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.)





  1. as always a stunning read Steve, 94 countries?, I saw your Northern Ireland Salmon, have you ever caught a fish in Southern Ireland ? country 95 if you are ever this way…

    • I have indeed caught a fish in Ireland, but just a couple of stray brown trout. I know there’s more when I get back over there, especially on the west coast.



  2. Wonderful post Steve.. Thanks. T

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