InTheBite’s got another good one coming your way,
April/ May Issue– HITTING THE DOCKS NOW.
InTheBite’s got another good one coming your way,
InTheBite’s got another good one coming your way,
April/ May Issue– HITTING THE DOCKS NOW.
Ready for a Spring Break? Check out the March issue of InTheBite, hitting the docks now!
Here’s the full Old Salt interview with Capt. Sam at the Fort Pierce Inlet.
by Dale Wills
Singer, songwriter, newspaper columnist, book author, duck hunter and longtime captain – Sam Crutchfield can catch most anything that swims in fresh or salt water. Were that not enough, Capt. Sam is also proficient in Morse code and was bitten by an alligator while wade fishing for bass in a Florida lake. Captain Sam Crutchfield is an outdoorsman in every sense of the word. When speaking with Sam you could hear about most anything – a play by play story of a big blue off Walker’s Cay or about any number of adventures in Florida or the Caribbean. Today, at the age of 79, you can still find Capt. Sam at his local boat ramp fishing in the Indian River Lagoon and along the Treasure Coast beaches almost every morning. “You can never get a missed day of fishing back,” he says gently.
The Young Captain Sam
Born in 1939 in Polk County, Florida, Capt. Sam Crutchfield was hooked on fishing by the age of six. His father had a little boat and motor and would run out of Camp Mack on the Kissimmee River targeting big bass on shiners and artificials. His favorite holes were the Polk County phosphate pits, which according to Capt. Sam, “made the bass really big.” It was here that Sam caught his largest bass to date – a 17.2-pound whopper. Sam recalls how the incredible bass fishing during his youth has changed. “I remember the day they started dredging the Kissimmee to create the canal to Lake Okeechobee. It broke my heart, and it’s never been the same since.”
After high school, Sam joined the Coast Guard. “I enrolled in Radio School with the plan to relocate to Fort Pierce to be on the Ft. Pierce inlet. Upon completing my training, I quickly realized Ft. Pierce did not have a radio position. I then selected Jacksonville Beach Coast Guard station to be my new home.” Back then, radio communication was Morse Code (which Captain Sam can still encode today).
Captain Sam’s two day on, two day off schedule in Jacksonville was ideal. “Hunting and fishing was easy with my schedule. In the fall, I would hunt ducks on the land currently developed as the TPC Sawgrass Golf Club in Ponte Vedra, Florida. It was one of the best flyways you could imagine. Widgeon, pintails and teal were so prevalent,” says Sam. “In the spring and summer, I would fish the Jacksonville pier in which I witnessed over a half-dozen fifty-pound kingfish caught.” Sam is careful to note that his biggest kingfish, caught off of Ft. Pierce, tipped the scale to 67-pounds.
A Career in Sportfishing
After his service in the Coast Guard, Capt. Sam finally moved to Ft. Pierce to attend Indian River Community College – and fish. During this time Sam started mating on charter boats. This was the beginning of a lifelong sportfishing career.
Crutchfield earned his captain’s license in 1966. “I started running a small 19’ inboard charter boat with a 70-hp named Lucky. We mostly fished the Ft. Pierce inlet and Indian River Lagoon for snook, tarpon, trout and redfish. I was lucky to be mentored by Capt. Rollin Matheson at the time. He was a big influence on me when I first started,” Sam recalls. “We used all conventional tackle with wire leader. I remember when the first spinning reels came out. Eagle Claw introduced ‘cat gut’ as a type of mono and the spinning reels were awful. They got their names ‘spinning’ because they would spin the line up in a mess.”
A couple of years later, Crutchfield upgraded his boat, purchasing the Lucky Too, a 23’ T Craft with a 225-hp inboard Chrysler. The boat was equipped with two big live wells and two fishing chairs and could take a party of four fishing comfortably. Then, in 1973, he upgraded the boat again with a 30’ T Craft also called Lucky Too with a CAT 3160 diesel engine.
“My charter business progressed to mostly offshore fishing then.” In 1976, Sam purchased a 40’ Warren O’Neal-built boat out of North Carolina. The boat was originally built for sportfish legend Omie Tillet and is still in charter service today out of Oregon Inlet. During the late 70s and early 80s, Captain Sam built a steady charter business from Ft. Pierce which evolved into a world class operation booking clients in the summers to fish out of Walker’s Cay in the Bahamas.
During the fall, Sam was dialed into duck hunting around Lake Okeechobee and Louisiana – when he wasn’t charter fishing his local Ft. Pierce waters. Sam also mentioned he forged a great relationship with his dock partner and friend Chip Shafer during the height of his charter career. “Captain Chip’s friendship has meant a lot to me over the years, and we are still fishing buddies today,” says Capt. Sam.
In 1985, Capt. Sam retired from charter fishing, making the switch to private boats. His first private position was working for Charlie Campbell on the Escape, a 53’ Hatteras out of Stuart, Florida. “I had the opportunity to fish and help Charlie with his hunting ranch in Okeechobee. It was ideal, but short lived,” recalls Captain Sam.
Around 1988, Capt. Sam switched gears again and accepted a new captain’s position on the 53’ Hatteras Lillian B. The new job allowed him to return to Walker’s Cay on a regular basis. The position evolved into working on a second family-owned boat, a 60’ Hatteras called Silver Streak. Captain Sam would split time on both boats. This lasted until the early 90s.
Captain Sam recalls many evenings sitting around the dock at Walker’s where he and so many others were, as Sam puts it, “living the good ole’ days but just didn’t know it.” The dock parties at Walker’s and Captain Sam’s love for music eventually paved the way for Captain Sam’s next career – in the music business.
In 1995, Sam finally traded the ship’s wheel for a microphone, jumping full time into his singing career. Captain Sam recalls how Walker’s Cay charter captain Billy Black and friends – and the nights of singing and playing guitar on the dock after fishing – influenced many of his songs. Most of his lyrics were conjured up in the shadow of the iconic Walker’s Cay scale. If you like fishing even a little bit, you can’t help but enjoy Crutchfield’s songs like Trollin, Ugly, The Mullet & The Mackerel & The Ballyhoo and Big Game Fishin’.
“I really enjoyed making music, but didn’t realize that once you start making albums, every year you need to come out with another and another. I decided to quit making music after 13 albums,” Captain Sam recalls. (If you are interested in buying one of Captain Sam Crutchfield’s CDs for the boat, give us a call at InTheBite).
A Lifetime on the Water
Captain Sam’s lifelong interest in fishing proved to be one of his best decisions. “Through the years there were good times, bad times, sad times, and most of all, the wonderful times when good folks got together on a fishing boat to share the fun and excitement of sportfishing,” he says. “Recently on a morning fishing trip a young fella yelled ‘Hey old man, have you fished here all your life?’ ‘Nope,’ I answered. ‘Not yet!’”
An interesting man in many contexts – Captain Bouncer Smith catches quality fish of many species (from swordfish to tarpon to sailfish and snapper). Here’s the full Old Salt interview with Capt. Bouncer at his slip in Miami Beach Marina.
For more on Bouncer’s story, check out the December Issue hitting the docks this week!
Captain Buddy Hooper
“We’re Going to Need a Bigger Boat”
by Dale Wills
Captain Hooper’s knowledge is rooted deep in the culture of Hatteras, North Carolina. He was first introduced to the gulf stream when he was still missing teeth at 7-years of age. Summertime guests of the hotel his parents owned would frequently invite Buddy to go fishing. “I loved going fishing. Looking back, I’ve have had the pleasure of fishing the gulf stream for 62 short years now. Heck, I’ve been charter fishing for 49 straight years.”
Getting into Charter Fishing
A 1970 graduate of North Carolina State University with a degree in Economics and Business, Hooper initially thought about continuing on to law school. Concerns about the Vietnam War draft changed his mind. Hooper assumed if he were drafted, he would be eligible for Officer Candidate School and pursue training to become a fighter pilot. So that summer, in 1970, taking a little time to think about what he really wanted to do, he accepted a mate’s job on the Early Bird with Captain Emory Dillon.
As it turned out, Hooper was never drafted. Rather he continued working on boats rising quickly up the ranks to captain. “Then, realizing I was getting nowhere running a boat for someone else, I went to boat builder Ricky Scarborough in Wanchese, North Carolina and helped him build my own boat. I started off with a 23-foot commercial boat. That year was 1976. My plan was to use the boat for commercial crabbing and then run a private boat during the summer season for even better pay,” says Hooper.
As luck would have it, crabs were in abundance and prices high. In just a couple of years, Captain Hooper put enough money in his pocket to pay off the 23-footer. Debt-free, he immediately started building a 28-footer. Again, the idea was to commercial fish and then work on a private boat when someone needed help. Captain Hooper was on a roll. Making good money building boats, fishing commercially and on private jobs. On top of that, Hooper was selling the boats he built for a good profit – sometimes tripling and quadrupling his money.
Each successive build was a little bigger – from the 28-footer to a 29-footer to a 32-footer with a triple-nickel Cummins engine. Then, in the late 80s, the 44-foot Hatteras Fever was built, again with Ricky Scarborough. Hooper continued to use his boats commercially in the off season and charter out of Hatteras in season.
In 1990 a recession hit the country hard. The North Carolina boat building industry came to halt. Most clients canceled or postponed orders. Ricky Scarborough (Scarborough Boatworks) needed to build a boat in order to keep his crew employed. Captain Hooper and Scarborough’s crew once again started building. Hooper’s original plans were set on a new 51-footer, which at the time was a big boat.
Just before construction began Hooper consulted with pioneer boat builder and charter captain Omie Tillet. Tillet offered Hooper only one piece of advice, “When you think you got enough boat – add 3-feet.” Finished in the spring of 1991, the 54-foot Hatteras Fever II was born. Twenty-seven years later, Captain Hooper and the Hatteras Fever II are still chartering. “Seven boats and 42 years later, I’m still chartering and to think it all started with a 23-foot crab boat,” says Hooper.
When it comes to charter history in Hatteras there were a few individuals whose footprint left a lasting impression. Captain Hooper outlines these men and their legacies. “In the summer of 1970, I started working with Emory Dillon on the Early Bird. At that time Bobby Scarborough on the Red Fin ll had brought charter fishing in Hatteras to a new level. In no way do I intend to slight the original pioneers of charter fishing in Hatteras or the contributions they made in the early days – Captain Ernal Foster of the Albatross fleet and Captain Edgar Styron on the Twins l and ll. The best charter captains at that time in my eyes in Hatteras were Bill Foster and Bobby who I looked up to for their fishing abilities and knowledge of the water. As I mated for Emery and later started running the Sea Whisper as captain for Arnold Tolsom, I became friends and colleagues with Omie Tillet on the Sportsman, Buddy Cannaday on Captain BC, and Tony Tillet on the Carolinian. These three, as well as captains Bobby and Bill, became my ‘heroes’ who I looked up to. Another captain who I must mention is Capt. Rohm Whitticar on the Release, my dock partner of 30 years. I respected all these men for their contributions to charter fishing and how they conducted themselves in the charter industry.”
A Little Fun
When asked about playing jokes and poking fun with his colleagues, Hooper is swift to say he’s not a jokester and may at times be too serious of a person. Over the course of 62 years of fishing, however, even the most serious of captains can’t help but encounter some dock humor. Hooper’s favorite episode occurred in the late 80s while charter fishing off Hatteras. While running offshore, Hooper found a huge blow-up shark raft floating by.
“We had a captain named Berle Wilson who specialized in catching sharks. We picked up the shark balloon and radioed Captain Berle to let him know we had big Great White behind the boat. Seconds later you could see him steaming our way. Once he got close the crew held up the big plastic shark. As you can imagine the laughs rang out,” Hooper recalls.
“I then asked Captain Berle if he wanted to take it back to the dock as a joke. He accepted. I then called the fleet to tell them he was coming in with a Great White. On his way in, I called the marina and told them to get the ‘boom’ ready because Captain Berle was coming in with a Great White. Well, word spread fast and before long people were stopping what they were doing to see this Great White shark. Someone called the radio station, newspaper reporters got wind and it was a scene. By the time Berle was pulling into the marina, a thousand people were standing around the dock waiting. This was also right around the time the movie Jaws came out. Well, I never got to see Captain Berle pull in. I had a faster boat and got the heck out of there. Let’s just say poor Captain Berle had a lot of explaining to do.”
Lessons from Five Decades at the Helm
When asked about the most remarkable aspect of his career, Hooper answers without hesitation. “I’m proudest of the boys who have worked with me. It’s not the biggest fish or how many blue marlin we’ve caught, what is significant is what you do for other people.” Just who has Captain Buddy Hooper worked with? When John Bayliss was in his early teens, he lived with Captain Hooper for two years while working as a charter mate. Captain Bull Tolson also gained some of his formative fishing experience in Hooper’s cockpit.
Hooper is as direct when describing his style as captain. When asked about the type of captain he is, his quick, direct and to the point response is simple. “I’m from the show-me fishing school. Show me, don’t tell me. I am not a release tournament fisherman. I need to see it.”
During the off-season, Captain Hooper can be found tucked deep in a duck blind. Duck hunting is passion and tradition he and his family have been enjoying since he was a kid. So, if you ever end up fishing Hatteras, North Carolina, look up Captain Hooper and the Hatteras Fever II. Not only will you get a great fishing experience, but you’ll be fishing with someone who has seen and done most everything there is to do in fishing.
Grab the latest copy of InTheBite Magazine! September issue is hitting the docks now..featuring lessons from a world traveling operation, a captain’s medical guide, boss man chronicles and so much more!
by Capt. Dale E. Wills
“I was going to medical school, so probably a doctor,” says Captain Chip Shafer when asked what he would have been if not a boat captain. While the title Captain may have won out over Doctor, Shafer’s medical aspirations manifest themselves while fishing. Chip orchestrates the many moving parts of a sportfish program—anglers, crew, and spread presentation—with the same calm, precise demeanor of a surgeon in the operating room. The result is clear. Ask anyone who has had the privilege of fishing with Captain Shafer at the helm and they all say the same thing: “He’s one of the best there is.”
Impact and Profile
Shafer needs very little, if any, introduction in our sportfishing circles. When it comes to fishing, Shafer has been there and done that. A charter captain for almost four decades, Shafer now runs a globetrotting private venture. Chip’s exploits in the captain’s chair would be right at home in a Hemingway novel. In addition to the truck load of tournament titles from his charter days, Shafer has guided fly angler Nick Smith to incredible numbers of billfish on fly – 18 blue marlin in a single day and two and half times that many striped marlin in a day, to name a few…
Perhaps even more impressive than his fish numbers is the long line of deckhands who were mentored under the overhang of Captain Shafer. Captains Mike Brady, Mike Everly, Arch Bracher, Dave (Big Wave) Warren, John Bayliss, Bull Tolson, Charlie Griffin, Jimmy Grant, Keith Biggs and Lawrence Rowland—and that’s just the beginning. You can’t find another captain who has had the incredible impact on this number of deckhands– many of whom continue to enjoy a prospering sportfishing career today.
Early Life and Career
Born and raised in Statesville, North Carolina, fishing has been a lifelong passion for Shafer. Chip recalls fishing backcountry ponds and lakes for brim and bass early in his youth. “I loved fishing in the ponds and just fishing for anything.” Eventually, like most of us, Shafer found the nearby saltwater- fishing coastal North Carolina.
After a year and a half at Duke University, Shafer joined the United States Marine Corps in 1967. In 1969 he was wounded in Vietnam. While recovering at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Shafer made the best kind of friend—one with a boat. They would often fish together off the beach for drum and mackerel. Eventually the two traveled offshore in search of pelagics.
After completing his military duties, Shafer was offered his first paying job as a deckhand by Captain Ivey Batten on a boat called Gulf Weed. That was in spring of 1973. “Fishing out of Odens Dock in Hatteras, I made $25 a day. The charter only paid $175 for a full day.” Reflecting on his early years in the business, “We had absolutely no laws of fishing in the ocean.”
The following season in 1974, Captain Emory Dillon on the Early Bird asked Shafer to be his mate. After a season with Capt. Dillon, Chip traveled south to Florida to expand his charter career.
In 1975 Monty Howell, father of current builder Ritchie Howell, bought a 42-foot Sheldon Midget boat to charter out of Stuart, Florida and Hatteras, North Carolina. In a tragic accident, the captain who was initially hired to run the boat was killed. Monty Howell then asked Shafer to run the boat. This turned out to be Shafer’s first captain’s job on the Temptress.
In 1976 he moved from Stuart to Fort Pierce, Florida and ran the boat for four years prior to purchasing it in 1979. In 1991, Shafer built a new Temptress—a 53’ Bobby Sullivan boat. He would fish the charter circuit—alternating between Fort Pierce and Chub Cay in the winters, Cancun in the spring and Oregon Inlet in the summer. Shafer charter fished until 2001.
“In 2001, I made the decision to go a private job, as I had always been in the charter business. I worked for Charles Nichols on the Liquidator. Two years later in the fall of 2002, I began working with Nick Smith on Old Reliable (first a 57 Spencer) then a 2005 64’ Bayliss. I still with Nick today,” says Shafer.
Lessons Learned from a Life on the Water
When asked about a lesson that has been particularly impactful, Shafer is reflective. “You have to give to receive, it’s something Omie Tillet instilled in me early in my career. You need to offer information in order to get information. If you look at the top captains, the willingness to share information with one another and having good open communication among their peers is inherit in each of them,” says Shafer.
“However, the mates are really not much different. I’ve always found that a good quality person, with good morals and intelligence will do well in this industry. It’s important to immerse a mate into fishing and then let them figure most things out for themselves. Mates share information with other mates and the crew network can really work to your advantage. Again, you have to give to receive. The biggest change is not long ago a majority of mates would work on a charter boat prior to working on a private boat. That’s not common anymore.”
Living a life around a dock, you can’t help but see some shenanigans go on among the crews. Capt. Shafer recalls that Lee Perry on the Deepwater was on the wrong end of a lot of dock jokes. “Every now and then Lee would open up his fish box and find a two-day old stinking shark inside. He’d get so mad he would say, ‘If I ever find out who did this, I’m going to cut their heart out with a watermelon knife.’”
Another silly prank was one Alan Foreman played on Lee. During the off-season Lee would work in the boat shop. Alan jokingly told Lee that the epoxy they were using looked so good that he was going to taste it sometime. One day, Alan showed up for work with a custard that resembled the epoxy and in front of Lee said, “Watch this, I’m going to try the epoxy today.” After taking a big spoonful, Lee was yelling at Alan in a panic “You are going to die! You are going to die! You can’t eat that…”
The Modern Captain’s Job
When asked about the challenges ahead for boat captains of today Shafer says, “Today the most difficult aspect of being a boat captain is the complexity and increase in the number of systems onboard. Everything is electronic and when something is not working, it can be a challenge to fix, especially if you are out of the country.”
Another change in the sportfishing industry relates to the charter dock. “Charter fishing is becoming much more challenging with the depth of fishing regulations. Charter jobs are not as common as before. I do think billfish populations are fine. The striped marlin fishing off Baja is as good as ever. I haven’t seen much change in blue marlin populations. Tuna fishing is cyclical like it always has been, and the only decline I see has been the dolphin populations. They are not as prevalent as years gone by. But also thinking back to what many call the good ol’ days, we had many days when we caught very little or nothing, too. Overall, offshore fishing is in great shape.”
When not fishing with Nick Smith chasing marlin around on fly, the IGFA Hall of Fame captain can be found walking a beach or fishing a pond when time permits. “It’s funny how I’m making a full circle in my fishing pursuits. I’m finding myself enjoying a bent rod on a bluegill or bass- just like when I was a kid,” says Shafer.
We also ask the featured captain in this Old Salts Rule to call out the next one – Captain Buddy Hooper you are on deck.
InTheBite Inside The Lines – Episode 8
Bringing you the latest information on all things bluewater!
-White Marlin Open Update
-Upcoming Old Salt Sneak Peak
-Hatteras Yachts Factory Tour
InTheBite Inside The Lines – Episode 6
Bringing you the latest information on all things bluewater!
-Kable Keeper: Product Showcase
-Old Salts Rule: New Feature
Captain Mike Merritt: 50 Years in Fishing and Still Going Strong
by Capt. Dale E. Wills
While at the helm of the 52-foot Irvin Forbes-built Billfisher, Captain Mike Merritt had a young deckhand named Arch Bracher. One day Bracher asked if he could try something different when it came to leader material. Capt. Merritt, in his easy-going style said, “Sure go ahead as long as it doesn’t cost us any fish.”
Weeks later the Billfisher was steadily doing just a little better than the remainder of the Oregon Inlet charter fleet. It was evident something was going on when one day as they approached the marina. “I’ll be behind your boat when we get in,” radioed Capt. Bull Tolson. That evening when the Billfisher backed into its slip at the Oregon Inlet Fishing Center, Capt. John Bayliss helped with one stern line and Tolson helped tie up the other. The impromptu meeting and the tackle inspection that ensued changed white marlin fishing to this day. The year was 1988.
Prior to the Billfisher’s experiment, the entire North Carolina fleet used wire leader with ballyhoo. Bracher’s decision to use mono leader and dink ballyhoo baits, similar to his Mexico sailfishing spread, brought about change in the fleet. Bracher’s eagerness to catch more fish and Capt. Mike’s willingness to change is one of many contributions Merritt and his crews have developed for the sportfishing industry.
A Life Spent on the Water
Capt. Mike “Bubble Gum” Merritt, is 50-year fishing professional. Growing up on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, he was destined to live a working life mostly on the water. “At the age of six, I had a bicycle and a fishing pole and every day I could, I would ride down to the water and fish. One day a thunderstorm blew in and my mother got real worried and hopped in her car and came looking for me. When she found me, I was unphased by the storm and continued to fish. From that day on, my mother would tell anyone who listened, ‘That boy is going to be a fisherman when he grows up.’”
In 1968, fresh out of high school, Capt. Merritt’s first full-time job came as a mate on a 48-foot Manteo-built boat named Germel with Capt. Dan Lewark. “I made $90.00 a day for an offshore trip,” says Merritt. After seven years as a mate, in 1976, Merritt stepped up to the bridge on his own 40-foot Warren O’Neil, the Billfisher. “I only had a VHF radio, a compass and a Flasher for electronics. We would use landmarks for navigation. Upon returning to port from offshore, at the first sight of land, if we saw cottages, a water tower and/or a lighthouse, we were five or ten miles north of Oregon Inlet. If we just saw beaches, we were south of the inlet,” recalls Merritt. From 1976 through 1991, Merritt was a fixture in the Oregon Inlet Charter fleet along with the Billfisher boat name. Boat builders, such as Sheldon Midget, Billy Holton and Irvin Forbes each had a Billfisher name on the transom through the years. “The 52-foot Irvin Forbes was my first twin motor boat in the late 80s,” says Merritt.
“One day in 1991, while getting fuel for my charter boat, a man asked me to run his boat. At that point, I wanted to give the private gig a try. It didn’t take long before I was traveling the world. I fished Bermuda, St. Thomas, Mexico (Puerto Aventuras) and the Bahamas.” Asked about his biggest catches, Merritt reflects on some large fish. “We weighed in a 958-pound marlin in Oregon Inlet, released a bigger blue in St. Thomas and a big one in Venezuela. I’ve seen a lot of big fish in my career,” says Merritt, humbly.
When asked about his role models, Merritt reflects, “Tony and Omie Tillett come to mind, but I have just too many to name.” It turns out that the fishing is only one of the things Merritt cherishes from a life on the water. “It’s been the dock comradery and the people who make up the fishing community which have made my career so blessed. I’ve had some great times around the dock.” In a chuckle Merritt says, “The Oregon Inlet Charter Fleet is home to some of biggest pranksters you’ll find anywhere. I could go on and on about the stuff we would pull on each other.” Here is one of Merritt’s favorites.
“In the early 90s, we were fishing a tournament when a small outboard decided to try to drive through the middle of the fleet. As luck would have it, the outboard hooked up with a nice marlin. It didn’t take long before the outboard gets on the radio telling everyone how big his marlin is.”
“As time passed any boat remotely pointed in the outboard’s direction was given instructions to deviate course. The outboard continued drifting with the current and miles from where it first hooked up when the situation took on another dynamic. The captain began desperately trying to communicate with a big Japanese tanker ship.”
“’Japanese tanker, this is the outboard with the twin motors, please alter your course, we are fighting a marlin….Please turn left.’ After failed attempts to reach the ship, the desperate outboard called anyone asking if they knew what channel the tanker was on. ‘You have to use channel 13’, I responded.”
“Seconds later, with the entire charter fleet tuned in… ‘Japanese tanker, this is the twin outboard, can you please turn, you are going to run over my fish. Merritt, in his best broken accent responded, “‘Ahhhhh, twin outboard, no can turn ship.” In disgust, the outboard radioed one of buddies saying “I can’t believe he won’t turn and every one of my radios onboard were made in Japan.” Eventually, the tanker passed, and I’m not sure if the outboard ever caught the fish, but us charter captains sure had a good laugh after that,” says Merritt.
Today, Capt. Merritt has returned to the charter business and can be found at Pirate’s Cove running the Sandra D. When asked about the difference of captains and crew compared to days gone by, Merritt says candidly, “Electronics and dredges.” So what advice would you give a future captain or mate? “Choose this industry because you love meeting people and you love fishing. It takes a certain character trait to do what we do as a career. I’ve never thought about doing anything else.”
You can charter Merritt by visiting www.sandradsportfishing.com or call 252-305-2825