The Story of the Owner Operator
by Jan Fogt
There was a time, not long ago, when owner-operated charter boats were commonplace on docks from Montauk to the Florida Keys. A time when between tips and commissions from mounts and the sale of fish, captains and their mates could make a decent living as watermen. This was a time before private and corporately owned boats became the norm and owner operated charter boat the exception.
For fishermen coming through the ranks as mates, the goal is always the same. They aspired to get a captain’s license and land a well-paying job on a traveling private boat, fishing all the hot spots– Costa Rica, Cape Verde and the Dominican Republic. This trajectory was certainly the dream of Captain Brad Simonds when he started fishing at 16. Simonds’ start on the water involved helping the late Woods Hole naturalist Frank Mather catch, tag and release giant bluefin off the Massachusetts coastline.
Brad’s father, a well known Boston lawyer, had lofty aspirations for his son. After high school he went to Princeton before earning a master’s degree. Fishing, however, was already in his system. Instead of becoming a history professor, Simonds headed to Islamorada to work as a mate for owner-operator Ray Merrill on the Ding Dong II. Three months later he was on his way to Cozumel with Capt. Frank Kessell on Quintana Roo.
This international adventure was derailed by Cuba’s Colorado Reef– and by the Cuban officers that put them in jail.
Two years later he got his license and first captain’s job running the Keowee. Simonds spent the summer fishing out of Oregon and Rudee Inlets in North Carolina and Virginia, before heading to Islamorada and Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula in the winter and spring. Jobs running Misguided for entrepreneur Larry Liebert took him to St. Thomas in the 1980s where he made a name for himself catching blue marlin. Next came jobs running Blank Check and Tex Schramm’s Key Venture and the Final Fantasy.
From 1987 and 1997 Simonds was one of the hottest captain on the circuit thanks to his………………………….. Click Here to continue reading this article.