Capt. Austin Ensor
Ocean City, Maryland
By Charlie Levine
You don’t often meet a captain in their 20s with multiple tournament wins on his resume. It’s even rarer that you meet a captain this young who has just purchased a 54-foot sportfisher and is in the middle of a major refit. That’s what makes Austin Ensor unique. It is his passion and dedication to offshore fishing that has helped Austin earn the respect of the top captains in one of the biggest sportfishing ports on the East Coast, Ocean City, Maryland.
Austin grew up in the Ocean City area, where sportfishing is as commonplace as sand in your shoes. He immediately fell in love with all types of fishing and would fish the Chesapeake Bay with his family and friends. But Austin wanted to make fishing more than a hobby and at the very young age of ten, he scored his first job on the Bay, working as a mate catching rockfish (striped bass).
The burgeoning angler spent a few years focusing on the inshore grounds, but he longed to fish farther offshore and target larger, more challenging fish. He grabbed every fishing magazine he could find and looked through countless pages of fishing forums online, educating himself as much as possible.
Austin would go with his family on vacation to North Carolina. When he was 12, he convinced his father to tow the family boat down to Oregon Inlet so they could go tuna fishing. “Catching tuna was all I cared about,” Austin said. “My dad had never tuna fished before, but we went. We were tuna fishing with some Penn Senators and we ended up catching wahoo and some yellowfin. I’ve been hooked ever since.”
Austin also used these family vacations to do some practical research. Before his family trip, the 12-year-old went online and emailed every captain in Oregon Inlet, asking if he could clean their boat and spend some time poking around. Captain Dennis Endee on the A-Salt Weapon responded.
“He answered my email and said, ‘Yeah, come on down to the boat.’ I got to talk to him and he let me clean his boat and he showed me around,” Austin says.
It’s hard to deny this young up-and-comer would do just about anything to learn more about the boats and gear used to target his beloved pelagics.
Over his teenage years, Austin worked for Tommy Baldwin on the Lady Luck, a 60-foot Paul Mann. It was Baldwin who really taught him the ins and outs of offshore fishing. When Austin was 17, he started running the family boat, a 28-foot Mako center console.
His parents must’ve really trusted the teenager as they allowed him to take the boat 60 miles offshore with his buddies unsupervised. “There was probably some safety violations going on there, but we learned a lot,” he says. “Me and my friends chipped in for fuel to get out there. We did pretty well.”
One trip they really pushed the envelope, going way above Wilmington Canyon, fishing 86 miles offshore. “My buddy said the fish were there the day before, so we went for it,” Austin says. “We caught 12 yellowfin. That was one of the pivotal points of getting into tuna fishing.”
Austin and his crew would overnight at the canyons, fishing for makos and tuna.
As much as Austin loved fishing, he never lost sight of his other goals. He attended Salisbury University, not far from the docks in Ocean City, and graduated in 2015 with a business management degree. He fished summers, jumping around from boat to boat, and worked as a firefighter in the winters. He became friends with Kyle Peet who runs the No Quarter, a 54 Taylor Made and has become one of Austin’s mentors.
“I came into this industry not knowing a single person or anything about it,” Austin says. “He (Kyle) taught me how to fish. I’d fish with him here and there, and he keeps me in check when I have questions and things like that. We talk every day in the summer. I help him, we work together. He has gone from a friend to part of my family.”
In 2016, Austin, some friends and family bought a 28-foot Carolina Classic. “I wanted to venture from freelance mate to being a competitive force on the tournament scene,” he says. The young team, ranging in age from 21 to 30, have held their own, winning $38,000 to date. “We’ve never been all in,” Austin says of the team’s Calcutta entries. “We put in what we can.”
But they always go all-in when it comes to planning and preparing. The team has a group text chain where every logistical element of the trip is discussed. “I get everyone organized and each person works at their own capacity. Everyone knows their job,” he says. “My anglers like Tommy Clark, who did 26 trips in 2018, are the key to our success. The loyalty my guys have to our program is unmatched. Even though I am 25, they have never doubted me.”
The night before the tournament, Austin talks to his network of guys. “That’s probably the most important part,” he says. “We’re tied in with some of great captains of Ocean City, working together.”
Austin and his crew purchased a 54 Blackwell, the old Floridian once run by the very successful Captain Glenn Cameron. This meant rebuilding the engine, a Caterpillar 3412, and gutting the interior. He’s moved from a small private operation to a boat available for charter. He’s got some very well-known guys helping him out.
“Jon Duffie is doing a lot of the work I’m not comfortable doing,” Austin said. “Jon is such a passionate person and knows so much about fishing and boats. He’s been a lifeline. Having the best guy in the world redo your boat has been unreal.”
The boat will open more doors for Austin and his crew. They’ll have more range and be able to fish in more conditions.
“My dream is to catch as many fish as I can. The amount of guys lending a helping a hand is unreal. They see my drive. This fishing thing is 365 days year. If I’m not working on it, I’m learning. I’ll go to seminars and travel to hear people talk. I want to learn as much as I can.”
For the boat’s name, he chose Primary Search, which harkens back to his work as a firefighter. At a house fire, you search the entire property to make sure there’s no one inside. In fishing, Austin leaves early to be the first ones on the fishing grounds and he stays later than most of the other boats. It’s the same philosophy.
They don’t want to miss a single fish.
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