By Capt. Charles Perry
In this very magazine, there is a yearly contest for the Captain of the Year award. I think it is a great idea for giving recognition to captains who achieve quite a lot during the year. I would like to go one step further, however, and give recognition to someone I think should be Captain of the Century—Peter B. Wright.
While most anyone reading this magazine will know who Capt. Peter B. Wright is, there may be those who don’t know all that he’s accomplished in his fishing career. And yes, there are some readers who may not agree with Peter on all subjects. I may at times slip in that category myself. A thoughtful man, Peter not only blazed many trails in sportfishing, but has never been one to shy from telling others what he believes.
While I have been known to find myself on the other side of the fence from Peter B. on various topics from time to time, I have often found that after a bit of reflection, I just might find the grass to be a bit greener on Peter’s side. Whether we agree or disagree with Peter on his many opinions, his career accomplishments are beyond refute. Were Peter B. to create a fishing resume, it might look a bit like this… and it’s impressive.
I dare say that very few, if any, people have fished 40 consecutive seasons on the Great Barrier Reef, Australia (by season I mean September, October and November). Most fishermen would give anything to fish one or two seasons there. One of the many great things about fishing the Great Barrier Reef is that you have to catch your own bait, process it yourself, and then target a species of fish that is generally large in size. The faster you caught enough bait, the sooner you could fish for the blacks outside the reef. Peter was very good at catching bait and was quite often the first boat out on the edge.
Once equipped with bait, Peter B. knew well what to do next. To my knowledge, Peter B. is the only captain in history to have weighed in three granders in one day. Most big game fishing enthusiasts would be more than thrilled to have captured one grander in their lifetimes. If three granders in a day were not enough, Peter B’s career total for weighed grander black marlin is 76 fish. That is not likely to ever be equaled.
Peter was also an accomplished and knowledgeable free diver with an undergraduate degree in marine biology. Fishing on the GBR with him was a continuous education on the incredible natural setting that makes up the reef—the many different fish that inhabit it, the tides and current, the coral, and its overall composition. It was like fishing with a marine professor of nature. His knowledge base was furthered by his global fishing travel. Peter B. went everywhere—to places like Madeira and Cape Verde when their fisheries were just developing.
Peter had exceptional boat handling skills. Many of the large blacks that we captured over the 1000-pound mark had gaffs in them in less than five minutes. If the fish stayed on the surface and got outside of the long rigger distance, Peter would spin the boat around and run the fish down. When the fish slowed down to get a second wind (our term), we were usually right there with the gaffs. Most fishermen will just have to imagine what it was like to have a 1000-pound-plus fish on the gaffs five minutes after the bite. Incredibly exciting to say the least!
Upon the coaxing from one of his anglers, Peter went back to school and got an MBA degree in finance. After the following season on the Reef, Peter took $4500 of his money and $500 of his deckhands’ money and went to Brisbane to talk a bank manager into lending him enough money to buy a block of land in Cairns and build a set of flats. He was successful in acquiring the money he needed and proceeded to build the apartments. Peter was quite successful in most anything he set out to accomplish. Once a friend of his was asked by a stranger if Peter Wright had any degrees. His response, “Peter Wright? Hell, he has more degrees than a rectal thermometer!”
Many years during the 70s and 80s, after finishing the season on the GBR, Peter would return to the east coast of the U.S. and take a boat to Bimini or Cat Cay and fish the season (April-May) for the giant bluefin tuna. This type of fishing is a favorite for many of the captains and deckhands who ever fished it. The crew would spend the entire day in the tower looking for schools of large bluefin tuna traveling north with the current and seas.
These tuna were not interested in feeding… spotting them was only a small part of the task. Once you found them, you had to position the boat in front of the school without causing the fish to sound out of sight. The captain would decide when to throw the bait (which had to swim as perfect as when it was alive to tempt the tuna to bite). Unfortunately, the local barracuda recognized this as a buffet line and ate way more baits than the tuna ever did. This was definitely one of Peter B.’s favorite types of fishing and he mastered it.
In the winter of 1995, when Peter found out that there were lots of bluefin tuna on the wrecks off of Hatteras, North Carolina, he brought a friend’s forty-foot boat up from Florida and proceeded to catch lots of them. In 16 days of fishing, he caught 347 bluefin. On one of those days with Peter driving the boat, angler Stewart Campbell caught 73 bluefin. That’s catching a bluefin tuna every 9 ½ minutes for 11 ½ hours. These fish were from 250-400 pounds with the odd 500-pounder mixed in. I doubt this record number of bluefin caught in one day will ever be topped—after all, they don’t usually bite all day long and there are seldom that many fish in 20 fathoms of water.
One year, Peter got a set of plans for what was considered to be an ideal tuna fishing boat for the Bahamas and took them to a boat builder, Frank Woodnut, in Innisvale, Australia. He oversaw the building of a 40’ sportfisherman which he ran in 1974. The first fish caught on that boat was a black marlin world record on 20-pound test line. I fished on the deck for Peter that year and we caught 136 blacks. We weighed six over the mark and seven over nine hundred in 69 days fishing.
Peter B’s many mythical fishing achievements have resulted in widespread recognition. He is the only person to be inducted into the IGFA Hall of Fame and also in the IGFA Captains and Crews Hall of Fame. Peter B. is more than his many granders or tuna records… he is more than 40 consecutive years on the reef… he is more than a wealth of fishing knowledge and accomplishment. If you ask me, my friend Captain Peter B. Wright should be the Captain of the Century.
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My wife Trina and I had the pleasure of fishing with Captain Peter B for 10 days off Cains where we caught 11 black marlin, 2 over a 1000 lbs. Because of what we learned with Peter B, Trina was able to apply the extra drag to catch the Texas State record blue fin tuna (808lbs) which stood since 1985 (35 years). Records were made to be broken, our congratulations to Daniel Miers and crew on the ROCK MAMA.
We still have our same 33′ Bertram, ANXIOUS, and are now living and fishing out of Kona, Hi. Come see us… Thanks Peter B.
Captain Neal Isaacs.