By Elliott Stark
At 28, Captain Andrew Dotterweich is a fishy dude. Captain of the Fish On, a 48-foot Viking that splits time between Palm Beach and Ocean City, Maryland, the young Dotterweich already has some four years’ experience running the boat. While his experience might belie his age, Andrew has been surrounded by fishing for most of his life.
“We grew up around fishing in Sailfish Marina since we were young,” Andrew says. Not only is Andrew’s father, Dave Dotterweich, a captain, so too is his identical twin brother David. “I was born in Jupiter. My dad has been working on boats since the 70s. He runs a charter boat out of Sailfish Marina, the Martini— a 53’ Viking. My brother runs the Magic Touch, a 58-foot Monterrey, out of Stuart. His is a private boat.”
“My dad used to take us out quite a bit. I think we started driving boats like this at eight years old. He didn’t want us to be in the industry, but it was hard for us to stay out of it,” Andrew says. When asked what he would be doing if he weren’t running a boat, Andrew takes a second to think. “When you grow up on the water it’s hard to do anything else. We, my brother and I, tried a couple of other things, but they weren’t meant for us.”
After high school Andrew’s professional sportfishing career began in earnest. After working on the Griffin for several years, Andrew found himself working on the Osprey, the famous Ocean City charter boat captained by Joe Drosey. Andrew looks back at this time and Drosey’s influence fondly. “I learned a lot, and he helped me tremendously,” he says.
Fishing with charters one day Andrew met Todd Willard, the man who would ultimately provide him the opportunity to transition to the bridge. “I was working on the Griffin and Todd was a guest. He said, ‘I’m going to own one of these things someday,’ and he said he wanted me to be his captain. He hired me six months before he bought the boat.”
“At the time he offered me the job, I had just committed to fish the summer season on the Osprey with Joe Drosey. I couldn’t back out on the commitment so for the next six months I basically worked two full time jobs. I was fishing with Joe and working with Todd to buy the boat and taking care the boat when I wasn’t fishing. We went to two boat shows together. Once he bought the boat, we kept it a marina about an hour away from the Osprey.”
“I took care of lots things on the boat and prepared it for the Florida season. Some days I’d run over to the boat for an hour or two after fishing and prepare leaders. At the end of the Ocean City season, I brought the boat down south,” Andrew says.
That boat was the Fish On. While the phrase “fish on” is most often used to describe hook up, in this case it may be a directive to fish on… keep fishing. “We spend the winters down here (Palm Beach) and spend the summers in Ocean City, Maryland. The boss is cool and has a core group of friends that fish the tournaments with us. We fish a lot—usually between 150 and 200 days per year. We put around 1,500 hours on the boat a year.”
“Todd loves fishing. We go on a trip to Guatemala every year with the tournament. The boss, his wife and family are all great. It’s an operation where we fish a lot. Getting to fish in Ocean City in the summer is great,” Andrew says.
The Fish On team competes in most of the summer tournaments in Ocean City and a number of winter events in Florida. The boat does not have a full-time mate, but employs a rotating cast of Andrew’s friends and family. “My brother fishes with us a lot. Steven Stallings fishes with us in Ocean City, Jake Emche, too. Greg Bogdan helps us out in the Ocean City tournaments. Jamie Barnett fishes with us, too,” Andrew says.
Andrew and his identical twin brother David are very close. What’s more, given his father’s many connections in the industry, fishing is still very much a family affair for the Dotterweiches. “My brother and I are super close. We fish great together. He has really helped me on this boat. He mates for us, travels north and south with us. His boat is a private operation (which is not always as busy as the Fish On’s program), so he gets to fish with us whenever he can.”
When the Fish On is in Palm Beach for the winter, it is docked in Sailfish Marina. Not only is this where Andrew grew up, but it provides something particularly special. “Having my dad tied up next to me is really great,” he says. His father’s charter boat still operates out of Sailfish.
Andrew credits his father’s influence with much of his success. “From boat lessons to relating with owners, and really any questions we’ve ever had… my dad gives great advice generally. He used to fish Ocean City, too. He has a lot of buddies up there who help us out too,” Andrew says. “From where to go to what to do, it’s good to have someone to talk to every day to help you out.”
And just as it is a special experience to fish with your family, having an identical twin brother provides opportunities to pull pranks that are not available to other, non-twin-having folks. “One day my brother was fishing with us. We were wearing the same color shorts, but had on different shirts. At some point we traded shirts and I went down to work in the cockpit and David ran the boat. This went on for 30 minutes before anyone noticed,” Andrew says with a laugh.
Just as Captain Andrew Dotterweich’s background has prepared him well for a career in the captain’s chair, his success is rooted in hard work and dedication. When asked about lessons or pieces of advice he might have for other young guys who are considering making a career out of sportfishing, Andrew is direct. “Keep your head down and work. Pay attention. And don’t think that you’re too good to do anything, I guess I would say,” he explains.
With an outlook like this and a solid grounding in the many skills and obligations that come with a captain’s job, the future looks bright for Dotterweich and the Fish On. While a bright future in fishing is a good deal for anyone, it might be especially important for Captain Andrew Dotterweich. After all, were it not for fishing, even Andrew is not sure what he’d be doing.
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