternoon, however, was one for the ages. Cody and I pulled up at the Kokosing River, a gorgeous, clear gem of a place I had never been to, despite living in the area for a few years. It looked incredibly fishy, full of rocks, riffles, pools, pilings, and trees. There were supposed to be variegate and bluebreast darters here, and as I set up my gear, Cody caught a variegate darter. Right in front of me. After I had just explained that I had never caught a variegate darter. 

The variegate darter was caught in the lower left of the photo. I will forgive Cody the moment I catch one.

Before I tried for darters, I saw some small fish in a deeper riffle and flipped a bait out to them. After a couple of undifferentiated silver shiners, I got a streamline chub – the first new species of the trip. 

# 2031.

We then set out after bluebreast darter – a notably exasperating species. They love relatively deep water, which makes them hard to see, and they love fast water, which makes them difficult to present to. But they were there in numbers. The balancing act here is to use a split shot big enough to have some control over the bait, but that is somehow small enough to not spook the fish. It took about half an hour of missed bites, but with Cody there as a current break, I landed one.

Note the blue breast.

The triumphant anglers.

These are a special fish – usually the kind of thing only Pat Kerwin can catch. I was thrilled, until I spent the next hour hunting for that variegate darter and realizing Cody had caught the only one. When I was already late for dinner, I headed off for Columbus and had steaks with some dear friends. I also stopped by two of my old apartments.

The Summit house. It likely has the same carpet it did in 1985.

My second apartment in Columbus – King’s Court. It was royally moldy.

On the way to Indianapolis the next day, I stopped at Little Darby Creek – a favorite Midwestern destination that always seems to have a stray species available. I immediately saw a variegate darter, but these are fond of such turbid water that I struck out. I thought again of Cody catching the one RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME yesterday. Kids.

I got a mixed bag of several dozen fish, and one of the shiners looked a bit different. I took good photos and got into Peterson’s Guide, and to my great delight, it was a scarlet shiner. I had my third species of the trip. 

Oh I love this creek. Thank you again to Josh Liesen, who introduced me to the place, and who caught a scarlet shiner right in front of me that day.

Cody sent me his scarlet photo. It was much prettier than mine. So is his variegate darter.

Little Darby, near where I caught my smallmouth redhorse.

Then I got to Indianapolis, which means watching sports and eating irresponsibly with Steve Ramsey.

The pinnacle of Unsupervised Man Food – the Skyliner Chili Dog. When I write my book “Food with Consequences,” Skyline will have its own chapter.

Steve’s guest room, as we have covered, features a picture of that awful little dog, and I swear I hear the “Psycho” music every time I see it.

It growled so hard it would vibrate across the floor. It snuggled up on Steve’s leg once when we were watching TV, but when Steve moved, the dog bit him. The glowing eyes are not a photo error, they were like that all the time, and frankly, I’m surprised the thing showed up on film.

After the first few meals at Skyline, but before the sporting events started, I went fishing again. This is when we introduce Ron and Jarrett, another connection through, I believe, Gerry Hansell. Ron and Jarrett are based in Southern Indiana and have made it their life goal to catch every single species of fish that lives in their state. It sounds hard, but it’s actually a lot harder than that. There are plenty of species that might live in one small creek or just be here part of the year or live deep somewhere or are just plain hard to catch. 

Jarrett is a grad student and Ron is an executive chef, so their schedules are busy. They were occupied on the first day I had free to fish, but they helpfully suggested that I try a covered bridge in western Indiana – a place I had fished before with Gerry.  There were supposed to be a couple of slam dunks there, notably a dusky darter.

In hindsight, there are no slam dunks in fishing, only overconfidence that turns to disaster. 

I set out that morning with a cooler full of red worms and Red Bull.

Here’s one way to keep people out of your cooler.

Steve Ramsey joined me for the scenic drive, and I set up for one of my favorite activities – wet wading a creek on a warm day. And yes, I was completely overconfident about at least the darter. We all know what happened – I saw exactly one dusky. I hooked it, and it flew off in mid-air, inches from my hand. The bad words I yelled are still echoing through the river valley.

I couldn’t have picked a more beautiful place to fail.

I texted the guys and told them it had gone badly. Ron, in particular, was stunned. He volunteered to come out with me and hunt down at least the darter. I never refuse help – but I do try to pass it on whenever someone visits me. Except the Mucus. Or Jamie. 

Two days later, Ron and I connected back at the covered bridge. There’s no missing him – he’s a tall guy, who insists on wearing waders even in summer, to avoid poison ivy. Smart. I hate poison ivy. It hates me. I have a gift for getting it on my hands, and then going to the bathroom before I realize I have it.

We headed up the creek, to the spot where I lost the darter. Ron conceded that the water was much lower than when he had been there and that there weren’t nearly as many fish in evidence, but he also educated me that they are very wood-oriented, which narrowed our search.

We eventually spotted a large dusky. Every time I presented to it, swarms of shiners moved in and tore up the bait. The darter was game, but he just wasn’t as fast as the minnows. Eventually, he tired of the process and tried to swim into a brushy shoreline. Ron played goaltender and steered him back into the open area. Two grown men carried on like this for at least an hour and managed a few desultory bites from the increasingly exhausted little fish. Somewhere in there, I happened to look down at my right foot. Another dusky darter had settled in the shade of my instep. I had to somehow stay calm, which is never easy, shorten my line up, and gently drop a bait straight down. The fish bit instantly, and I swung it up to a surprised Ron, who caught it mid-air. We had the darter.

The triumphant anglers. Yes, Marta, all of these guys are tall and good-looking. What’s your point?

A closeup of the creature. 

I could have ended the day and been very happy, but Ron suggested that there were some excellent madtom opportunities nearby. He and Jarrett tend to do a lot of their micro-fishing at night, and while the idea of going back to Indianapolis for Skyline Chili was appealing, the idea of more fish was even more appealing. Ron led me to one of his favorite western Indiana creeks. We spent a pleasant hour wet-wading for assorted micros – there were a few new darters there, but visibility was limited and they laughed at us and wandered out of sight. I did get one small catfish, which I didn’t think much of at the time, but it turned out to be a freckled madtom.

I am terrible at photographing these things.

We had one more stop that evening, a spot where Ron thought we could pick up a brindled madtom. The process was straightforward but maddening – we poked through a shallow rockbed, very carefully as the substrate was mud and it was easy to cloud up the water. We spotted a few madtoms, which are generally quite cooperative at night, but they decided to explore their inner sand darter and completely ignore us. This just made me more determined, so dusk turned into something like 10pm by the time one finally bit for me.

I remember thinking “Sure I’m happy, but my butt is asleep and I want to go now.”

I was cramped and cold and uncaffeinated, and it was 90 minutes to Indianapolis. Luckily, my host Steve is a bit of a night owl, so we could eat together late, but I made things worse by turning west instead of east on the interstate. It was about half an hour before I realized I shouldn’t be in Illinois.

After Steve and I finished some large number of White Castle hamburgers, we sat down back at his place to watch ESPN, and yes, I swear the photo of Little Bit was LOOKING AT ME.

Just a Little Bit scary.

Steve’s neighborhood has a geographical anomaly – the intersection of Friendship Drive and Friendship Drive.

The weekend was completely devoted to sports events. Saturday morning, we headed for Bloomington, where the Hoosiers would face the highly-ranked Cincinnati Bearcats.

Although I do not always understand his headgear choices, I am always grateful for Steve’s excellent tickets. Bizarre random fact – Steve can palm a basketball. I cannot.

IU made a game out of it, but the Bearcats, with a level of graciousness and sportsmanship reminiscent of Jimmy Johnson’s Miami teams, prevailed. 

A very crowded Memorial Stadium.

Interesting side note at the IU game – I had not met Jarrett in person, but he attended the game so we got to catch up and say hello.

This guy is an intense fisherman, and interestingly, he is also Cincinnati football fan. And he seemed like such a nice person. But no matter how misguided his football loyalties are, he has caught more darters than anyone I know.

On the way back from the game, I got texting with Pam, another long-time local friend. She mentioned that she had excellent tickets to the Indianapolis Indians (AAA baseball) game that night. And by excellent, I mean the mayor’s suite. (Pam worked for the mayor of Indianapolis at the time.) She graciously invited us, mostly because she likes Steve.

That’s Pam on the right, from a 1990 visit to The Field of Dreams in Dyersville, Iowa.

I decided to surprise Steve and take him to the baseball game – it wasn’t the first time he and I had done two sporting events in a day. Not only did we see a good contest from the mayor’s suite, but Pam also introduced us to Bruce Schumacher, the owner of the franchise. 

Quite a night.

The following morning, we made a long-overdue pilgrimage. While I am not a Bears fan, I respect their tradition and history – their two wins a year usually come against the Lions. Soldier Field is one of the great edifices left in an age of antiseptic, cookie-cutter stadiums, and we made the three-hour drive to catch a game in person. It’s an amazing place – a modern stadium built inside the shell of the original structure. We got to see the Bears defeat the Bengals, but the Bengals would recover and go on to the Super Bowl, whereas the Bears, as with most teams led by OSU “graduates,” would flail in mediocrity for the rest of the year. 

Steve has gear for about any team you can think of. For the uninitiated, that’s a Walter Payton jersey he’s wearing. Can anyone name the jersey I am wearing? (Hint – it isn’t football.)

I gave it one more fishing round before I went home, an adventure west to Terre Haute pursuing the elusive goldeye. I didn’t manage one, but I did cross over to the Illinois side and add an interesting (and apparently wayward) micro – the bigmouth shiner.

They aren’t supposed to be there. And yet they are.

I flew home the next morning, ahead seven more species and some new friends that I would be fishing with again soon. Ron and Jarrett had both mentioned that there was a solid blue sucker run near them every April, and I would give my Aunt (and draft picks) to catch a blue sucker. I was already making reservations for another flight to Indianapolis, where I knew I would always have a guest room waiting for me, even if the decor was a Little Bit frightening.


* At least I think it’s departed. Come to think of it, I never heard anything official, and I believe it was around 42 the last time it bit me. For all we know, it’s still wandering the back alleys of Griffin Road, snatching the occasional postman and frightening children.  





Posted by: 1000fish | September 13, 2022

Transplant vs. Transplant


I pretty much ran out of California “day trip” species years ago. Once in a while, something obscure pops up, like the Gualala Roach, but even for that, I have stretched the criteria for “day trip” to a logical extreme. (Current definition is a trip I can complete in roughly 24 hours, sleep optional.)

Late one night, I was breathlessly flipping through Dr. Peter Moyle’s outstanding Inland Fishes of California.  To my surprise and delight, he mentioned that there is a population of brook stickleback in California. I had never caught a brook stickleback. The details were troubling – the fish were sampled in one remote pond, and possibly a related stream system, and the reports were roughly 20 years old. The pond was faintly near Gazelle, well up into the northern reaches of California, and would involve over 700 miles of driving. I considered this a reasonable idea, which should give you some concept of the stupidity it takes to catch 2000 species of fish.

It is unclear how brook stickleback ended up in this particular pond. It’s not like this is a major fishing destination where someone would have dumped a bucket of minnows that contained a random stickleback, but it would be even weirder to think someone did this on purpose. I personally believe there was a cult involved. (Warning – digression ahead.) Heck, there was a “Blue Oyster Cult,” so why not a “Brook Stickleback Cult?” That would be an awesome band name – I’ll keep that in mind if I ever start a band. I have a list ready – my personal favorite is still “Bad Fennec,” but I also like “Romanian Snorkeling Accident,” “Mercy Flush”, and, for a punk band, “Phantom Booger.”

In any case, this isolated population of transplants was probably there, and I, another California transplant, was going to go find them.

I decided to break it up with an overnight stop in Yreka, which is near Gazelle and should not be confused with Eureka, which is on the coast. I called species hunting friend Luke Ovgard in case he needed this fish, since he’s based in Southern Oregon, closer to the spot than I am. As it turns out, he had the stickleback, but he mentioned that there was another species possible in Yreka – the marbled sculpin. We agreed to meet that next afternoon, presuming I was still not up in the hills chasing the stickleback, giving me the a shot at two new fish on the same trip.

Interestingly, or more likely not, I had tried for this sculpin on a previous trip with Luke – in the well-known “Fishing in the Time of Covid” episode. And speaking of Luke, and this jumps ahead a few months in the blog, but I would like to congratulate him for catching his 1000th species, a silver moony in Singapore this July. There are now six people who have gone into four figures. 

Well done, Luke.

It’s a long drive to Yreka. This is normally a rather scenic road trip, but California – AGAIN – was having a series of big wildfires and visibility was limited to a few hundred smoky yards in the central valley.

This was taken in late afternoon. There were no clouds.

Even worse, the Arby’s in Redding was out of Arby’s sauce, a fact they shared with me only after I paid. Arby’s without Arby’s sauce is morally wrong, but the teenagers running the place battled me for my refund. They lost. I headed over to Dairy Queen, which had all the proper dipping sauces and, as an added bonus, ice cream.

Martini is not upset that he missed this meal.

By morning, the air had cleared a bit, revealing some of the scenery. Once I got off I-5 and on to the state roads, it was endless mountains and ranchland on an increasingly winding two-lane highway that I had all to myself. It’s a beautiful part of the world.

Somewhere west of Gazelle, California.

There is also plenty of wildlife. I saw dozens of deer, a herd of elk, assorted eagles, and one very confused bear cub.

More than one person asked me why I didn’t get out of the car to help him. These people have not seen The Revenant.

And yes, his Mother showed up moments later. This wasn’t cute. It was terrifying. If you don’t know why, watch The Revenant.

About 30 miles later, I started seeing a creek on the north side of the road. As soon as I found some accessible pools, I stopped to try my luck. I caught speckled dace, but there were no sticklebacks in evidence. I tried a few more places on the creek, up to the junction with the dirt road that led to the lake. 

At that spot, a local rancher pulled over to ask me what the heck I was doing – I imagine he didn’t see a lot of people fishing there. Once I got through the initial awkwardness of explaining that people really do try to catch two-inch fish, we ended up having a pleasant conversation and he wished me well in my quest.

There were 30 more miles of dirt road ahead of me, but it was well-maintained and went quickly. I had plenty of time to consider the obvious risks – my information was dated, so the lake could be fishless, or it could have disappeared in one of the droughts.

It was late morning when I finally got there. It was there – a perfect little mountain lake, partially-shaded, and loaded with structure. I parked, took a deep breath, and got out to look. In less than five seconds, I saw fish, and in less than six, I could tell they were brook sticklebacks.

The nameless lake, somewhere in remote Northern California. You can call me for coordinates or buy the book, which is much easier than calling me. 

Now, I would have to get them to bite, and I was prepared to spend all afternoon there if needed. This too was anticlimactic – they swarmed the first bait I put in the water, and I caught one within seconds. 

Species 2028. Was it worth the drive? Hell yes. I couldn’t help but think of my first three-spined stickleback, with Roger Barnes in 2011.

I then retraced my route back toward civilization, and about 90 minutes later, I was in Yreka, pulling up next to Luke in some parking lot behind a liquor store.

That sounds a lot darker than I meant it to. There is a creek behind the store. We were going to fish in there, because he was pretty certain there were marbled sculpin running around.

The place certainly looked fishy.

The marbled sculpin turned out to be my favorite kind of long-range micro fish – undramatic. They were all over the place and they were aggressive. Luke and I both got one in just a few minutes.

The beast in question – species 2029. Yes, I drove 12 hours to fish six minutes.



The triumphant anglers.

It was late afternoon by the time we finished taking pictures, and while I knew I would hit a bit of traffic in Fairfield, I could get home just in time to get dinner with Marta. I called to let her know this wonderful news, and she immediately told me I could take another week if I wanted to. 



The IGFA is proud to announce recently that their youth education programs, launched in 2018 with an audacious goal to teach 100,000 kids to fish, has hit that very goal. Through “Passport to Fishing” kits, online training, and key partnerships, the IGFA has reached out to an unprecedented number of our younger generation worldwide, and given them the knowledge and tools to begin enjoying a lifetime on the water. Visit for more information, and feel free to reach out to me with questions as well. 

A group of Fishing School grads in Athens, Greece.


Posted by: 1000fish | September 3, 2022

The Graduation Trip


Life happens a lot faster than we want it to. When my nephew Charlie graduated high school four years ago, I gave him a fishing trip with me anywhere in the world. (This makes me the best uncle ever.) The consensus destination was the Amazon, targeting peacock bass on surface lures. Then, stuff happened. My sister freaked out at the idea of yellow fever and unpronounceable snakes. Summer schedules got busy. Oh, and Covid happened. 

Still my favorite picture of Charlie.

My other favorite picture of him. He still has that rod.

Four years later, the trip still hadn’t happened, but Charlie had managed to graduate college, from Virginia Commonwealth no less. Naturally, I gave him a graduation present – a fishing trip anywhere in the world. (To run concurrently with the other trip.) After lengthy negotiations, it was decided that we would meet in San Diego and do a few days with old friend Captain James Nelson. This would allow us to hit all the San Diego staples, eat reasonable meals, and not face any unpronounceable snakes, especially the ones with yellow fever.

The whole family visited California in July, and then Charlie came back to fish in August. 

I don’t usually fly on American Airlines, and Charlie reminded me why. The original flight I gave him, business class direct to San Francisco, was cancelled and morphed into a dumpster fire of middle seats and multiple stops. Still, he eventually got here, and the next day, we were off on the eight hour road trip to San Diego. Yes, I could have flown him directly to San Diego, but where’s the fun in that? The idea was to spend quality time together, and what more quality time could anyone have than eight hours trapped in a car with me?

Somewhere in Los Angeles.

Nephew or not, he’s 22 years old and lives on the other side of the country. We don’t see each other that much, and while I was looking forward to it, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I didn’t know what was cool for 22 year-olds even when I was 22, and I certainly don’t now, but I prayed the fishing would be exceptional so no one would have time to share any feelings. We don’t need to discuss feelings, for God’s sake. Fishing is enough. 

We spent the first evening soaking baits off Harbor Island – a hotbed of assorted sharks, rays, and bay fish. Charlie’s first catch of the trip was a round stingray, which he was thrilled with, until he caught about eight more, especially when I made him unhook them.

Every location has a dominant pest, and in this case, it can put you in the hospital.

When did he get taller than me?    

We headed in for dinner and Charlie’s first legal drink with me. We kept it to one – we had an early day coming up.

Five AM came quickly, and we were off to meet Captain James at Mission Bay.

You can find James at He costs less than Sea World and you’ll see more fish.

We had a look outside the bay, and ocean conditions looked calm. Charlie does get seasick, but not at the Olympic level like his Dad, so we figured we would give it a shot on the open water off La Jolla. We could get Charlie some rockfish or maybe a stray yellowtail, and I could sadly cast a sardine and not catch a pelagic ray again. 

Charlie and James bonded quickly.

Charlie started catching fish the minute we stopped the boat.

Charlie’s first ocean whitefish. And … let’s get this out of the way now. Charlie does not have a pointy head. It’s just a bad combination of hat and sunshield.

I got a few rockfish and balefully stared at the ray rod. This was reaching spearfish-level futility. I complained loudly about how pelagic rays will show up for some kid from Indiana, but they disappear the minute I get here. I hate that kid from Indiana.

At 9:36 AM, the sardine rod folded over hard. I stared at it like an idiot. James had to gently suggest “Grab the rod, dude.” I lifted it out of the holder and hooked the fish. It ran quickly but not yellowtail quickly, and it changed directions constantly. I knew what it was, but I didn’t want to say anything out loud and hex myself.

James whispered “No pressure, dude. But that’s a pelagic ray.” I did not find this helpful.

Moments later, we could see the dark purple of a small pelagic under the boat. It was well-hooked, and James made short work of it with the net. The trip was now officially worth it. 

Species 2026. I finally was that kid from Indiana. And I actually was born in Indiana.

Charlie continued to load up on rockfish.

A nice bocaccio from deeper water.

That’s a starry.

We both got some solid reds.

Later on, we moved to the kelp and got a few cool inshore staples, including Charlie’s first sheephead and first calico bass.

It took me years to catch a three-color sheephead. Honestly – he does not have a pointy head.

The calico. He liked these a lot.

That’s not gray hair. It’s sunblock in my beard that just looks like gray hair.

We fished the shore that evening, and in between round rays, Charlie did something that astonished me. He caught a halibut. A decent one. From shore. By himself.

He will never have any idea how hard this is to do.

A halibut from shore deserves fireworks.

The next day, we pounded San Diego Bay, looking for an IGFA world record gray smoothhound for Charlie. (You are all of course familiar with this small and hard to identify shark from the “Wild Zebra Chase” episode.) Not that I would turn a record away, but it would be very cool to have a family member on the IGFA scoreboard. Plus, this would reclaim Charlie’s dignity from the fact that his sister has caught a much bigger fish than he has

Elizabeth, who is in the middle of college now, also has an overdue graduation present. (A concert of her choice anywhere in the world. As long as it’s near some decent fishing.)

Yes, I know you are all thinking this was more important to me than him. Stop already. The record, by the way, was a very doable at 3.75 pounds, and best of all, it was Spellman’s. 

We caught all kinds of local standards – bay bass, croakers, and mackerel – but the sharks were making themselves scarce. It was a very hot week, and this can sometimes put the bite off, but James kept looking for deeper water and different patterns and we kept ourselves busy. 

In the meantime, Charlie landed a solid bay bass, and then got a California scorpionfish, which I explained he should not put in his pants. 

I tried to suggest that the hoodie goes on after the hat, but it’s apparently cooler this way.

They call these “sculpin,” but they are actually a scorpionfish.

That evening, Charlie and I fished the shore a bit, and in the middle of the round ray parade, he got a big guitarfish. Things were going well so far – we were keeping busy enough where no one had tried to talk about feelings.

Finally, a decent smile.

But not like he smiled for his first bluegill.

We had another couple of legal drinks that night and discussed strategy for the next day – pounding the deeper sections of the bay for whatever sharks and rays would bite. 

Our last day with James for the trip broke absolutely beautiful – clear, sunny, hot, and completely still. I felt confident that James could get us something interesting, and I told him so. “I feel confident you can get us into a world record. Or two.” I said. “But no pressure.” As I recall, he responded with something like “Well aren’t you the easiest client I have ever fished with.” (That quote may not be exact.)

It got interesting very quickly. We were drifting near some big docks, and I noticed fish flipping on the surface. They didn’t look like sardines, so I asked James what they were. “Needlefish.” he responded. “California needlefish?” I asked breathlessly. “Yes.” he responded. I had never caught a California needlefish.

I quickly set up and cast a float rig. The needlefish attacked immediately, and I had an unexpected second species for the trip. The idea was to get Charlie some fish, but I’ll take these with no complaints.

Species 2027.

A closeup of the teeth.

Oh, and I caught a black croaker, which Chris Moore still didn’t have at the time. He finally got one in September of 2021 – but he still hasn’t gotten a barred pargo.

The sharks continued to be slow – we got a few round rays, which are horrible, and then a guitarfish. James decided to try some channels he knew in the back bay, and invest some time with big baits on the bottom. 

In between the round rays, Charlie finally had a solid run and set the hook on something that pulled back hard. The fight was all head shakes, and I knew it was a decent shark. James and I exchanged looks, and I stood behind Charlie shouting gentle advice like “Don’t #$%@ it up, Chuckles!” Charlie stayed calm, fought the fish well, and James boated a solid Mustelus. (Fish nerds unite!)

But would it beat Spellman’s record?

A quick look at the scale showed us it was six and a half pounds – well over the record, and Charlie smiled. I warned him we would need to do a lot of measuring to verify it was a gray for sure, but that things looked pretty good. He doesn’t get as publicly demonstrative as I do, and he certainly is quiet, but around me, almost everyone is quiet. 

We officially weighed and identified the fish about an hour later – it was gray and it was a record. I was so proud of him.

The afternoon, I stumbled into a gray smoothhound that weighed in at 4.5 pounds. This also topped Spellman’s fish – and would actually count as a world record for me, although one that would be immediately retired by my nephew’s fish. (All catches in the same day that top a previous record are counted as new records, regardless of order.)

Take that, Spellman. No record has ever been more thoroughly broken.

We got quite a few more fish – James had used every bit of his extensive San Diego knowledge and found us a day full of action despite the hot weather. Late in the session, Charlie, casting a light rig for bonefish, got another decent smoothhound – an intense battle on a trout rig.

I hadn’t seen him this happy since Santa brought him the All American Buzz Lightyear one Christmas. But that was at least three years ago. 

He wanted this more than a BB gun.

After James dropped us off, we tried light tackle surf a bit, then headed back to Harbor Island. 

The surf was a fail.

It took Charlie a couple of hours to figure out it was a nude beach.

Waiting for a bite at Harbor Island.

The fishing was reliable as always – this time, we got thornback rays.

We never did find out what this one was.

We went home the next morning, which was eight more hours in the car with me, which we passed by sharing family folklore and getting Charlie to volunteer terrible secrets about my sister. (I am SO ready for story time at the next family holiday.)

I also chewed Charlie out for buying block ice instead of crushed, and yet, three days later, the block was still frozen in the Yeti. So I learned something.

We reviewed such family gems as the full facts of the time my sister wrecked my rental car, the time the Christmas cake had concrete in it, and the real reason the basement carpet ended up covered in cranberry juice.

For lunch, we went to the Willow Ranch Barbecue, a place I had been introduced to by an aunt and uncle who live nearby.

The famous Willow Ranch menu.

It was that uncle who spent hours fishing me when I was a kid, and hopefully I have spent just as many with Charlie. I never did reproduce (you’re welcome, society) so this will be the best I can do passing things on in the family.

We got him to the airport the next day, and American eventually got him home. It might be a while until I see him again – he is starting his first job and lives on the other side of the country. I’m still not sure what the relationship is or is supposed to be, but I know we’re fishing buddies, and that’s all I could ask.





Posted by: 1000fish | August 22, 2022

Where there’s a will, there’s a Wade


Covid was on my last nerve. Sure, I had taken a few trips during the pandemic, but nothing where I crossed a large body of water, and for me, fishing involves crossing a large body of water. On a plane. I’ve done it on a boat, but it takes longer and the food’s worse.

Hawaii came to mind. It had been four years since I had been there. Marta and I looked at going this winter, but while travel anywhere wasn’t easy, the state of Hawaii was making a goat rodeo out of it. There were websites and downloads and apps and things to send in, like medical charts, the maintenance records from my first car, and a letter of reference from my sixth grade teacher.

But then I got talking to Wade. The fishing was good. That alone would be worth some administrative heartache. Then Jamie sold him out and told me Wade had been through a couple of health bumps over the past year. Nothing that was going to kill him – after all, we aren’t sure he’s human – but it didn’t sound like fun. And I got thinking. I had just turned 58, which means so had Wade. We aren’t young. I just started cholesterol pills. This all makes me think about mortality, which means thinking about emotions, and no, no, no. Time to go fishing. With a brother. So we could talk about anything except mortality or emotions. 

Can you spot Wade in this photo?  

So screw it. I bought a ticket, signed up on the website, got the app, and sent the other stuff. The maintenance records for my first car were easy – I never maintained it. Part of my ad when I sold it was “1978 Civic, original oil.” Sadly, I could not get a letter of reference from Mr. Lancaster, my sixth grade teacher at Churchill Elementary in Royal Oak. I always admired the man – he was a B-24 bombardier who survived the Ploesti mission – but I am sure he has been gone for years. I offered a letter from Cousin Chuck’s™ social worker, but Hawaii never responded. 

Arriving in Honolulu was just plain weird. There weren’t a lot of people, they were all wearing masks, and there was the requisite couple from Cleveland who hadn’t done any of the paperwork who were discovering that their whole vacation was going to be in quarantine. 

But none of that mattered, because I had sent in all of the required documents. Now all I had to do was rent a car. This was a lot harder than I could have imagined, because there was no inventory. Only “Sixt” claimed to have cars available. But just as “Lufthansa” is actually German for “Screw you American Flyer,” “Sixt” is German for “Maybe you get a car, when we are good and ready.” 

The rental desk wasn’t staffed. The phone wasn’t answered. The garage location people resented me for finding them and told me I had to go back to the terminal. After an hour of this, I finally cornered one of the attendants and demanded that they rent me the car I had reserved. Sullenly, they told me it was being cleaned, and that they would need EIGHT HOURS. I told them I had seen some very dirty cars in my life, including Mike Wilcox’s Chevy in college where someone barfed in the trunk and left it for us to find, but that none of these took eight hours to clean. While refusing to make eye contact, they admitted that they didn’t have the car, but that they estimated that it would be returned in seven hours and take an hour to clean. 

I spoke to Jamie, and she told me I didn’t need a rental car in the first place and she would be glad to drive. I told Sixt I was cancelling and suddenly, I became important to them. They lost their minds and told me they would have to charge me a large fee. 

I am told, by Spellman and some of my hockey teammates, that in extreme situations I am capable of producing a facial expression that clearly communicates something terrible will happen unless a certain behavior stops. I apparently made this face. They cancelled my reservation without charge, and we were off to the water. 

Our first stop was Heeia, a dock that has given me dozens of species over the years, and is home to the infamous “Pier Panther.” I didn’t get anything new, but I am always delighted by the variety at this location.

A stripebelly puffer. Not my best photo.

Milletseed butterflyfish. Great photo.

An even better photo. 

Toward dark, we moved a few miles up the coast and set up for surf fishing. (I had visited this beach with Wade years ago, and I remembered it as a much shorter walk. We still got there eventually.) Over the next couple of hours, we caught all kinds of stuff – eels, threadfin, and a yellow chub. The yellow chub is neck-and-neck with the rainbow darter for the most widespread form of life on earth. 

Seriously. The things are also in Florida. And Pacific Mexico. To the exclusion of all other Kyphosids. And even if you catch one that looks new, even Martini will just send you a paper full of scientific slap-fights and say “You’re on your own.”

We finally got to dinner, which, in light of our dietary restrictions, was a pizza with double bacon. It was good to catch up and eat as unsupervised men are meant to eat. Wade and I talked about fishing, sports, and food. You will notice that emotions and mortality are nowhere on this list.

We started very early the next morning, hunting for a snowflake eel on the north coast. Jamie reminded me constantly that she had already caught several at the same location. I failed. And we got rained on, which Wade seemed to take in stride.

He looks faintly like Han Solo frozen in carbonite.

After a few hours, we moved back to Heeia. First, the good news – I caught a new species, the ringtail surgeonfish.


The bad news is that I caught it 11 years ago, and missed the ID at the time. This happens occasionally. The actual catch occurred on June 18, 2010, and should have been included in the “Ghost of Don Ho” episode. I mixed the thing up with an eyestripe surgeonfish. (Haven’t we all.)

This made me realize how darn long I had been fishing with Wade. I met him before Jamie was born, and we fished for the first time around when she started speaking. Her first words were “I have caught that and you have not.” 

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Adorable.

The first time we hit the water together, it was a long time ago and, although we didn’t know it, everything in life was still possible. The most important thing I remember, apart from how good the fishing was, was that feeling that we would be doing this forever. Then 20-odd years passed. The fishing is still great, but somewhere in there, the idea of anything going forever has faded away. And annual physicals are a whole lot less fun. I actually made the mistake of mentioning my LDL levels and other indignities of aging, but Wade talked some sense into me. “Let’s go get some malasadas.” God bless him.

Malasadas are like doughnuts, except better.

We finished up with some surf fishing, and between small trevally and queenfish, I was fighting something most of the time. There isn’t a ton of new stuff left for me here, but standing with your feet in the water in Hawaii catching a fish every few minutes is cool no matter what.

A doublespotted queenfish – I got my first one of these 14 years ago, also with Jamie. Yes, she has caught a bigger one.

Somewhere on the North Shore. There are worse places to spend an afternoon.

Wade and I talked about all the years he had fished these spots – since childhood. Jamie reminded me of all the snowflake morays she had caught there, which I didn’t appreciate.

Sunset over the Pacific.

The next day, we started out at one of my favorite fishing spots anywhere in the world. I have no idea what the Hawaiian name is, except that there are a lot of vowels, but I call it “The Aquarium,” because it’s a ledge that looks down onto a series of coral heads and it’s like, well, an aquarium.

The first six fish I caught were Picasso triggerfish – humuhumunukunukuapua’a, to use the local term. I sought this species for years, and suffered through Jamie telling me that they were easy to catch. And now they were.

The key to catching a lot of these is to catch the first one.

I also saw a perfect-size snowflake moray, but it refused to bite. Jamie pretended to be sympathetic, but I know she secretly giggled at me. 

We moved up to Haleiwa, another beloved harbor. (Site of my world record porcupinefish.)  On the way, Wade messed up and mentioned something about a blood test he was getting. That was our signal to stop talking and get shave ice immediately.

It’s a food group.

The fishing was a bit slow, but when things are slow, good fishermen try harder and sometimes get a break.

My break came in the form of a small ray that glided through the harbor, making fun of me. I had a very light rig on – six pound all the way to the hook – but I didn’t think I had time to re-tie, so I cast. Naturally, the fish bit immediately. As it peeled line off my Stradic 1000, I figured I was in for a short and humiliating fight, like Claude Lemieux against Darren McCarty.

One of the great moments in sports history.

The ray sprinted for deeper water, ripping line out as it went, and I figured it would hit a boat keel or anchor line quickly. But it didn’t. It ran along the back edge of the dock for about 70 yards, then went across the harbor, then came back toward me along the rock wall. I had to steer it out of some pilings, but other than that, it fought in a clean box for 45 minutes. It finally got tired, and then I had to consider that it was indeterminately hooked and had a venomous stinger.

This is where Jamie came in handy. Wade said, “Jamie, go see if you can land the ray.”

I said to Wade “The shoreline is very slippery and the fish is venomous.”

He responded “It’s a new species. I’m willing to take the risk.” Jamie landed it without incident.

They have split up these species fairly recently – this one is the ocellated eagle ray, or Aetobatus ocellatus if you’re playing along at home.

Even after that, dinner was the high point of the day, because there was prime rib. Wade and I split a cow, and no, we aren’t ashamed of this. Old people still like to be able to make decisions, even if they are bad decisions. We spent dinner talking about fishing, sports, food, and fishing. I briefly mentioned cholesterol pills, but I must have been tough to understand with a mouth full of potato, bacon bits, and prime rib.

Yes, we are proud of this.

Oahu is a surprisingly big place with a surprising amount of traffic, so the drives are not short. This gave us plenty of time to talk. Jamie is doing very well – after ruining the curve for everyone else in college, she is in the financial and insurance world and will likely be CEO of Amazon soon.

Saturday the 24th was our last full day, and we had big plans. We headed out early to a beach that we call “The Preserve” because it is NEXT TO a preserve. We weren’t fishing the preserve. So stop it, weird kid who keeps making comments on my blog. And no, I didn’t discover the State of Hawaii or even this beach by myself, so I probably shouldn’t count anything I catch here. But I’m going to. 

Jamie hurtfully said that we looked like we were wearing Halloween mustard and ketchup outfits. 

The idea here is to put out a big rod and hope for some kind of monster, and then spend all day with your feet in the water casting shrimp after the reef fish. I have caught some big stuff here – like my record surge wrasse in 2016 – and you never know what the heck you’re going to get. The morning produced wrasses, triggerfish, and an assortment of other stuff. It was awesome. 

Including a flounder. I keep forgetting that there are flounder here.

Somewhere in there, I got a fight that was a little harder than the wrasses. It was a manybar goatfish, and it was a big one. I had an unexpected world record – my 214th. 

Jamie never warns us before she takes photos.

A closeup of the fish.

They prepared it for a late night snack.

Wade apparently has to wear this outfit for the cooking ritual.

Things got even more awesome right after Wade decided he wanted a Big Mac. Jamie took him to do a food run, and the moment that they were out of sight, the big rod started bouncing slightly. We always hope these rattles turn into a blazing run, but whatever this was seemed content to intermittently gnaw on the bait. Knowing the rig had a circle hook, I decided to start reeling. There was indeed a fish on it. Not a big one, and one that fought like a sock full of mayonnaise, but a fish. When I beached it, I could see the issue – it was a small moray, curled up in a ball. When I unwrapped it, sort of like fishing Christmas, it turned out to be a stout moray – a beast I had caught previously but nowhere near this size. A quick check on the Boga revealed that I had a second world record.

It was officially a good day.

Wade and Jamie returned shortly, and I should point out that Jamie messed up the food run by leaving the pickles on my quarter-pounder. The vicious psychological cruelty didn’t stop there. She spotted some small fish in a tidepool – the same tidepool I had been looking at all day – and said “Have you ever caught sharpnose mullet?” Of course I hadn’t. I didn’t even know that’s what they were. She also failed to warn me that they are ridiculously skittish, but after two hours of exasperating near-misses, I finally found the one magical aggressive fish who took the hook. 

I had a third species for the trip. Thanks to, and this hurts me to say, Jamie.

The reef got even better in late afternoon. Blue trevally started showing up, and on light tackle, these speedsters are about as much fun as you can have – unless Jamie is standing there with a picture of the 12-pounder she caught last week. 

Luckily, these kids hadn’t seen Jamie’s photos and thought this was a big fish.

Just as we were thinking about closing it down, I had one more good strike out on the reef, and hooked a stubborn fish that held the bottom for a couple of minutes. When I finally beached it, I couldn’t help but smile. It was a Lagoon Triggerfish, a special and rare local beast I had caught only one other time. This one was big – big enough to tie the record. Of course, guess who already held the record? Sigh.

It was challenging to crop Jamie out of this photo. But I managed.

One of the coolest fish ever.

Wade, who had spent some time fishing and a lot of time just watching the water and the rods, looked very pleased. “Now you two have to share.” Hopefully Jamie won’t read this far down in the article, but I am proud as I can be about sharing any record with her. 

We wrapped it up with another great local meal, which likely involved Spam, and that was it for the evening. 

The next morning, we spent about an hour not catching a snowflake eel. Then it was off to the airport and more Covid rituals. They didn’t bother me at all this time, because whatever hassle travel has become lately, it was worth it to see my friends, hit the water, catch some fish, and discuss absolutely nothing about mortality or emotions.



Posted by: 1000fish | July 23, 2022

Schrödinger’s Collie


When two buddies go on an eight day, 1500 mile fishing road trip, most of their really good stories are going to get trotted out at some stage during those long drives. Most of mine, especially the college ones, raise questions about my decision-making skills. Dom’s best story left me wondering one thing: What happened to the collie? This is the first thing everyone who has heard the story asks, and sadly, it will remain a mystery forever.

I didn’t wait long after catching species 2000 and 2001, but note that no one has called this a quest for 3000. I am not promising or even discussing that. Eleven years ago, right after I caught #1000, I wrote that I was going to go for 2000. And so I was stuck with that for 11 years, when I could have been learning needlepoint or line dancing, or spending more time with Marta, who, now that I think of it, is strongly encouraging the 3000 thing.

After that big steak dinner, I was in bed pretty early. But at some ungodly hour, when I am usually getting up for one of my old person bathroom trips, Dom arrived to begin our adventure through Florida and Alabama. Dom Porcelli has been introduced to the 1000fish readership, in the “Hail Caesar” episode. A passionate species hunter who is now well over 900, Dom is based in South Florida, and it was high time that we got out and did some serious fishing together. 

Dom Porcelli with a damn red coronetfish.  

At this stage of my career, I will often choose an extra hour of sleep instead of a four AM start, but Dom would have none of this. I’d like to mumble about how much energy young people have, but he’s actually a few months older than I am. (He does, however, take much better care of himself than I do.) We got out of Tampa before dawn and drove across the state to our first target, a freshwater goby that is cleverly called “the freshwater goby.” The spot was a Ben Cantrell discovery, and they certainly were well hidden – not the kind of thing someone would find randomly.

Species 2002. I have been back to this place twice since and not seen another one.

We then drove up the Florida coast a few more hours, heading to a spring system that was alleged to contain Westfall darters. I love catching darters, and I was hopeful this trip would add a few. I had started with 24 to my credit, and there are a bunch more out there, but they can be maddeningly hard to catch. This was the first of many times on the trip that we would get on the wading shoes and go toe-to-fin with fish in their own element. I love doing this.

Tip for the beginning angler – wear ankle socks under your water shoes and take the shoes off before long car rides, or you will experience world-class chafing. Also, do not leave the wet shoes in your car overnight, or the car will smell like two raccoons fought to the death under the passenger seat.

The Westfall darters were log-perch style aggressive, and we both got one quickly.

The first darter of the trip.

I was reminded how difficult it can be to handle a microbait in fast water, but this is why we travel with so many different sizes of split shot. 

Random road trip photo. There is no joy like dog joy.

We then headed to the springs at Rum Island, one of the prettiest spots in Florida.

Right until a teenager somehow gets an industrial sound system onto a paddleboard.

I scraped up one more species on the day, the redeye chub. This one is on Dom – I would have ignored this as another indistinguishable shiner.

The elusive redeye chub.

We spent the first half of the next day, May 15, hopping around creeks in the Florida panhandle, where I had done very well with Martini and Kyle in 2014.

We caught loads of assorted shiners and panfish, and one creature checked out as a new one – the metallic shiner, or something closely related to it.

These things are part of a complex with very close ID characteristics, so if you’re patient, I promise I’ll do another trip and get better photos and catch some of the relatives. For now, it’s a new species in the metallic genus.

Despite the fact we were in a Nissan Altima, there was only one dirt road that Dom refused to try, and for good reason. (And bless him for volunteering to drive.) Otherwise, even with me weighing down the car, we got to some amazingly inaccessible spots.

The one road we didn’t try. If there were spearfish at the end of it, I would have walked.

The drives were long – we didn’t think much of 200 or 300 miles at a time – but we finally entered Alabama, the most fish-diverse state in the Union and a mecca for species hunters everywhere. I had fished here once previously, and was just a few weeks early and did not experience great success. This time the weather was gorgeous and stable, like Marta, so I had very high hopes.

We set up at a random creek. Yes, it does look like Dom got caught doing something wrong, but after a week with him, I’m convinced he never does anything wrong.

Dom had set up a meeting with a biologist at Troy State University, Dr. Alvin Diamond, and we spent the afternoon as his guest, hunting creeks on and off the campus. We caught all kinds of stuff, but nothing new to report. There is a brown darter waiting for me there, and I will come back.

That’s Dr. Diamond on the left. 

Then we got driving and talking again. Skipping over my college floor hockey tales and the one where Frank Lopez threw up on Religious Tony from quite some distance, we eventually got to accident stories. Dom had a doozie. Some years ago, he was cycling in the hills of Northern Georgia. He was blasting down an especially steep, narrow grade, when a collie appeared from nowhere, placed itself perfectly in the middle of the path leaving no escape routes, and just stared at him until impact. Dom woke up in the bed of a pickup truck, where two locals had tossed him en route to the hospital. He was ok – road-rashy and concussed, but ok – but immediately, I asked “Dude! What happened to the collie?”

Dom looked at me with the patience that could only come from answering the question over and over. “Steve,” he explained. “I have absolutely no idea. I woke up in the bed of a pickup truck. On the way to the hospital. With a concussion.” He thought for a moment, and said “Everybody asks that, though.”

Part of me thinks no collie could survive that collision. Part of me hopes that it was in the back of another pickup truck on the way to a vet. But we would never know. It was Schrödinger’s Collie.

This will be the first and last quantum physics joke ever in the 1000fish blog.

The 16th was set up to “run and gun” – a blur of gorgeous country streams all over Eastern Alabama.

Dom works a typical creek. The whole state is stuffed with fish.

We scored early and often, with speckled darters, and then rough and bandfin shiners.

The speckled darter. One of the more attractive darters I have even gotten, and it was still early in the trip.

The rough shiner. Any shiner that can be differentiated from others is always a welcome addition.

The shiner spot.

The bandfin.

I also got a beautifully lit up striped shiner.

That evening, we got into our final destination of the day – Scottsboro, AL. We debated trying one more creek before we hit Dairy Queen, a spot where Dom’s info indicated there could be a rainbow shiner. Truthfully, I was disappointed when I saw the place – a small stream running through an industrial area. Although the water looked clear, it was full of discarded tires and cinder blocks. 

I called it “the ditch.”

We saw a school of rainbow shiners, with a few nicely colored, and I ceded the first try to Dom – he found the spot. While he unfortunately struck out, I poked around and found darters. A lot of darters. I got one quickly, which turned out to be a Coosa.

Species nine of the trip.

The Coosa would only eat the very smallest fleck of bait, so I found myself trimming an already-diminutive piece of red worm down to an almost-microscopic offering. This makes a difference, and Dom and I often reminded each other that we needed to be vigilant in our fleckfulness. Since most of our fishing was micro-oriented, we found that, with careful fleckitude, a single redworm could last us a full day.

While Dom came back down the stream and made short work of the darter, I went up to the rainbow school and, on my first cast, nailed a nicely lit up specimen. I briefly felt like a jerk.

I’m lucky Dom gave me a ride after that.

The following morning, starting in the Paint River, commenced the best 24 hours of darter fishing I have ever had. This creek was the stuff of sweaty late-night darter dreams – low, clear, an assortment of rocky structure, not too deep or fast, and protected from wind. As we stepped into the water, darters – of different sizes, colors, and shapes – scattered everywhere.

Dom gets to work in darter heaven.

In the next two hours, I caught over thirty total darters and got four – FOUR – new species. 

The Snubnose. There’s a lot of confusion on this ID, whether it’s a Tennessee snubnose or a Cumberland snubnose or a Romanian snubnose, so we’ll just leave it at snubnose.

Blueside – this one took a lot of research. I didn’t verify it for a few weeks, which meant that I kept fishing for one, which had consequences.

Blotchside logperch – I didn’t even know these were a thing. Look at the schnozz.

Stripetail darter. Oh hell yes. Anything that’s not a fantail makes me so happy.

We were joined by a very pleasant local Sherrif’s deputy who was actually interested in what we were trying to catch. Or he was really polite. Tough to tell.

We finished that day at Goose Shoals, which was jammed with redhorse. I got three, sight fishing from a tall bridge, which meant that the fish got to bungee jump in reverse. Dom took the smart route and fished from the bank.

We believe that these were shortheads.

After dark, we moved on to dinner and a few hours of sleep in Florence. We passed through Tuscumbia, the birthplace of Helen Keller. I thought back to 7th grade, when we acted out The Miracle Worker in Mrs. Landau’s Language Arts Class. (With Sean Biggs reading a memorable Anne Sullivan.)

As adults, we all came to realize what an amazing person she was.

We started the 18th taking a crack at the elusive blueside, because I would not know for a few weeks that I had already caught one. The spot had less-than-optimal access, unless you happen to be a mountain goat with a death wish. I fell impressively.

My elbow was a touch bruised. My knee was worse. But I have two of each.

We did add one species, the little-known riffle minnow.

This was #14 for the trip. Worth it.

We moved on to the Sipsey River. We had three targets there, all of which appeared in abundance right at my feet as soon as we got to the water.

And what beautiful water it was.

Just because I could see them didn’t mean they were going to bite, and I had a moment of panic when I couldn’t get anything to go. Dom splashed on down the creek, leaving me alone with my angst. I worked my way around the base of a bridge piling, and finally got one of the fish – a blackbanded darter.

Species 15 of the trip.

Of course, the darters immediately became a pest that I had to work through to catch my silverstripe minnow.

It has a silver stripe.

Now that I had a couple on the board, I relaxed and enjoyed myself. Moving around to the deeper water outside the base of the bridge, I could see dozens of Mobile logperch. These bit fairly quickly and gave me my third species of the day.

Logperch are cool.

I also got a colorful little darter that turned out to be a Tuscaloosa. 

In Alabama, the Tuscaloosa.

That was seven darter species in around 19 hours. I love the challenge and variety of these little fish, and knowing that my darter list had now gone into the 30s, I announced that I want to catch 100. Dom chuckled. But I mean it.

I decided to spend some time sight fishing the redhorse that kept drifting in and out of view. It took me quite a while – these are one of the most skittish animals in any creek – especially with Dom mentioning every three minutes that they won’t bite.

Oh yes they will.

One thought – use a much bigger worm than you think you need. I hear rumors that this could be an unidentified species of redhorse – any thoughts on this?

I also spent at least an hour groveling after a small hogsucker that just never quite bit. I needed Martini there remind me that the pursuit has gone from charmingly low odds to just stupid, and we need to go now. Dom is incapable of saying those words. He’s slightly more disciplined than I am, but the stubborn is strong in him. 

We made good time between spots, because we didn’t have to find me a Dairy Queen for lunch. Part of Dom’s planning includes cold cuts, bread, and cheese in the cooler, generally not near the bait. 

Not only did this save time, it was far healthier than what I would have chosen.

We spent the next few hours on a tributary upstream, and while the scenery was amazing, the fishing was less so. If I have to choose between the two, well, you know.

Dom managed to get a longear sunfish split out of this spot.

But I couldn’t catch thing.

The last three days were a race through dozens of spots back down the west and south of the state. There were three more species to report.

In a spot we called “Rabies Creek,” near Birmingham, another place stuffed with darters, I got my Alabama darter.

Species 2020, and my 35th darter.

There’s a sign you don’t see every day.

Alabama is loaded with memorable signs.

But our favorite was “Bobo Section Road.” Perhaps we were overtired, but we nearly wrecked the car laughing at this.

Dom then spent the night with family – he has a daughter who lives in Birmingham who would be getting married shortly. I spent the evening overeating some excellent barbecue. 

We had fewer targets as we headed south, but the Alabama hogsucker still loomed large. We had been humiliated by these little beasts at the Sipsey, but our first spot the next morning, on the Cahaba, was loaded with them. There were small ones in the riffles and some much larger ones cruising around a pool upstream. A big school kept drifting in and out of view.

The hogsucker hole.

Sight casting to them is a painful exercise in futility, so I sight cast to them. About an hour later, I gave up, set a bait out, and waited. And waited. Maybe 40 minutes later, the rod rattled. I thought it would be a panfish, but when I set the hook, there was a big silver flash and the unmistakable awkward swimming of a hogsucker. 

This is the high-pressure situation we all want but fear. I had all kinds of terrible thoughts running through my head – bad knots, chafed leaders, iffy hooksets – right until I beached him. I finally, finally had my Alabama hogsucker.

And a big one.

Dom was moved enough by this to stick it out and chase a hogsucker in the riffles until it bit for him. We kept each other motivated like this. It’s easier to do something stupid when someone else is doing the same thing right next to you, and yes, we high-fived about 14 times walking back to the car. 

We met a group of inspirational local college students who volunteer for river research and cleanup.

We also got a batch of logperch, which I believe are just regular logperch. But still cool.

Later that afternoon, heading south, we stopped at a random creek in the Florida panhandle. We were looking mostly for darters, but we came across a sandbar loaded with shiners. 

This one is a longnose shiner – the last new species of the trip.

It was a short run from there to Pensacola, where Dom dropped me off at an airport hotel so I could catch a flight home the next morning. We were already planning our next trip. Of course, I spent the evening fishing a local pier looking for just one more, but 21 new species was far more than I could have hoped for – a great jump on … 2023. No, 3000 is not a thing. Stop it, Marta.

Still smiling after eight days on the road with me.

Speaking of milestones, this trip put Dom at 964, so he would be having a lot of excitement coming up in the next few months. Stay tuned.




Posted by: 1000fish | July 13, 2022

Quest for 952 – The Untold Stories (Parts 2-14)


And so we attempt to take this monster of a post home. I appreciate your patience and the fact that anyone who made it this far is probably a relative or a stalker, or, in the case of Cousin Chuck, both. And Marta, I didn’t need to ever learn what “TLDR” means. Ha ha.

We resume in February of 2003, when I was lucky enough to get a business trip to New Zealand. I met guide Pete Lamb in Wellington and managed five new species in a short day.

Steve and Pete. I have been dying to go back ever since – New Zealand is a species hotbed.

The summer of that year saw me add seven Atlantic species on eastern seaboard trips, fishing with with Delaware guide Vince Keagy and New Jersey guide John German. I also managed to get an old girlfriend in trouble because I caught a smoothhound shark (one of the smallest and least dangerous sharks on earth) off the dock at her beach house. By the time the HOA got ahold of the story, I was attracting great whites and children were in danger. 

This is the shark that caused an emergency HOA meeting. For God’s sake, people – calm down. This was the same day I sliced my finger open (four stitches) with a Leatherman, but fishing was so good I failed to mention it until she had dinner ready. The ER trip resulted in a very late, very cold meal. I’d like to think I would handle things differently today, but I probably wouldn’t.

Important safety tip – never cut frozen mackerel with the knife pointing toward you.

By August of 2003, I had reached 19 states, tacking on Arizona (pond on the golf course,) Washington (a rock cod trip with Captain Karl Nylen,) New York (Captain Paul’s striper charter,) Illinois (silver salmon on Fun Times,) New Jersey (see above,) and Pennsylvania. Each one of these has its own story, but the Delaware Water Gap with Blaine Mengel was particularly epic. Not only did I add the Keystone State, but got a beast of a smallmouth in the process.

Blaine has since left fishing and joined the ministry. Draw your own conclusions.

That same day, I got to visit Jacob’s Creek in West Trenton, New Jersey, for the first time since 1972. I splashed through this stream for hours and hours as a kid, bringing home prizes as varied as crayfish, softshell turtles, and an eel. (Some of which may have wandered under my sister’s pillow.)

I fished for the first time with Roger Barnes in September of 2003. We got 16 species over the next 12 years, mostly in the pre-blog era.


We lost Roger in 2015, and I miss him still.

Shortly after I fished with Roger, I found myself in Bologna, Italy. The next day was free, and I had the choice of touring Venice or going fishing on the Mediterranean. I have still not been to Venice.

Captain Favio Cavaletto and my first Atlantic bonito, species 283. It’s amazing how going black and white hides all the blood.

A few days later, I found myself in Malta. You might be expecting to hear about all the amazing historical sites, or the unfortunate thing I said when I didn’t realize a nun was standing right behind me, but instead, you will get a photo of the smallest bluefin tuna ever.

Aboard the Excalibur. Malta was country number 20.

On a Christmas break in the Caribbean, I managed to get fish in St. Lucia and Barbados.

A mahogany snapper on the Blue Jay out of Bridgetown.

2004 was the year things shifted from “fast paced” to “out of control.” I managed to tack on nine new countries, taking me to 29. It started in Vietnam, where I added three species with Nguyen Dam, a connection through Jean-Francois Helias.

Ah, the days of shamelessly tucking in my shirt. I actually won the daily fishing contest at this pond, but they wouldn’t give me the trophy because they feared I wouldn’t bring it back.

In one of my brief stops in the USA, I got away to New Mexico and added that state with guide Alfredo Martinez. He is the only guide I have known in New Mexico who could accurately estimate distances. 

In late April, I was overseas again. I pestered the concierge at the Hyatt Shanghai until he put together a local trip for me. Translator in tow, I arrived at a small farm pond rumored to have fish, and it was there I met “Mr. Wang, The Fishing Master,” a local expert they persuaded to come help me catch something.

Mr. Wang wore a suit for the occasion. 

I still have no idea what exact cyprinid species I caught. Ideas?

A few days later, I showed up in Seoul. The head bellman at the Grand Hyatt, Mr. Lee, noticed that I had Loomis luggage and invited me to check out some local waters. I added the country and a couple of species due to his kindness.

Steve and Mr. Lee at a pond north of Seoul. One of the species I added, a zacco, was the end of my alphabetic fish list until I caught a zander a few years later.

Two days after that, I found myself in Hong Kong. I struck out casting for seabass off the docks, and, with only half a day left, I ended up at a local pond. In a bizarre coincidence, I ran in to Paul, a guy I had met in Thailand the year before. He showed me the ropes and I landed a few carp.

It was a long cab ride. Hong Kong is surprisingly big.

I finished that trip in Australia, and in between two brilliant days with Scotty, I fished North Sydney with guide Dean Hayes. I added a rough leatherjacket, species 342.

Dean passed away in 2009.

On June 11, 2004, just a few weeks before I met Marta, I fished Boston Harbor with Captain Tom of the B Fast. While the stripers were not in evidence, I added a winter flounder and a clearnose skate, taking the species count to 346.

The winter flounder. This is the last species I caught before I met Marta. The first fish I caught after we met was a shiner surfperch.

In July of 2004, just a week or so after my first date with Marta, I headed to the east coast. I first hit South Carolina and added my first king mackerel and spadefish, on the Fish Screamer with Captain Terry Smith and a deckhand known only as “Coach.”

I didn’t say it was a big king mackerel.

A few days later, I fished for the first time with Outer Banks guide Caine Livesay. (Which took the sting out of spending a week with my sister.) Caine found 14 species for me over the next few years, including some monster redfish and nice sharks.

That’s Caine on the left, and that’s my first spinner shark in the middle. If you stare at this photo carefully and turn up the volume, you can still hear my brother in law Dan barfing.

Caine also hosted the trips where my niece and nephew caught their first fish. Since I never reproduced (for which many of you have sent thank-you notes,) these are two of my most sacred two fishing moments. That, and if I ever catch a spearfish. Don’t make me choose.

My nephew Charlie and his first fish, an Atlantic croaker, July 18, 2005.

My niece Elizabeth and her first fish, also an Atlantic croaker, August 1, 2006.

My brother-in-law shares things that are deep inside him.

Marta’s first day fishing with me was September 4, 2004, and her first fish was a brown smoothhound shark. She took to fishing well, especially when she figured out that her striped bass was bigger than mine.


Marta and I added Idaho and Montana together in October of 2004. I am guessing it was on this trip that she realized trout fishing in cold weather was not her thing.

We got fishing advice in Montana from an unlikely source. Abe, who we met in the local bait store, brought us by some of his secret locations and helped us get a good load of trout. Months later, he sent us a Christmas card.

That fall, I tacked the Netherlands and Belgium onto the country list, with zander expert Luc Coppens. 

Luc and a friend.

One of Marta’s favorite local guides is Dave Sharp, who quietly let her think her striper was bigger. Dave has my eternal gratitude for netting this sturgeon I fought on a 15-pound leader. He made me swear to never go below 40 pound leader ever again.

In my defense … I have no defense. I got lucky.

My first overseas vacation with Marta was a New Year’s 2004/05 swing through Costa Rica and Panama. I added ten new species, including seven with ace Panama guide Bill Bailey on an overnight jungle river adventure. I am certain that jaguars and anacondas were watching us.

Headlamp photos are never flattering.

I also got my first light tackle sailfish in Costa Rica, on the Fandango out of Los Suenos harbor.

I opened 2005 with 11 species on a spontaneous Portugal excursion with John Bate, an erstwhile barbel guide who generously arranged a couple of days of saltwater angling. 

The only photo I have of John. I wouldn’t catch that particular scorpionfish for a few more years.

It was on this trip that I learned – the hard way – not to boat a moray without proper precautions. I won, but I ended up with a boot print on my forehead. And it was from my boot.

March 2005 found me back in Sydney, and Scotty introduced me to another charter captain, Anthony DeBruyn of the Sheerwater. Anthony specialized in deep-drop trips, and I got my Australian barrelfish – which they call deepsea trevalla.

From around 2100 feet, these are my deepest catches to date.


Anthony actually had a group charter booked that day, but they generously voted to bring me along. They were absolutely insane. The drinking started approximately two weeks before we sailed, and one of the guys, poor Nigel, got spectacularly seasick, to the great amusement of everyone else. He got even sicker when they started eating raw squid in front of him.

Late in the morning of May 26, 2005, with Jean-Francois offering gentle advice, I landed my very first world record, a line-class mark on a Barramundi. This started a whole different list that has also been an obsession to the current day. 

The happy anglers celebrate world record #1. Marta allowed the certificate to go on the wall. But that stopped pretty quickly.

June of 2005 found me in Scotland, fruitlessly pursuing the elusive and expensive Atlantic salmon. Guide Bob Brownless, fly fanatic though he was, gave it all he had, but I never seemed to get there on the right week. To Bob’s great horror, he became the guide of record for my first European eel.

A kind man, generous host, and passionate fisherman, Bob passed away a few years later. His shore lunches were better than most restaurant fare.

On a golden summer 2005 road trip through New England, I met four fishermen who would have had their own blog episodes if there had been blogs back then. The first was Connecticut River guide Mark Ewing.

Mark, who put me on my first pickerel – and a six pound smallmouth.

Another was Bridgeport-based striper guide Randy Jacobsen, who found my first scup and cunner, and some monster striped bass as a bonus.

Randy, with a stray striper he landed while I was fighting another one.

Rhode Island-based Joey Pagano put me on some nice stripers and a batch of bluefin that were a lot more dignified than the Malta catches.

Captain Joey with a bluefin, roughly the size of the ones we got.


I also have to mention Maine-based guide Richard Oliver. I only fished with him twice, both in 2005, but he actually delayed his own birthday celebration to explore some deep offshore spots with me – a trip that resulted in me catching a monkfish.

This is how I learned about pharyngeal teeth. Gross.

One of my co-workers, Chris, was a frequent fishing partner on business trips, often with Captain Vito Demetri out of Gloucester. Of course, if Chris’ wife got mad that he was fishing while she was home with the kids, he would hand me the phone. Nice.

Those New England stops put me up to 30 states and 451 species.

Marta and I took a British Isles vacation in October of 2005, which she planned around historical places and I planned around historical salmon fishing. Roger and Marta became fast friends, and would often interrupt my fishing banter to talk music. When our itinerary took us to Wales, I organized a sea fishing trip with Captain Dave Bobbett on the Anchorman III. We were part of a larger group that were mostly Welsh RAF veterans, pleasant men and skilled anglers. 

Steve and Captain Dave with my best conger to date. I also got some beautiful seabass and skates.

One of the other passengers. They said fun things like “It figures a COLONIST would catch the seabass.” 

I haven’t gotten Marta a cat, but she did get a catshark.

Later on the same trip, Irishman Tom Woods went wildly beyond the call of salmon guiding duty. On October 12, 2005, after I had spent a week expensively failing to catch an Atlantic salmon in Scotland, and being allegedly grouchy about it, Tom found me a Northern Irish fish in one short day, and jumped in the water to net it despite not having waders.

That was species 462, and still may be the most cost-inefficient fish I have ever gotten. (I had tried for them half a dozen times in Scotland before this trip.)

We also tacked on Ireland before we were done, so the country total was up to 35. 

In December of 2005, Marta and I went to Belize. I got 21 new species, including my first permit. Resort hosts Chris and Sue Harris, and guide Ian Cuevas, made this a 24 hour a day adventure, doubly so when the sand fleas showed up.

Chris and Sue. Best hosts EVER.

Ian and Marta. I’ve never gotten a king mackerel that big. She reminds me of this often, so I don’t feel so bad that the sand fleas got her.

2006 found me unemployed, when Macromedia was unsportingly sold to an unpleasant larger software company. Naturally, I went fishing. A lot. Before I went back to work, I visited 11 different countries and added 187 species to my total. It was the first time 1000 species started to sound possible.

Thailand was first, where Jean-Francois Helias took me to Koh Kut for a 43 species bonanza that took me over 500. (The milestone fish was a giant prawn goby, which wasn’t all that giant to be honest.) I also set my second, third, and fourth IGFA world records on this trip.

I then flew home, packed clean underwear, and headed to Africa for a month. The scoring opened with Norberto Vidal, who took me out for nine species in Sao Tome/Principe.

Including my first Atlantic sailfish. Not bad, considering I hadn’t heard of the place three weeks before I went there.

Alban Regnoult steered me to 11 species in Gabon, and saved me from being trampled by a cape buffalo. 

The elephant was still scarier.

South Africa was, without a doubt, the most epic segment of an epic trip. I boated 21 species with guide Dave Christie, and realized more than anything how much stuff I hadn’t caught there. I’ve been wanting to go back ever since, especially for a giant stingray in the surf. And a red steenbras. Definitely a red steenbras.


That’s Dave on the right.

I tacked on eight species in Namibia, including an unforgettable bronze whaler shark off the Skeleton Coast with Johan Burger.

Landing these did not feel safe. Releasing them felt even less safe. But I still have all 17 fingers and toes.

The Africa trip closed out with Mozambique, where Clive Stringer put me on 11 species – taking me to the cusp of 600 lifetime.  

Our first day was a weather disaster, but things calmed down and the fishing was amazing. Clive was a generous host and grilled an amazing steak the first night I was there. 

We talked about life well into the night, and I would love to catch up with him again. Despite the wide reach of the internet, I have not been able to locate him.

I returned from Africa, packed mostly clean underwear, and headed back to Belize. Chris and Sue were waiting, and I landed 21 more species and added Guatemala and Honduras to my growing country list.

We went with guide Sonny Garbutt, who knew how to find the fish. Species 600 was on this trip, a tripletail in Honduras.

Summer of 2006 found me on domestic trips ranging from Santa Barbara to three Hawaii stops to North Carolina. 

In Hawaii, we fished with several great skippers – Dennis Cintas, Captain John of the Silky, and Captain Chuck on Hooked Up. It was on Dennis’ boat that Marta made the unfortunate choice to catch a red coronetfish. I still don’t have one.


In North Carolina, I was unfaithful to Caine for one day and went with deep-water guide Patrick Caton. We managed five new species. Caine and I worked it out in therapy and are all good.

We ate well that night.

Early 2007 found me back in Asia with Jarvis and Alex. After a few trips cancelled by weather, finally we got to Malaysia. This was my 46th country and the trip took me to 684 species. 

They called everything I caught “Panty Fish.” It hurts my feelings when they do this.

In June of 2007, Marta and I took my Mother to France to visit Normandy and honor the 63rd anniversary of the D-Day landings. Needless to say, I added France as my 47th country, although most of the fish surrendered before I could catch them.

Omaha Beach, June 6, 2007. Sacred ground. My Uncle Ted began his WWII close to where I am standing.

Another great friend, Scott Perry, set up an Alaska trip in August of 2007 that scored 12 new species for me, including some emotionally important ones, like Pacific Halibut. Scott can outsnore me, which is impressive, but he has forgiven me for throwing a shoe at him at 3am.

Scott may still have some of this fish in his freezer. Many thanks to guides John Rose and Bruce Johnstone.

That trip took me over 700 species. (The lucky creature was a longnose skate.) It was a busy year.

Right after I got back from Alaska, I made the journey to the Eastern Sierras to catch a Sacramento Perch. Once the dominant freshwater species in California, it has been outcompeted by introduced bass and now exists only in a few lakes.

Guide Doug Butler made it happen. A pleasant and knowledgeable skipper, Doug passed away in 2015.

There are so many other friends to thank, if not for species, then just for helping me really learn how to fish. One that comes to mind is Jim Larosa, with whom I spent much of the early 1990’s bass fishing. As he is a tournament pro, he generally buries me, but here and there, such as a memorable day of surface frog fishing at Lake Camanche, I’ll pull an upset.


Yes, I am taller than he is. He is standing on a milk crate. Tom Cruise towers over him.

My notes from that fateful Saturday.

Another friend who comes to mind is Brian Smith, a fly-fishing addict who really has nothing of value to add on the water, but who is nonetheless a good buddy and a much better hockey player than I am. 

Smitty on the left. He was probably afraid to handle the ling cod.

2007 still had at least one memorable moment after all that. On October 13, Xavier Vella took me out on the Saone River in Lyon, France, and we got a bunch of Wels – a species I had drooled over for years. 

This is still one of my favorite fish pictures. Merci, Xavier.

By early 2008, courtesy of the IGFA, I had started doing some print and television media on the whole species hunting thing. The first TV appearance I did was on Henry Waszczuk’s “Fins and Skins,” which took me to Puerto Vallarta in January.

Yes, I have a face made for radio.

I really wish I had been doing the blog back then – Henry was an awesome host, although he forced me to golf, and between the filmed segments and the time I spent fishing on my own, I added 24 species in a long weekend, taking me to 754.

Captain Miguel Rodriguez took me out for two days of inshore species hunting.

Vielen dank to Jens Koller, the autobahn werewolf. I fished with him the first time on a frozen day in February 2008, adding Germany as country #48, and realized immediately he was a kindred spirit. Jens has been a true friend and relentless fishing buddy, and he has not only put me on eight new species over the years, but he introduced me to nine, that’s NINE, new countries – including Liechtenstein. The guy is a magician.

There we are with the officers of the Liechtenstein Fishing Association, who hosted a lovely dinner for us. (Despite the band.) I still have the tan shirt they gave me – I would wager it is the only one in the USA.

I’ve been fishing in 94 countries, so it’s safe to say no one will have more of a contribution to me reaching 100 someday. This picture is one of the monster zander Jens seems to be able to conjure up anywhere. This one was in Switzerland, which was country #49 for me, in 2008.

For those of you who must know, the countries are Germany, Switzerland, Luxembourg (#50!), Liechtenstein, Austria, Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, and Romania. The Poland trip was one of the most noteworthy, as I got to visit the land of my ancestors in a frenetic road trip built around an obscure cartographical anomaly, likely left over from the unfriendly autumn of 1939, that declares a particular section of the River Niesse to be Polish territory.  

And here’s a conundrum. Fish hooked in German waters, but landed in Polish territory. What’s your ruling? We found it so confusing we just went back and caught another fish all in Poland. We could have screwed in a light bulb a lot faster.

Notice how the German side of the river is actually Polish territory below the Friedensstrasse.

May of 2008 featured a 14-species Keys trip with writer Cal Sutphin, and my first swordfish, with Captain Billy Turnbull. By the way, I have been very inconsistent about calling various guides “Captain.” Most of them are. I’m not going back and editing this monster.

That’s Billy on the left. This is not my swordfish. Mine wasn’t nearly this big.

Cal, holding the permit, is another person guilty of putting me on television.

You’ve all met ace Hawaii guide Captain Dale Leverone, but my first species with him – #777 on August 8, 2008 – came two years before the blog. He and his son Jack (now Captain Jack) have been there for 25 species and dozens of world records over the years, including #100.

Jack has grown since this photo was taken.

I hit 800 species in September 2008 – a common stingaree (not a typo) with Scotty Lyons in Port Hacking. Another great trip that year was with Bopanna Pattada, a guide based in India who put me into eight new catches, including a thrilling blue mahseer, one of the hardest-fighting freshwater fish I have ever landed.

Bopanna made the whole thing a lot easier than I thought it would be.

I caught the mahseer from a coracle, a watercraft similar to a hot tub.

That same trip also got me to Indonesia with Jarvis and Alex, adding five more “panty fish” to the list.

And a a few non-panty fish. Although this was a decent estuary cod, I was still recovering emotionally from losing a three-hour fight with a big stingray the night before.

The 2009 season started late for me – I hate to say I was busy at work, but I was. I didn’t add the first new species until March, but it was a 17-species haul from Hawaii that got me to 841.

April of 2009 saw one of the most intense fishing trips I have ever survived, and trust me, that’s a high bar. It was a wild 41 species week in Weipa, Australia with Scotty Lyons and a group of his friends. Seven of us lived on a houseboat for a week. We drank close to 9000 beers, rarely showered, and ate a lot of beans. It was magical.

Some of the guys on the final day of the trip. If you look carefully on the lower right, you can see the last two beers in Queensland.

Yes, it was epic.

I got three more species back in Sydney with Scotty’s friend Nathan Smith, including a monster wobbegong.

Do NOT put this in your pants.

Between this trip and another Sydney adventure that year, I added IGFA world records five, six, and seven, all with Scotty. (I got #8 with Francois in Thailand the same year.)

I crossed 900 species with Jarvis in Singapore in August 2009. (A white-shouldered whiptail, if you must know, part of a ridiculously successful 13 species day on the north coast with guide Mr. Bee.)

It takes a lot of practice to look serious with a fish this small.

In November of 2009, I pulled off an improbable 10 species weekend – in Monaco. The only guide I had was the concierge at the Hotel de Paris Monte Carlo, who, in between getting the right caviar in the minibars and clean tuxedos for James Bond, actually found me fishing spots, a license, and bait – and had me picked up at the harbor by a hotel limo. 

I finally caught a largescale scorpionfish there.

Early in 2010, I spent two memorable days fishing the Red Sea, where I added 19 species and my ninth IGFA world record (on yellowspotted triggerfish.) Guides Omar Ammin and Esan Ahmed were phenomenal, and I do not regret missing cultural stuff for either of those days. 

Ammin and Esan, Aqaba, Jordan.

One of the kindest and most random catches I got in the Holy Land was in Palestine, near Jericho, which you might point out is pretty much desert. Our driver, Isam, took my quest to heart, made some calls, and found a tiny amusement park in the West Bank that had a nearly forgotten pond containing some kind of tilapia. 

It was called “Banana Land.” You can’t make stuff like this up.


That’s Isam, who drove us everywhere from Tel Aviv to the Allenby Bridge.

And that is his son Mohamed, who must be in his 20s now, with his first fish ever. I still have no idea what the species is.

We were fortunate to have been there during a time of relative peace.

Species 951 and 952 were a rainbow surfperch and a stripefin ronquil in San Francisco Bay, on March 6, 2010 – back when I could catch new stuff a short drive from my house. 

The first and last stripefin ronquil I have ever seen. This is the final species on my list that didn’t have a post dedicated to it.

Twenty-eight days after that, I started the blog, with the first new species posted a modest green sunfish. So I think that catches us all up. Again, I am sure I missed someone, and unless you’re the one I missed on purpose, drop me a line and let me know. So, in the course of this vast and wandering diatribe, we got up to 952 species, 37 states, 61 countries, and 9 world records. I remember looking at those numbers at the time, and thinking how much more I wanted to do. I’m not good at taking a moment and looking at anything I might have accomplished, which is a blessing and a curse, mostly a curse, but here we are. The most amazing thing here has nothing to do with how many fish I caught – it has to do with how many generous people there are everywhere I go. Sure, I caught the fish, but the bigger story is how many people were behind it all, often in random and improbable ways. 

As much as my inner child has been yelling “Look what I caught, Dad,” it was my Mother who was there for the early morning night crawler runs into Port Sanilac, because I had accidentally left the last batch under my sister’s pillow. So I have to thank Mom for that, and for instilling in me an unshakeable belief that I could do anything I put my mind to, except trigonometry. My Mom did not live to see species 2000, but I couldn’t have done it without her. 

Mom with a Tomales bat ray, July of 2002.

I’m not sure I’m supposed to thank Marta for wanting me out of the house so much.

Yes, she caught this.

But she has helped make so much of this a reality that I have to at least mention her. Marta has encouraged the heck out of all of this, edited blogs, counselled me when I hit low spots, made sure I had low spots if I got too full of myself, made me clean the garage, given me perspective, and pretended not to notice that most vacations are thinly disguised fishing trips. I recall that phrase she keeps pulling out at dinner parties – “Behind every successful man … is a surprised woman.” I had 348 species the day of our first date, and she alone, often while acting interested, has seen photos of every single once since. (And she somehow remembers all of them, even though I often accuse her of not paying attention.)



Posted by: 1000fish | July 6, 2022

Quest for 952 – The Untold Stories (Part One)


When I reached 1000 species in 2010, I promised to write a thank you note – a very long one – recognizing the dozens and dozens of people who had been kind enough to be a part of my lifelong obsession with catching just one more fish. I never fully did that. The blog, which started with species 953 on April 7, 2010, has served to recognize hundreds of friends since. But now that I have crossed 2000, it’s time to mention the many people behind the first half of “the grand ambition.” These are going to be very high-level summaries, and a lot of careening down the dead end of my memory lane, but all the sordid details will come out in the book. (You can pre-order now through Marta!)

Be forewarned – this is a beast of a post, and won’t be for everyone, but we will resume the regular trip reports after I get all this off my chest. I’ll break it into two still-substantial pieces, to allow time for bathroom breaks and food. So good luck, and if you enjoy reading this just one percent as much as I enjoyed reliving it, and if there are a hundred of you, we’re even. 

This will be Part One, which takes us from the my very first day on the water through 2002, when the species hunt had really crossed the line from a “hobby” into a “condition.”

According to family lore, Species One was a sunfish on a 1968 Maine vacation. My Dad is the one who made it all happen, even though that’s a bit awkward. You don’t see him mentioned here very often – we aren’t close – but he is the one who started it all, 53 years ago. And I was probably saying something like “Look at me, Dad.” I said that a lot.


My Mom and Dad with a pike. It is not unlikely that my Mother caught the fish.

Part of hitting this milestone was a lot of reflection on why I had done it. I certainly love to fish, and I certainly have an unhealthy competitive streak, but there was also a lot I gave up in doing this. (Like the respect of anyone who won’t fish in a hotel fountain.) Who the heck was I trying to impress? Hopefully it’s the kid out there who will get to 3000 someday. Apart from that, you’d have to ask my psychiatrist, and he entered the therapist protection program years ago.

After my parents split in 1972, several other relatives picked up the fishing slack. My grandfather and my Uncle Jim both spent many hours with me, especially on family vacations to Port Sanilac. We added some of the midwestern basics to my list before it was even a list – bluegill, channel catfish, sheepshead, and yellow perch. I also wandered the local creeks for countless hours, looking for chubs, shiners, and sunfish.

My grandfather – my Mom’s dad – with a northern pike, three years before I was born.

I also should thank my sister here. You don’t hear about her often, because she is normal and doesn’t fish very often, but she’s the one who dug through the shoeboxes for these photos.

Steve and Laura with drunk Santa, circa 1968. Yes, I am wearing Garanimals, a line of colorful and highly flammable children’s clothing from the 60s.

Laura also gave us my niece and nephew, two of my favorite fishing partners, and her husband, our favorite rail bunny. More on them later.

College saw the beginning of obsessive fishing for me. As soon as I got my own car and figured out it’s called a term paper because you can write it at the very end of the term, I started spending nights and weekends at spots ranging from Putah Creek to Bodega Bay. I deny all rumors about fraternity parties and dating anyone prior to Marta. (Although I should thank Cindy Condit’s Father for my very first Sacramento pikeminnow and the entire Mantua family for my first ling cod.)

Steve and some kid with fish from San Francisco Bay, circa 1981.

I fished a good bit when I lived in the midwest in the late 80s, but mostly chasing the normal bass and catfish. I was single. You do the math.

Yes that’s me, spring of 1988, photographer lost in the mists of time. I have discovered ice cream since this photo was taken.

When I moved back to California in 1990, my species count was at 25. I started going on local party boats, like the Nobilis with old salt Captain Scott Baggett, and one of my all-time favorites, the Fury, with Captain Bill Gould. Bill was a shark specialist, and some friends and I tried to fish with him every Friday.

On the Fury, summer 1991. From left, that’s Ted O’Neill (who could bench press a car,) some guy who threw up, Dan Koehn (one of the funniest people I have ever known,) me with the gray sweatshirt the guy threw up on, and, at lower right, Jim Larosa, actual height.

Dan being Dan. There was never a dull moment. Ever.

Bill Gould. He was banana-averse, so naturally, we rigged one on his hook. Bill passed away in 1999.

These were marvelous days on the water with good friends, and I got to battle with my first few decent-sized fish – bat rays and sevengill sharks. I saved up and bought my first Penn 113. Dan Koehn and Mark Spellman gave me a Penn 980. Years later, I learned to cast it.

On May 26, 1992, Martini Arostegui was born. I had caught 36 total species at that stage, across one country and five states. Just shy of 19 years later, we would get on the water together for the first time.

I fished a great deal locally through the 90s, honing whatever skills I may have. I mainly targeted trout, bass, stripers, and the occasional bat ray. Some of my most treasured fishing days were heading out with friends and their sons to pass the whole obsession down to another generation.

With the Veatch family at San Pablo, from L-R, Wayne, Will, and CJ. Wayne was a co-worker and great friend, and I admired how he spent every spare moment with his sons. We lost Wayne in 2016.

In the late 90’s, Wayne roped me into coaching Will’s hockey team. We certainly toughened the boy up.

After substantial research, we determined that CJ was the original Rail Bunny, circa 1997. Mind you, he never uttered a word of complaint.

Somewhere in this prehistory, I met the guys over at Hi’s Tackle Box, still the best outfitter in the Bay Area. Owner Jonah Li has been a phenomenal supporter over the years, a go-to source for everything from local secret spots to equipping an Amazon trip.

That’s Jonah on the right in the gray sweatshirt. Support your local tackle store – Cabela’s won’t ever call you with a hot fishing tip. The guy on the left has two Super Bowl rings. Can you name him?

Another character at Hi’s – Steve “Hippo” Lau, a fountain of knowledge on local fishing and hairstyles. 

Competition certainly drives us to do things better, or at least more obsessively in my case, and it was competition with a friend in the mid-1990’s that morphed the species hunt into its current format. Mike Rapoport and I met through a long-forgotten mutual friend, and we fished together constantly. Mike was not only big on local species like leopard shark and bat ray (the vaunted “mud marlin,”) he also wanted to go far afield and catch gamefish. He was meticulous in his preparation and researched fish endlessly, and I owe Mike for introducing me to Tomales Bay – still one of my most beloved spots on earth.

Rapo, in a typical pose with a Tiburon bat ray.

My first fishing trip outside the USA – to the East Cape in Mexico in 1996 – was with Mike. I got my first mahi-mahi, my first sailfish, and my first striped marlin that week.

An awful photo of my first marlin.

I will never forget how hard they pulled, and how I was planning a trip back before I even left. The place was magic – Captain Marco and Captain Victor put us on big fish every day. I knew then I wanted to see what was out there, everywhere. I read travel fishing magazines obsessively, and developed a long list of big game I wanted to catch. The first Sport Fishing Magazine I ever bought had a spearfish on the cover. It’s been 26 years, and I still don’t have a $#%& spearfish.

I started traveling overseas for business in 1995, and I got to visit Australia in 1997. I have been back more than 25 times, and 204 of my species have come from that continent. It all started when a work contact there, Steve Baty, who has since become a great friend, set us up with a Sydney guide for a morning of fishing. 

Steve Baty, and the first thing I ever saw him catch.

July of 1998 found me in Japan on business. Through two friends there, Tejima-san and Abe-san, I not only had a number of adventurous dinners, but also got to go fishing. With a Japanese Seabass (Suzuki,) I added Japan as my fourth country.

Abe-san on the left. The Suzuki was species number 65. Abe and I also got to do a lot of fishing together in California.

Then we get back to Rapo. We had spent a day bat ray fishing in Tomales. At dinner, we did what Alpha males always do at dinner – compete. Once we had settled that my leopard shark was bigger, we somehow got onto who had caught more types of fish. The waitress brought us a yellow legal pad and two pens, and we made lists. This was my first-ever species list, in autumn of 1998, and there were well under 100 species and only four countries on it. Mike had fewer, and I was thrilled. 

That’s Mike on the right, during a Great Barrier Reef trip, contemplating my magnificent Coral Trout.

Once I got home, I went over and over that list and remembered a few more fish to add. By 1999, I had put the whole thing into a spreadsheet and decided that it would be fun to catch as many different types of fish, large or small, game or not, as I possibly could, and I started planning trips around this. 

Early 1999 saw me pick off two of the major trout on the west coast, a cutthroat with Ben Molina in Pyramid Lake, and a lake trout with Tim Hennessey in Lake Tahoe. (My first fish in Lake Tahoe, despite frequent childhood attempts.) To my great shame, I don’t have pictures of a lot of these early guides – at that stage, I didn’t understand it wasn’t all about me. (Marta often reminds me it still isn’t.)

Later that year, I made a swing through South America and did my first fishing in Argentina and Brazil. The team at Guarapo Abierto camp in Corrientes, Argentina, hosted my first ever sleepless species-hunting weekend. (This was before Red Bull became a thing.)

The kid to my left, Daniel, was the translator. He learned a lot of new English words that weekend, and I learned that the Spanish words “punta” means something entirely different if you omit the “n.”

Obrigado to Ian-Arthur Sulocki, my connection into Brazil. We first fished together on August 8, 1999, and 101 of my total species are from Brazil. I have gotten to see some of the most beautiful places on earth during my adventures there. Ian introduced me to the Amazon, which means that he also introduced me to amoebic dysentery. 

That’s Ian-Arthur in the center. Yes, he looks like John Travolta. Get over it, Marta. 

On the way home from that Brazil trip, I stopped in Florida and fished with Vinnie Biondoletti, legendary Islamorada flats guide and bonefish expert. While we did indeed get a bonefish, Vinnie also found himself hunting things like scrawled cowfish. (I had picked off a few Florida species in April of 1999 with Daytona Beach guide Ty Moore, but the Keys became my go-to Florida spot for years.)

Vinnie has guided me to 38 species over the years, including my 100th (a great barracuda) in August of 1999. He is still unclear on why anyone would want to catch a scrawled cowfish. Vinnie missed one trip with me ever, when he had emergency surgery in December of 2003. From his hospital bed, he set me up for a memorable day with Captain Jim Wilcox that netted three new species, including my first Spanish mackerel.

By the time I got my 100th species, I decided that 1000 would be a worthwhile goal. That kept me busy for 10+ years.

On April 29, 2000, Steve Baty brought me out with Paul Hedrix to fish some of the rivers near Sydney.

I got my first Australian bass on that trip. It was species 117.

A few days later, on May 2, 2000, Steve Baty connected me to Scotty Lyons.

Steve: “How are we going to get this in the boat for a picture?” Scotty: “No no no no no.”

The first fish I caught with Scotty, a yellowfinned leatherjacket, was the first of 97 new species and at least a dozen world records with a man who has become a dear friend. This is another world-class gamefish guide who made it a personal challenge to find me every weird thing that swims anywhere near his local waters. You’ve all met Scotty in a couple of blogs, but he has been there practically since the beginning.

On the way home from that Australia trip, I stopped over in Hawaii. I had met a limo driver there a few years before, and he and I had stayed in touch and kept talking about fishing together. The driver’s name was Wade Hamamoto.

The first species I got with Wade – a Hawaiian chub on May 3, 2000 – was only the 123rd species I ever caught. The Hamamotos were responsible for 36 species on the quest for 2000, and countless days of my most treasured fishing. They have also become family, Wade as much of a brother as Martini, Jamie that weird cousin who keeps catching stuff that I can’t.

I’ve watched Jamie grow up from a little monster into an adult monster.

Interestingly, my very first fish in Hawaii was not with Wade. It was with Maui inshore guide Kenny Takashima on July 12, 1999. The most notable species I got that day, a peacock wrasse, later became one of Jamie’s many world records. Kenny almost cancelled the day for a “doctor’s appointment” he was juggling, but he decided late the evening before that we could go. While we were fishing, it came out that his “appointment” was for chemo – for terminal cancer. He passed away just shy of two years later, and I have never forgotten how much joy he got from just being on the water. We never know how many days we have.

September 15, 2000 was the only time I ever added two countries in one day. On an unpronounceable cod charter out of Malmo, Sweden, I picked up fish in both Sweden and Denmark. (My first Atlantic cod and my first Atlantic herring.)

Pronounced “Cleveland.”

March of 2001 found me in Chile, exploring the coast south of Valparaiso with an old friend. Remember that I do not speak a word of Spanish. In a tiny fishing village, Quintay, my friend, Marcela, organized a local boat to take me out, and I added Chile and four species to my list that day. The only lure I had was a steelhead spinner I got in college, but it did well.

Marcela and I have stayed in touch all these years. She has been seriously ill since last summer, and I hope you will all join me in wishing her a complete recovery.

I should probably mention a few other friends here as well. My first northern pike – a fish I grew up admiring because my dad had a tackle box full of pike lures – as well as my first walleye and my first three muskellunge – were all courtesy of Bob Reine, a buddy I fished with constantly in the 1990s. We did trips to Minnesota – my 10th state – and Canada – my 14th country.

Minister BS

Bob earns $12 the hard way – Lake of the Woods, Ontario, 2002.

I couldn’t mention friends without giving a nod to Mark Spellman, who has let me take the first bite for some 30 years. Our first fishing trip together was in 1993, and we have gotten out on countless ill-planned expeditions since.

One of my more improbable adventures with Spellman, a four-sturgeon day on the San Joaquin river in 1997.

We have also sought out local gamefish like albacore, shown here (with Scott Perry on the right) on our 2004 adventure with Captain Colin aboard the New Mary S II out of Half Moon Bay.

A lot of my local rock cod species and other California staples have been with Mark. We’ve been on dozens of party boats together, and I should also give a big thank you to every kind-hearted skipper on every one of those charters, from the Queen of Hearts to the Blue Horizon to the Ankenney Street to the Reel Screemer to the New Gravy to the Captain John and half a dozen more I’m forgetting. And a bigger thanks to Gary the deckhand (“Roll ’em or troll ’em”) – he never missed a gaff shot. Gary, whose full name was Gary Allen Christensen, passed away at sea in 2010.

As we move into 2002, I was on the road more than I was off it, and a lot of my travel was to the Far East. Some of my earliest species fishing in Asia was in Singapore, and Jarvis was my first contact there, taking me pond fishing way back when I had hair. I was introduced to Jarvis by Chris Armstrong, the same guy who introduced me to Ed Trujillo.

That’s Chris on the left. The guy in the middle is Chad, who introduced us.

My first trip with Jarvis was January 31, 2002, and I netted my 187th species, a snakehead. But the barramundi below is a better photo.

Jarvis introduced me to Alex, who christened me “Angry White Man.”

Alex and a sailfish that was the center of a vicious prank.

These two have been there for 81 species, several records, and three new countries to my list. They still don’t understand anyone who doesn’t throw high-speed jigs all the time, and most of my catches are dismissed as “panty fish.”

While we’re in Asia, merci beaucoups to Jean-Francois Helias, the man who has put up with me for weeks of fishing in Thailand, leading not only to 121 species, more than any other single guide, but also to my very first world record. (And many since.)

My first trip with Francois, February 2002.

Francois, a very dear friend, is also the guy who brought me to Laos and Burma. He also introduced me to the IGFA media folks, leading to a lot of the PR stuff you all have been forced to read. So blame him.

Speaking of the IGFA, a few folks there who should be mentioned in all this: Adrian Gray and Jack Vitek. These guys have been indispensable on records, ID messes, and obscure international connections. 

With Adrian at my first-ever IGFA event. He runs the creative, production, and design stuff.

Jack Vitek, who was the records coordinator for many years, is now the Director of Marketing.

In the early 2000s, I added a number of countries in South America courtesy of co-worker, expert angler and all-around madman Gerardo Martinez. He kept me out of jail in places like Paraguay, Uruguay, and Colombia.

Gerry and my first fish in Uruguay.

The travel continued at a crazed pace for many years. While an airport is an airport and 16 hours on a jet is never fun, in hindsight, I was very fortunate to see the world, meet hundreds of amazing people, and add a whole bunch of species because of this, even if it meant getting a lot less sleep. So thank you to all the great companies I have worked for, and almost all of my bosses. (And to cover this yet again, if I stayed extra time on a trip to go fishing, I paid for the expenses.)

My sister has lived in Northern Virginia since the late 1990’s, but it was only in 2002 I figured out that it was a great fishing destination. (The increase in visits after this discovery is purely coincidental.) With guide Gene Hoard, I added the humble white perch and also caught dozens of striped bass in Lake Anna – great fun on light tackle.

That’s Gene on the right.

2002 also saw my first new species with Ed Trujillo. Although mostly a steelhead guide, Ed put me on six new species and one world record. (And brought me to Oregon, which was my 20th state.)

We lost Ed in 2018. The river misses him.

On July 5, 2002, I added the Philippines as a country. The story involves a decorative pond at a shopping mall and a sympathetic security guard. 

This shouldn’t surprise any of you by now. But there are loads of species to get in this country, so … I shall return.

I did the first of three Great Barrier Reef trips with Captain Kim Andersen in August of 2002.

Before I got onto the reef, I fished the Cairns area rivers with a series of local guides, including Glen Stewart, Kerry Bailey, and Justin Gibbins. It was Justin who led me to my 200th species, a dusky bream in the Daintree River.

On Kim’s boat, across the three trips, I netted 43 new species overall, including my first black marlin and my first giant trevally. Oh, how I look forward to writing those blogs someday. I saw an article on coral trout in an encyclopedia when I was seven or eight and I dreamed about going halfway across the world to catch one. 

Kim Andersen, with one of the aforementioned coral trout. It lives in coral, but it’s not a trout – the Australian common names are a mess. They call grouper “cod” and threadfin “salmon.” Another thing they call a “salmon” is in no way a salmon, but is also not a threadfin. Either way, I got my 300th species on that trip, a yellow-tailed emperor. (Kim also added my 400th species, a redfin emperor, in 2005.)

Finland joined the country list in September of 2002. On a short-notice business trip to Helsinki, I found a local guide and caught a nice pike. I normally take very good notes, but for some reason, the man’s name is only in my log as “M.” 

It’s the guy on the right. If anyone can find him, there is a reward involved. Contact me for details.

Anyone who has made it this far needs a drink and a bathroom trip, hopefully in that order, so let’s take a break here and pick things up next week. Where we stand, as of December 31, 2002, is 238 species, 16 countries, 15 states, zero world records, and a series of bewildered fishing buddies. I promise it will get a lot worse in Part II.


Posted by: 1000fish | May 13, 2022

2001: A Fish Odyssey


Yes, I know I am disastrously behind on the blog, but it somehow feels better to post this one a day shy of the one year anniversary of the event, rather than the full year. Some of you are aware of what I am posting below, some of you will find out shortly, but I appreciate all of you being along for the ride. 

So there I was, at the cusp of 2000 species. I had carefully avoided fishing for a couple of weeks, in case I accidentally caught something weird and couldn’t share it with someone. I wanted to do this with friends and I wanted to catch a meaningful fish – something with some history behind it.

The first thing I looked at was a spearfish. It would have been amazing to close out the 2K mark with the billifish that hates me and also complete my royal slam. But the spearfish were not biting, and getting to Hawaii was a medical goat rodeo. Ditto for travel to some other exotic destination I was looking at for a species – whether it was the Seychelles for a dogtooth, Mongolia for a taimen, or the Congo for a giant tigerfish, anything that required a passport had the risk of leaving me stranded overseas, or worse, Cleveland. 

Looking at domestic travel, Florida seemed to be an obvious choice. Martini was there, and the gulf flounder was there.

A gulf flounder would be a really cool milestone fish. This creature has avoided me despite numerous attempts at it, and due to a lot of late-night driving with Martini where things that aren’t funny seem hysterically funny because of exhaustion and Red Bull, it has taken on mythical status as a savage man-eater. (It is in fact a harmless flounder that occasionally tops five pounds.) But on those highly-caffeinated road trips, the gulf flounder could weigh thousands of pounds, eat goats and cabin cruisers, and launch out of creeks in North Dakota and kill you. 

When I looked at the hundreds of species caught and tens of thousands of miles driven with Martini, I wanted him to be there. He lives on the other side of the country now, so we don’t catch up like we used to, but family is family. If I have a fish question, or a ridiculous photo, he is still the guy who gets it at 2am. And responds at 2:02am.

Martini and I caught up the evening of the 12th. The best restaurant near the hotel was a Korean barbecue, and luckily, Martini knows his way around a grill. 

He managed to turn this into a really good dinner.

We talked fishing late into the evening, and yes, I was nervous. Martini was supremely calm.

He is always supremely calm. I find inspiration in this.  

There was a new and important character in all of this, one Ryan Crutchfield. A Tampa-based species hunter that I met through Ben Cantrell, Ryan would be our link to local expertise. He’s a species-hunter himself, with 303 to his credit and a deep knowledge of almost anything that swims in Florida. When he isn’t fishing, Ryan is a senior IT exec at a local company, and no, he will not fix your printer.

Ryan met us in St. Petersburg early the next morning. It was May 13, 2021, some 10 years, nine months, and 23 days since I caught species 1000.

Ready to go.

Ryan had brought live shrimp, and everything eats live shrimp. After a final ID check on the differences between Southern and Gulf Flounder, we started fishing. 

Yeah I was nervous.

We waded into the bay, and began casting. I got bites quickly, little rattles that signaled the presence of pinfish. I saw a small shark swim by.

We wade the surf at Pass-a-Grille.

I rebaited a couple of times, and maybe 15 minutes later, I hooked something. It wasn’t a pinfish, but it wasn’t a flounder either. It was spirited smaller fish that kept digging the bottom. The guys all stopped and watched, and I was faintly aware that this could be it. I guessed grunt, but it didn’t fight quite like one.

The fish surfaced. It was a searobin. I’ve caught lots of searobins, but there was one here that I hadn’t caught – the leopard searobin. The very same leopard searobin that my occasional nephew Charlie has caught and I hadn’t. I raced it into shore, where Val Kells’ book awaited. Ryan had one look and said “leopard,” but I rudely waited for Martini the scientist to repeat the obvious. It was a leopard searobin, and I had species 2000.

Best of all, Jamie hasn’t caught one.

Mr. Searobin gets his closeup.

There were high-fives and there were manly hugs. I thought about the milestone and all the work that had gone into it, but I also thought a lot about the fish. (Which had been safely released by the time I could do any thinking.) The leopard searobin is a marvelous and underappreciated creature, randomly wandering the bottom on our Atlantic and Gulf coasts, often unnoticed but beautiful in its own way. And now, it was the 2000th different kind of fish I had caught in my life. I was certainly thrilled to reach a big milestone, but no, I can’t die happy just yet. There are a lot of fish left out there. Like the Gulf Flounder.

To get this out of the way immediately, no, I am not launching a quest for 3000 species. I am launching a quest for species 2001.

This was a different experience than getting 1000. When I did that, on July 21, 2010 in Vangshylla, Norway, I really wasn’t sure it could happen until it happened. I had a fear that I would be struck by lightning before I could land the coalfish. On this round, I more or less knew I could make it happen, but that the species would be harder to get and farther apart. The one constant is that Jamie Hamamoto has been savagely competitive with me, almost since day one. Yet I still wish her well, because I am kind and gracious.

The species hunt was largely a personal thing until 2007, when I discovered there were others with the same obsession and that the media, at least the IGFA and Daily Mail, had some faint interest in the topic. Since then, this is what has really defined me. 3950 days had passed since species 1000, and not one of those days went by without me doing something to get me closer to 2000 species, whether it was fishing, identifying fish, looking for new spots, meeting new people, or explaining why I wasn’t cleaning the garage. 

I hope I am remembered someday as a good partner by Marta, a good family member by everyone except my aunt, a good co-worker, a good hockey teammate, a good friend, bla bla bla. But the fishing thing – this is what I am going to leave behind. Others have now passed 1000 – congratulations to Eli, George, Kenneth, and Dom. Someone will eventually get to 2000, and someday, hopefully long after I’m gone, someone will pass me. But not today. 

I got right back in the water – there was still a gulf flounder out there someplace, and I wanted to catch it. Just as in 2010, I was a little relieved that the underlying passion really is the fishing rather than any particular goal. So I don’t need to find a new hobby, which is best for the needlepoint world, because I would somehow make needlepoint competitive. 

I caught all kinds of stuff on the shoreline, but no flounder. We moved to a local pier for a few hours. Ryan promptly caught a gulf flounder.


Then I landed an Irish pompano, which Ryan has never caught. Fair play. But that’s fishing.

I wish he had caught this fish – he’s the one who took a day off for me. And yes, my fly is down. Jim Larosa noticed that.

Just to make sure, we drove out to a creek near Ryan’s home and added a Dimerus cichlid.

The cichlid in question.

This was species 2001, and it represented the first and last step on the journey to 2001 species. I am NOT going to get baited in to a “Quest for 3000” thing. So don’t ask. My new goal is 2002. Don’t listen to Marta. Marta wants me to commit to 4000, just to keep me out of the house.

We passed the football stadium. Tom Brady makes me smile.

We gathered the group again for dinner that evening, at a proper steakhouse in Tampa, the kind of place with porterhouses and huge appetizers and salads the size of your head.

Those are the biggest onion rings I have ever seen.

The guest list was a cross section of people involved in the quest. There was Martini, who had been there since 2011 and may understand what I have gone through as much as anyone on earth. The Arostegui family has been instrumental in some of my very best days on the water. I only met them after I had 1053 species, and they have been involved in a whopping 116 since. Whether it was Marty offering patient advice, Roberta allowing me to cast ahead of her, or Martini being the responsible older brother I never had, this family has been a support system and an inspiration for the last 11 years.

Steve and the Arosteguis in 2018. There are over 1000 world records accounted for in this photo.

There was Ryan, who I had known for less than a day but to whom I owed a huge debt of gratitude. And no, he won’t fix your printer. He’s the management, for God’s sake. Call the Geek Squad.

Since I’m so far behind in the blog, I can reveal that I’ve already been back to Tampa to fish with Ryan again. And that I still don’t have a gulf flounder.

We also managed to sneak in Ben Cantrell, who has become a great friend since that chance meeting in 2016. He has helped me to dozens of species, generously introduced me to his fishing network, and made me eat at Sonic once. Once. 

Ben also takes the best cat pictures.

At dinner, I thought a bit more about what I felt. Pride? Sure. Relief? Definitely. But mostly – gratitude. This was never a solo thing – hundreds of people have been involved with this quest, giving their time, effort, patience, and in at least two cases, dignity – to find another fish. 

The best thing about all of this has been all the amazing people I’ve gotten to meet, many of whom are friends to this very day. I did not come from a large family, so I went out and built one. I’ll never name them all, but hopefully I’ve done a good job in the blog over the years. 

But the blog only covers from species 953, so there is a lot of recognition missing from those early days – nearly half my overall total. There are some truly unsung heroes here, some still friends, some drifting out of touch, some no longer with us. In drafting this episode, I started to name them all. About the time I hit 9000 words, I realized that we were going to need to split it up, so you’re going to have to wait a couple of weeks while Marta cuts the tasteless jokes. While she does that, I’d like to thank everyone who has been there for the whole ride, noting that even if I listed you all out, I would probably miss someone, but it will only be on purpose in one case.

So in the meantime, thank you all for being here through my journey, and thank you most of all to the fish, all the fish, especially the next one. My quest for 2002 would start before the sun came up the next day.


Posted by: 1000fish | April 18, 2022

The Spree of Cortez


I had been giving a lot of thought to the numbers. Yes, it had been a surprisingly good spring, and I had somehow reached 1987 species. But when I thought about where I was going to catch 13 more, 2000 still seemed a long way off. In late-night scribbling sessions on old hotel notepads, where I make ill-fated predictions on what I might catch on what trip, I estimated that Puerto Penasco would be good for four species. I thought the Cortez ray and the longjaw leatherjack were solid, and then, well, I would hope for two random ones. That would put me in the early 1990s, like Cousin Chuck’s wardrobe, and then my upcoming trip to Alabama should be good for maybe six, so I thought I would be setting up for the big one in June – maybe a spearfish. 

Keep in mind that these forecasts are, without exception, wildly wrong.

This would be my third trip to Penasco, the second with Chris and his kids, even if that concedes that The Mucus is human. I decided to drive to Phoenix, because there was one particular fish others had caught – the porthole livebearer – that was sort of on the way. I had already failed on it three times.

It’s 10 hours from Alamo to Phoenix, so stretching my legs at the Salton Sea was a welcome break from endless I-5 traffic, Teslas passing on the right, and a truck driver with an especially dark view of the world.

I was stuck behind him for 40 miles.

As I drove to the traditional spot, where three friends had caught this beast quickly on their first try, I passed several other creeks. I am still not sure what motivated me – call it a hunch, call it inspiration, call it missing a turn – but I decided to stop and investigate one of them. It was a little narrower and faster than the other spot, and I drifted a bait through just for the heck of it.

The creek in question.

I saw dozens of little fish flitting in the current; I assumed they were tilapia. One of them bit. It wasn’t a tilapia. It was a #$&% porthole livebearer. I had done it, and done it quickly. I caught a few more just for giggles and was on my way to Phoenix.

Species 1988. I lived in Columbus, Ohio in 1988, but happily, the big game went Michigan’s way. (Thank you John Kolesar.)

I forget where I saw this cartoon the first time, but it is painfully accurate.

The next morning, we piled into the Moore pickup truck and were off for Mexico. The Mucus took exactly 47 seconds to misuse the word “literally,” and Carson wanted to debate his complex analysis of Bill Laimbeer’s offensive statistics, which just made me smile. The conversation eventually wandered to fishing, which sounded like it was going to be a lot of fun.

Then The Mucus sacked out. At least when he’s old enough for an online dating profile, he has this picture ready.

My previous trips to Puerto Penasco had both been in the month of November. The water temperature in April was going to be a lot warmer, and we expected to see some different species. We would also be fishing the estuary, which was alleged to be full of unusual stuff. 

We checked into the hotel and then headed to Pelican Point. It didn’t take long – the place was loaded with shortjaw mudsuckers, which are like a longjaw mudsucker but have a shorter jaw. 

Species 1990. That’s the year I moved back to California from the midwest.

The place was also full of frillgobies. My pictures still aren’t Ben-level, but sunlight is very helpful.

I also got a much more photogenic Cortez opaleye. In the life-lister world, this is called a “photo upgrade.”

Endless tidepools and no band – what’s not to love? Chris, I should note, did not catch a barred pargo.

While Chris and the kids continued exploring the rocks, I pulled out a spoon and cast into the deeper water. It was a rugged shoreline, but I figured that I would sort out landing something if the necessity arose. On perhaps my fifth toss, I got hit hard and could see a decent-sized silver fish splashing on the surface. If it dove, I would lose it, so I just trusted my braided line and pulled hard. I bounced a fish up onto the rocks, and surprisingly, it was a longjaw leatherjack, one of the species I had hoped for in the estuary.

Species 1991. This was an unexpectedly good start. The internet came online in 1991, or so it says on the internet. We’d have to ask Al Gore to be sure.

We spent the evening at the cruise ship jetty. It’s a maddening spot, because it is obviously very fishy, being the only structure in an otherwise sandy flat, but access is slippery and difficult, and the tides race up and down so fast that a spot is only a spot for 45 minutes or so. There is no room for error because you are casting over a steep ledge of concrete slabs, but we had a lot of fun catching more leatherjacks and a few Spanish mackerel. Chris still did not catch a barred pargo.

Just before we headed out, I added another new species – the common halfbeak. 

Species 1992. I started work at Macromedia in 1992 – it was a small software startup that did very well. Best job ever.

We ate dinner at “Wrecked on the Reef,” which is at the base of the pier and has surprisingly good food. I still prefer Capone’s, of course.

The following morning was a big one – we were finally going to the legendary estuary, courtesy of Chris’ friend Eric. Chris met Eric on something called “Instagram,” and it turns out Eric, a Phoenix resident, visits Puerto Penasco quite often and fishes the estuary almost exclusively. The fishing spots are about a mile from parking through soft sand, but Eric has a dune buggy that made the whole thing easy and he was kind enough to give us all a lift. The main idea here is to cast spoons and grubs for flatfish (three different species,) corvina, and leatherjack.

The tides here are gigantic – around 18 feet – so low water leaves giant bare flats that are quickly covered by flood tides at a walking pace. This keeps you on the move and rewards efficient packing. The Mucus lost several rod holders. 

At high tide, that apartment building is right on the water.

Most of the guys went to cast lures on the sand bars, but I was particularly obsessed with the Cortez ray, so I moved over to a channel and set out a couple of baits.

First casts of the day. 

While I waited, I could see that everybody was catching the heck out of flounder. The species are tough to tell apart – we are talking gill raker and fin ray counts – but the gang had diagrams loaded on their phones for easy reference.

Less than five minutes later, one of my baits got slammed. I hooked up, and the fish made a good fight out of it on my light European-style bait rod. (A “winkle-picker” in Jens Koller jargon.) I fully expected a Cortez ray, but what I got instead was a huge bullseye puffer. Not the desired species, perhaps, but it was more than big enough to break Mark Spellman’s record on the species, which made me smile.

World record 212.

I cast again, and again, got hit before I could even think about throwing a jig. I fully expected another puffer, but this time, it was a ray. I was thrilled, as I thought this was a Cortez spotted ray, which would be a new species and a world record. But spoiler alert – months later, when I found some more recent information in this species, it turns out that I caught a regular Haller’s round ray – the same one that infests San Diego Bay. So even though I was overjoyed at the time, no species and no record.

I wanted the fish to be a Cortez ray. The fish wanted to be a Cortez ray. But alas, wishing and hoping can’t overrule biology.

So that I don’t confuse myself with the math too much, I had originally thought the ray was species 1993, but, as we have discussed, it was not. Luckily, there was a split on the longear sunfish that added a species for me and kept the counting straight. We’ll cover that all in a future blog.

Comfortable in my delusion, I began tossing grub/jighead combos. Although I started late, I still caught six leatherjacks and six flounder, one of which turned out to be a Cortez halibut, which was a new one.

Species 1994. Good grief. I got married in 1994. We’re not talking Marta here, which automatically means it was a terrible mistake.

I never know which side of flatfish to show.

We also all caught longnose anchovies – species 1995 for me.

1995 was the year my beloved Red Wings were robbed by the NHL and the New Jersey Devils in the NHL finals, and even four Stanley Cups later, I’m still bitter. 

Once the tide started racing in, we had to move our stuff every few minutes or lose it. We ended up at a high spot next to Eric’s dune buggy, where we cast until midafternoon.

The team with Eric. He’s the normal-looking one in the middle.

We had more targets waiting at Bad Band Beach, so we thanked Eric, grabbed some chips and sodas, and headed out. The Band was living up to their reputation, trashing “Wipeout” and, for some reason, Billy Joel’s “Uptown Girl,” before we could get out of earshot.

The tidepools at Bad Band Beach.

I spent at least two hours casting spoons – the leatherjacks and bay bass were thick and it’s always fun catching anything on a lure. As it got dark, I started searching the tidepools. I mostly had clingfish in mind – all the books say there are several species here, but clingfish apparently don’t read those books. I got a few gobies, and then spotted something interesting peering out at me. Whatever it was, I hadn’t caught one, and it was painfully shy. It took 45 minutes to coax it out, but it finally bit. At first, I thought I had caught a reef finspot, but it turns out to be a close relative called a flapscale blenny. 

Species 1996. 1996 was the year my beloved Red Wings were robbed by the NHL and the Colorado Avalanche in the Western Conference finals, and even four Stanley Cups later, I’m still bitter.

Just before we headed to dinner, The Mucus called me over to a tidepool – he thought he had spotted a Sonora blenny, which they had all gotten and I hadn’t. What a nice kid. I still mean everything I’ve said about him, but I have to admit this was very decent. I caught it quickly, and it was just plain weird to have to thank The Mucus.

1997. We all know that this was the year that justice prevailed and the Red Wings won the Stanley Cup.

Chris insisted on doing the long walks entirely in Crocs, which will have consequences on his foot modeling career.

And yet he never complained.

Sunset at Bad Band Beach.

We had been looking for a boat for Sunday. The guy from last time was booked, so we found Jose Cruz, widely known as “El Jefe.” This guy is the real deal – he knew every species we asked about and a few we hadn’t. The ride out became a game of “name that fish,” which was easy because Jefe speaks better English than The Mucus. 

The boat.

We set up to jig for bait. While the Moores caught a few new ones, I pulled up a sand perch that had a chance. These are hard to ID – it all comes down to the shape of the spines on the opercle – but it turned out to be a Pacific Sand Perch, and I had species 1998.

The Red Wings won the Stanley Cup, for the second time in a row, in 1998. They didn’t lose a game in either final. 

1998. The trip was turning out far better than I could have hoped, and I still had a day to go. Could I do it right here?

Steve and El Jefe celebrate the catch. I highly recommend this guy if you’re in the area – his email is

As masterful as El Jefe was, he could not control the weather, and predicted light winds morphed into 25-30. It got rough. I was fine. Carson was fine. But Chris went full-on rail bunny. He screamed his breakfast into the Sea of Cortez and kept fishing without a word of complaint.

The Mucus looked a bit queasy himself, but I was so busy watching Chris that I hardly noticed when my second favorite teenager on the boat lurched over the transom.

He was actually quiet for 38 seconds.

The mal-de-mer caught The Mucus so completely by surprise that he forgot to pull his mask down. I’ll leave the rest to your imaginations, but the kid was unfazed. I salute you, Mucus.

While they tossed their cookies, I tossed a spoon and caught more leatherjacks and a batch of Sierra mackerel.

There is a second species of mackerel in the Sea of Cortez – the Monterey Sierra mackerel – but we didn’t get any of those.

In the middle of all of this, right before we had to head in, I got a reasonable bite and landed a big lizardfish. It didn’t look quite like a California, and by the time we got to port, I had confirmed it as a lance lizardfish – not only a new species but also a world record. I had species 1999.

And world record 213.

Holy ####. I was at 1999 species. I had gone from the year I got married to the year I got unmarried (again, this was all in the dark, pre-Marta phase of my life) in just 22 hours, and it cost a lot less. 

The group back on dry land. Chris either took the photo or was still laying on the deck, I forget which.

The Mucus just doesn’t seem to get the whole sunblock/sunshield thing.

The back of his legs started to blister, but he would not leave whatever strange fish that kept emerging from under the dock.

Neither would the rest of the family. But they never caught whatever it was.

I kept fishing. If it happened, it happened. The Moores are great friends and it would have been phenomenal to share this moment with them. We spent the rest of the day poking around the harbor, but obscure fishing history would not be made that day.

We headed home the next morning. There is a lot of driving on these trips, and with four guys in a car for hours and hours, there is going to be conversation, some of it deep and meaningful, and some of it ranting that Lebron somehow doesn’t travel every time he goes near the paint.

It always amuses me that the drive from the border to Penasco is a “Hassle Free Zone.” What are we to assume about the rest of the country? No other country even mentions this.

You do see the most amazing items at the roadside stands.

On the way home, we got going on the subject of “rules to live by,” which always brings back David Barkess’ timeless “Park in the shade, don’t take any wooden nickels, and be nice to your Mom.” Both kids actually surprised me with their wisdom, and please note they do not claim to be the original sources of any of these. Carson gave us all something to consider when he said “Everyone’s gangster until the cockroach flies.” I’ve seen that happen, and even the hardest of men run screaming. The Mucus contributed “Never take a laxative and a sleeping pill at the same time.” Accidentally or not, that’s profound and brought back some interesting memories, especially Brazil 2001 when I got on a plane, took a Benadryl, and promptly presented with food poisoning. It’s very important to stay awake when you have food poisoning on an airplane. Luckily, I could buy new socks during the layover in Miami.

That night, I plugged everything into my spreadsheet. The lizard was indeed 1999. I had some serious planning to do.







Posted by: 1000fish | March 12, 2022

Shark Week


The Seychelles were calling me, and I couldn’t answer. While I had to be grateful that Marta and I were both still healthy and employed, I was slipping into an emotional dark place, (which Marta calls “grouchy,”) because I couldn’t travel outside the US. As early spring rolled around, I was at 1978 species, but I honestly didn’t have much of a plan for the next 22.

I did get some fishing in, including an Eel River steelhead trip with Mark Spellman

The idiots, steady fishing partners since 1993.

Great memories of Ed Trujillo.

In mid-March, the Moore family visited Northern California. We met in Santa Cruz, and while it was chillier than we wanted, they scraped out a few species.

The Moores hunt the tidepools. L-R, that’s Chris, The Mucus, and Carson.

We caught up with Vince, a teenage local species genius, who helped us with some of his secret spots, and somewhere in there, I stumbled into a striped kelpfish. 

Species 1979. That’s the year I moved from Michigan to California.

Vince is a superstar – you can see more of his stuff on something called “Instagram” under the name “@prickly_sculpin.” Whatever that means. But the kid is a genius.

I was still looking for the next big trip, and I got talking to Phil Richmond, the US Navy Officer who you all remember from two different Japan trips. Now based near Los Angeles, Phil was doing what he does everywhere – get a boat and find the fish. His latest project – a swordfish. Unfortunately, the high point of his quest thus far was a heartbreaking gear failure after he had hooked a huge sword. I have never heard someone so absolutely heartsick. We feel you, brother.

We got talking about sharks, specifically, sixgill sharks. Part of an ancient group represented by four living species, these deep-dwelling monsters can reach 15 feet and occasionally wander into areas where they can be caught. I had seen stray sixgills landed in San Francisco Bay, in the early 1990s when I used to go shark fishing almost every Friday, on a charter called The Fury. Friends of mine caught them, hell, even Spellman got one, but I never did.

This was an all-weekend project and would require sleeping on the boat. I generally avoid these situations, but the spots were too far offshore to base at a Hyatt, and I wanted this fish BAD. 

The idea was to meet at his place in Ventura late afternoon, go get his boat, stock up on provisions, and then drive down to LA to launch and head offshore. We got on the water just past sunset and motored out into the open Pacific. We talked strategy on the way, but basically, he had found some ledges that could hold the fish, and we were going to drop multi-pound cut baits and wait. 

The craft. It’s a solid boat and Phil has set it up very well.

A few hours later, we were anchored and fishing. The sea was thankfully calm, especially considering it was late March, so we could settle in to eating chicken wings and waiting for what would be a darn big bite. In the meantime, I dropped smaller rigs and landed the occasional sand dab. 

In the middle of the night, right about when it became clear only one of us would fit in his bunk, my rod went off with a hard, screaming run on the clicker. I thought I did everything right, but when I swung, there was nothing there. It seemed too fast for a sixgill – we guessed huge bat ray and continued fishing. 

Perhaps an hour later, as I was dozing off, Phil hooked a solid fish. Remember that he is an enormous person, so he can pull hard on these things, but the fish was still taking line and fighting with big, wide head shakes. 

He battled it patiently, and it took some hard runs even as it got toward the surface. We planned to release any big fish we caught, so we had rigged a tail rope and figured we would fake it from there. The fish finally surfaced after about 15 minutes. Although a teenager by sixgill standards, it was a big animal, all of seven feet and around 140 pounds. 

They’re just friends.

The fish was not happy.

Getting ready for the release. Very few people can pick up a shark this size without losing a limb.

As you may recall from 1000fish episode “Domo Arigato, Mr. Richmond,” Phil has caught the super rare broadnose sixgill shark, as well as the regular and sharpnose sevengills. Now that he has the regular sixgill, I would wager heavily that he is the only person on earth who has caught all four of these species.

Do NOT put this in your pants.

Phil’s boat has a nice bunk for one person, or two people who really like each other, so we were supposed to take turns napping. I am known to be a very light sleeper, so I was more worried about waking up than sleeping through anything. In a bizarre development that I would not have believed unless Phil showed me the video, which will never see the light of day so stop asking, I absolutely would not wake up for a whole series of attempts by Phil, up to and including an air horn. Marta, who is used to me jumping up when a deer farts in the back yard, was astonished. Sorry again, Phil.

When I finally regained consciousness, it was light and we decided to poke around for rockfish. We caught loads of them, but alas, nothing new for me. Annoyingly, I kept missing the greenspotted rockfish record by just a few ounces.

So close.

We also spent quite a bit of time gathering Mylar balloons that some idiot let fly during a party.

People, please don’t be idiots.

Evening rolled around, and we went back to our spot and rigged up the serious gear. About two pounds of chicken wings later, I had just laid down for a nap when Phil yelled “Fish on your rod!” My heavy trolling setup was bouncing hard, and I had no trouble waking up. 

From the moment I got the rod out of the holder, I could tell it was the right fish. It was heavy and fought with short runs and powerful head shakes, but it stayed pretty much straight down.

These aren’t the best action shots but you get the idea. That rod doesn’t bend very easily.

It took about 20 minutes before I saw a big dark shape and an unsettling white mouth come out of the blackness. No matter how much you think you are prepared for this, you will still utter a string of expletives when it happens to you.

I like to think I said “Oh my, that’s a large shark lunging out of the water at my arm.” But it didn’t come out that organized.

Phil was ready and had a tail rope on it before I could worry too much. It was a good fish, we’ll guess around 175, and even though it was only March, I knew exactly which picture was going on the front of our Christmas letter. 

Species 1980. I got my driver’s license in 1980.

Six. Count ’em. Most sharks have five, except of course for the sevengills, and some catsharks, such as the brownbanded bamboo catshark, which have four.

Because I am someone who writes a lot of articles trying to make a two-inch fish exciting, this was an especially satisfying trip, because I have an answer for those of you who are mean to me when I post a small fish. This means you, Brian Smith.

Our heroes on the way home, triumphant but unwashed.

We were downwind of the seals and they still smelled better than us.

Exactly two weeks later, Phil and I would be at it again for another shark species. In the interim, I caught up with Vince, who provided some excellent advice on the elusive bald sculpin. There really is a fish called that. Get your mind out of the gutter.

This led to a pleasant afternoon in the tidepools, and I got at least a dozen of my target fish. I should note that the Bald is one of the harder-fighting small sculpins.

Species 1981. I graduated high school in 1981. We just had our 40th effing reunion. Damn I’m old.

At least I finally got to sit with the cool kids. That’s David on the left, a high school classmate who still has an impressive scar on his eyebrow where I hit him with a hockey puck. I like to point out the scar; he likes to point out he stopped the puck.

On April 2, old 1000Fish friend Gerry Hansell visited San Francisco and we set up a day of early-season rockfish. Things went well until the boat left the harbor. It was rougher that expected and Gerry somehow misapplied his Scopolamine patch. Gerry is two of the five smartest people I know, but it’s a more confusing process than you would think, and he became profoundly seasick.

Gerry toughed it out and managed to add six species. That’s what it takes sometimes.

Although I rarely catch a new species locally, I did manage something so statistically improbable that it is worth mentioning here. My first 10 rockfish – which is currently a limit – were all different species. I have been doing these trips for 30 years and have never seen this happen. Generally, a particular species will stack up at a given spot, and at least half your limit will consist of that species. Weird day. Made me forget Gerry’s breakfast smoothie.

Steve and the aforementioned limit.

A few days later, Phil and I set up another weekend, this time to pursue thresher shark. Thresher had been another maddening species for me, as they are regularly caught off Monterey and San Francisco. I’ve been on two boats that hooked them, although the leaders didn’t hold up either time. (They jump when hooked so it was pretty obvious what they were.)

I got down to Ventura a day early so I could pursue another “bonus species.” Courtesy of the Moore family, even The Mucus, I had been told that the harbor there has a substantial population of California clingfish. Clingfish are cool.

Species 1983. The final episode of M*A*S*H aired in 1983, and it is still the single best thing ever shown on television, with the exception of the 1997 Stanley Cup Finals.

The next afternoon, Phil and I loaded up his boat and headed back down to Long Beach. We explored until we found one of the massive bait schools that threshers are known to follow, caught some bait, and then we cast out floating rigs. We had a couple of tentative takes, but nothing we would swear was a thresher, and we headed in for burgers just after dark.

The next morning, we set out at first light and again hunted bait schools. We found an enormous aggregation of sardines, so we anchored and again set out live baits.

Now THAT’S a spicy bait ball.

While we waited, I fished small rigs on the bottom, and things got good. I pulled up a sand dab. Yawn. I pulled up another sand dab. Yawn. But somewhere in there, I actually looked at the thing, and realized, to my great joy and Phil’s everlasting amusement, that it was a longfin sand dab and I had a new species. 

Species 1984. The Detroit Tigers won the World Series in 1984, and yes, I poured a bottle of champagne over my head.

Before I could even properly celebrate the dab, I pulled up another flatfish, a little bigger and with clear, big ocelli. It was a fantail sole, and I had species 1985. 

Species 1985. What a morning. I graduated UC Davis in 1985, and yes, I poured a bottle of champagne over my head.

A closer look at the fantail.

The floated thresher baits didn’t seem to be doing the trick, and the water was getting a lot bumpier than forecast. While I am not as prone to seasickness as, say, my brother-in-law Dan, I was still not feeling my best.

My favorite photo of Dan.

We decided to start heading in to the harbor and troll big plugs behind us. It was going to take a while, so I sat there quietly, trying not to be ill. We were perhaps halfway back to Long Beach when it happened. The fish I mean. I didn’t barf.

It is hard to do literary justice to the violence of a thresher hit on the troll. Snakehead may strike with more hatred, but a shark going fast one direction grabbing a lure that’s going fast in the other direction can empty a human bladder in less than a second. The noise alone is unforgettable – no one is ever used to the sound of a clicker screaming, but this takes it up a couple of octaves and I thought it was going to break the rod. (No one thinks their reel can make those noises, just like no one thinks their cat can make those noises, until you step on their tail.)

Any seasick thoughts melted away as I got into fighting mode. The initial run was very long, like a bat ray on steroids, but braided line takes the drama out of possibly being spooled. This fish stayed close to the surface but didn’t jump, and every time I thought he had slowed down, he would take off again. Phil is an excellent driver and has been in these situations many times (including landing a 275 pound marlin on his small boat in Japan,) so he kept me at a good angle and let the fish wear itself down. My rig was a solid 30 pound class rod, a gift from some co-workers years ago at Macromedia, and it was great to have something pull hard on it. 

Note on action shots – the rod never looks as bent as it felt, and the water never looks as rough as it was.

The fish kept slugging it out on the surface, keeping its distance from us and making short but powerful runs every time we got close. We could see it was very solidly hooked on both trebles, but it still took about 10 more minutes to maneuver into position for a gaff shot. 

If you are gaffing a fish, you want Phil on your side. He has a longer reach than normal humans, and he doesn’t miss. He got the fish first, then I got a second gaff, and we hauled it over the rail. I had my thresher. My hand is still sore from the high five Phil gave me. 

Species 1986. 1986 was a very bad year for Bill Buckner. God bless you, Bill.

They have a decent set of teeth. Mind you, this is a fairly small thresher.

We cast around in the harbor a bit, then went for pizza. Phil was thrilled for me, but he wanted a thresher badly as well, and we planned an early start the next day.

And yes, we kept the fish. They are amazing eating – they are great grilled and also make a wonderful fish cake. (Fish cakes courtesy of Marta.)

I was more prepared for the sea conditions the next morning, so of course, it was perfectly flat. We skipped the bait thing and trolled right away, starting a bit north of where we got my fish and working south.

We again spent time gathering Mylar balloons that some idiot let fly during a party.

People, don’t be idiots.

We had been at it about an hour when the port side rig exploded. Phil grabbed the rod, I grabbed the wheel, and I prayed that the fish would stay on and that I didn’t do anything stupid while I had the boat.

He looks remarkably calm for someone with two thirds of their line gone.

Phil landed it perhaps 20 minutes later, and we both had one on the board. That’s a good weekend.

Yes, his was bigger.

Content with the fish, we headed out. It’s a long drive home from LA through Ventura on a Sunday afternoon, but I was smiling the entire time. Realistically, I had been hoping for one of the two big sharks and maybe a couple of stray bonus fish. Instead, I had improbably added nine species. That left 14 to go and a trip to Mexico coming up. 



I love surfperch fishing, but I have come to hate the silver surfperch. It’s a scattered species that is only caught by accident while fishing for barred perch, and they look a lot like a walleye perch, so every one of those is a heartbreaking false alarm.

About a week after the thresher, I went down to Santa Cruz with Jibril, the fishing-crazed son of one of my best friends. The surf was perfect, allowing for light tackle, and we got at least a dozen barred and walleye perch, each of which was examined closely and released. I even had one light-colored walleye that I almost persuaded myself was a silver, but about an hour later, I got a hit that just felt different. Looking at the fish, there was no doubt – dusky dorsal tip, pigment on the anal fin. I was having a good spring. (And given how much time I was spending on the water, Marta was having a better one.)

Steve and Jibril with species 1987. The first Simpsons episode aired in 1987.

The pattern for these is easy – catch 8000 walleye perch first. On to the spotfin!


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