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.



  1. So utterly thrilled for you Steve, have followed every step since 953 and loved the journey, the wit, the gourmet food, the drive, the friendships, your Hawaiian Nemesis, and ultimately the fishing.
    Thank you for sharing this.
    Now nevermind 3000, what’s your top 10 achievable new species, and let’s go 😊🐟🐟👍

  2. Thanks for the quirky humored fish porn for all these years. I still subcribed and will be just as excited to read the next one as I was when I found the blog to begin with. Tight lines my man.

  3. […] 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 […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: