by Charlie Levine
Raised in Pensacola, Florida, Chris Mowad, only ever wanted one job. “I was always an avid angler growing up, and the dad of one of my best friends was a private boat captain,” he says. “I thought that was the dream job.”
Chris started working on boats at 14 years old and just 13 years later, he’s running the Whoo Dat – a 58-foot Jarrett Bay owned by Keith Richardson. This is one operation that does not like to sit idly by. Mowad and company left the Gulf of Mexico in January and have been fishing in the Dominican Republic and St. Thomas ever since.
Mowad took the time for a phone call in St. Thomas just after the September moon and the bite’s been on. “We caught 23 in the last seven days,” he says of fishing on the North Drop. “We recently hired a new mate who fished the entire Gulf season and caught 11 fish. We doubled his whole season in a week. You can build a resume pretty quick spending time in hot spots, and the experience you gain is priceless.”
Mowad’s quick ascent to the captain’s chair began as a freelance captain and mate on a handful of boats. He also worked at Outcast Bait and Tackle, in Pensacola, from the ages of 17 to 21. It being a smaller shop, he had to know how to do a little bit of everything. Spool reels, rig lures, you name it. At 18, he got his six-pack license and started running more boats. “I met a lot of local guys who had private boats, and I worked as a captain-for-hire,” Mowad says. “That’s how I got a lot of experience. You learn a lot when you’re managing a different crew every weekend.”
While running the boat and finding fish is the more glamorous part of the job, Mowad is not afraid to get his hands dirty and do whatever it takes to make sure the boat is running properly. “I was always impressed by captains who maintained the boat themselves and if anything broke, they knew how to fix each system,” he says.
Capt. Myles Colley was one such captain that Chris Mowad looked up to. Colley, captain of the Born2Run, is from the same area as Mowad and also started running boats at a young age. “I wanted to kind of follow in his footsteps,” Mowad says. “The part I enjoy most now is that he’s gone from being a mentor to us being in competition, but we still have a good friendship.”
The Whoo Dat is the perfect platform for the kind of marlin fishing that keeps Mowad’s boss fired up. The 58-footer was built by Jarrett Bay in 2007 and when Richardson bought it in 2011, he installed a tuna tower, a second generator, new electronics and a fresh coat of paint. The 1,350-hp MTU 12V 2000s just rolled over 10,000 hours and keep the team on the bite. While the engines keep the team mobile, it’s really the owner of the boat, Keith Richardson, who keeps everyone on board fired up. “He keeps us all going,” Mowad says. “He wants to put up big numbers and is not afraid to fish extra hours. He’s really the hardest working guy I’ve ever worked for and a key part of our program. He’s willing to fish on a different schedule and follow the bite.”
Having the flexibility to move throughout the Caribbean, whether it’s fishing FADs in Casa de Campo, or pulling lures on the North Drop, gives Whoo Dat the ability to stay right on the marlin’s tail. Fishing out of St. Thomas this summer, Mowad and his crew were seeing 10 to 12 blue marlin a day during the peak moon phases in June, July, August and September. It’s been some of the best fishing there in a long time. Fishing alongside his mate of four years, Kevin Alexander, he says they’ve got a solid group of guys on the boat and camaraderie is high.
While they’ve been successful, Mowad is never afraid to ask for help from some of the more experienced skippers. “If you quit asking questions, you quit getting better,” he says. “There’s a group of guys here that have been really helpful.”
Mowad’s plan moving forward is to get boat work finished in October and November then head to Casa de Campo in December and fish there through next April. From the DR, the team is heading back to St. Thomas for the summer. The days can run together, but he’s certainly not complaining. “It wouldn’t be fair to say we work 24-hour days, but there are times it seems like it,” he says. “Keith doesn’t have a problem going for a 15-day stretch and the seas are rough the majority of the time. But you get to learn how maneuver the boat in rough water. If you can catch them when it’s rough, you’ll catch them when it’s calm.”
Charlie Levine is the publisher of FishTrack.com and the author of the book, “Sucked Dry: The Struggle is Reel,” available on Amazon.