Harry Garrecht has had his eyes turned to the wide open blue for a very long time. He started bluefin tuna fishing off Montauk at the age of six and was running out to the canyons with his father by the time he turned 10 years old.
On the days he wasn’t able to go fishing offshore, Garrecht could be found fishing off the dock, where he became a familiar fixture to crews and boat owners that came through the area.
One such individual was Chester Wolfe, who owned the 45-foot Chris Craft, Sea Wolfe, which sat at the end of the dock Garrecht would frequent. When Garrecht turned 14, he took his first offshore trip on the Sea Wolfe. By that time, he was working 90 hours a week for minimum wage, which was $6.50 at the time, for a north shore tackle shop.
That following season, Garrecht started mating on the Sea Wolfe for Chester and Barbara Wolfe and Scott Eldon. Garrecht’s father would go into the tackle shop and tell all his son’s fishing stories to the owner, David Flannagan, and employee Vinny Catalano.
“One day, my father left everybody all riled up with my fishing reports and Skinny Vinny goes … ‘Who the f*ck is this offshore Harry kid!?’ From that moment, all the customers started calling me Offshore Harry, and to this day, that name has stuck.” During Offshore Harry’s first trip as a paid deckhand on the Sea Wolfe, the team ended up catching a blue marlin and two whites. They also had eight yellowfin tuna and a 210-pound bigeye, along with some albacore and wahoo.
“It was on that trip I realized that this was what I was going to do for the rest of my life,” Garrecht says. Through college, Garrecht made sure he had Fridays off so that he could fish the weekends in the fall during tuna season. When he was 18, he got his captain’s license, and within a year, he began running canyon trips on his own. “I was supposed to be finishing college, I was going to school for business administration, and I started to notice that my education was someone else’s business,” Garrecht says. “So I bought my father’s boat when I was 23 and started my own charter business. It was a 36-foot Wayne Beal called the Breakwater.”
Down to Florida
Eventually he was invited by some clients to fish down in Florida. Like many visitors to the Sunshine State, Garrecht never left. He was living out of his truck but determined to make it. He found work washing the Osprey and Fish With Me at Sailfish Marina. About a week later, Harry was hired on as a relief captain, filling in for a friend.
Garrecht takes his job seriously and is confident in his abilities. “I said the goal for today is seven sailfish. We ended up going seven for nine, and as soon as I got back to the dock, Joe Drosey asked me to work for him. So I finished the rest of the season with Joe and then the following couple of seasons I worked for Chris Recchio on the Fish With Me.”
Between 2016 and 2017 Garrecht was the first mate on the Fish With Me and the captain of Chris’ bait boat, a 31-foot Ocean Master called Rowdy. “I was bait fishing every night, running charters on the small boat, and when we didn’t have charters on the small boat, I was the mate on the big boat,” Garrecht recalls. “I fished with Chris for two full seasons, and around March, I got an offer to go to Destin, Florida, and mate on a 74 Viking called First Bite. After a month, I was promoted to captain and spent that whole season in Destin, which was still to this day one of the coolest experiences of my life. No matter what kind of fisherman you had on the boat, there was something for them to catch.”
Garrecht Gets a New Job
That November, after a day of charter fishing, Garrecht was approached by the owners of the Sea Deuce, at the time a 65-foot Donzi—this would later be traded in for a 64-foot Sculley—to go out for drinks. “Little did I know that the conversation we were having was my job interview,” Garrecht says. “I got a call a little over a year later and got the offer to run the 64.” Ironically, the owners had lived right around the corner from Garrecht in North Port and had been following him on social media for years.
When the owners told Garrecht their sailfishing numbers were lower than they would have liked, he gave them his perspective on a successful offshore trip. “I said to them, well … the key to sailfishing is actually having the best mates, the best baits and the captain is last. Keeping the boat on the fish is the easy part,” Garrecht says. “But if you don’t have good bait that stays alive and you don’t have a mate that knows all the tricks of the trade who’s quick with his hands, you aren’t going to hook the triples and quads.”
In March 2018, before Garrecht’s first trip on the Sea Deuce, he told his best friend Morgan Tolbert, who was working the cockpit, that he thought they could catch five sailfish that day.
“We ended up going five for five, had a pile of dolphin, couple of blackfins and the bonito were really thick that day. It was pre-frontal blowing west-northwest. The next day, it was north-northeast 20 to 30, and there were only three of us out there. We ended up going 20 for 23.” Garrecht remembers getting a pay raise sometime right after that trip.
Garrecht Looks Back
“I’ve come a long way from a little towhead blonde kid wearing a life jacket catching flounder and striped bass off the dock,” Garrecht says with a laugh before wiping the smile off his face. “I’m not here for respect, I’m here to make my people happy, keep my mouth shut and catch fish.”
Currently, Garrecht and the Sea Deuce team fish out of Hampton Bays, New York, in the summer, then head down to Palm Beach, Florida, for winter. He currently has two lofty goals: to break the New York State blue marlin record and catch a grander swordfish. In the meantime, he’s headed to the Outer Banks in the next couple of weeks to wrap up the last of the yard work to get ready to head south. “My favorite part of getting offshore is turning the phone on airplane mode and cranking some music while everybody’s sleeping on the way out,” he says. “And even though I may not sleep for three days, I know every day that I go out I’m going to see something I’ve never seen before. There is no more humbling experience than mother ocean.”
Garrecht’s Work Ethic
Just as Capt. Harry Garrecht’s upbringing has prepared him well for a successful career in the captain’s chair, his fortune is rooted in hard work and dedication. As for the advice he’d give another angler trying to make it through the ranks, Harry is decidedly direct. “Start from the bottom, keep your head low, your mouth shut and absorb as much information as you can.” Garrecht credits the veteran anglers he’s fished with for helping him along the way, captains like Chris Recchio who pointed him in the right direction, then let Garrecht learn independently. Now, with enough experience to match guys who are years his senior, the 32-year-old captain has a few words of wisdom for the next generation of young guns.
“You’re only as good upstairs as your men downstairs. So take the time to train your mates, teach your anglers the right way to do things and the correct way to use your equipment.”