Center Point is a section dedicated to bluewater fishing from a center console. The ongoing section explores techniques, rigging, approaches and best practices for offshore fishing from a center console boat. In this first column, Capt. Nick Stanzcyk of Islamorada, Florida provides his motivation for making the switch.
By Capt. Nick Stanzcyk
I grew up fishing on our family boat Catch 22. A 48’ Marine Management, it was your average charter boat with twin diesels, AC, bathroom and a 15-knot cruise. We fished every Sunday and then would travel to the Bahamas/Turks and Caicos for a few weeks each summer. In 2003, my family upgraded to a 54’ Blackwell. The boat was bigger, faster, and much more comfortable. The only bad news was the fuel burn was double and the maintenance and upkeep was at least five times that of the old boat. Not great for a charter boat. I got my captain’s license in 2003. My family was pretty heavy into swordfishing at that time. Most of the fishing was at night but my dad, uncle and their friends were slowly cracking the code for daytime swordfishing here in Florida.
My Dad wanted a faster boat he could fish with a smaller crew, so he ordered a 28’ center console. On the big boat you always needed a handful of people at the minimum to run the boat and fish safely. I started college a few months later at the University of Miami and ran charters part time on the center console on the weekends and on breaks. However, we sold the boat soon after because it didn’t get the speed we wanted, the fuel burn was more than expected and the boat wasn’t holding up to our expectations. We replaced it with a 34’ twin diesel crusader – the B n’ M.
Over the next six years, as I really started my charter career, I logged a lot of trips running the B n’M. I always joked and said it wasn’t fast but at least it was wet. In all honesty it was a great fishing boat, plain and simple, but I knew I wanted something bigger and faster. A few years later, I bought my own personal charter – a 36’ twin diesel express. I learned a lot with this boat, including working on diesel motors, generators, freezers and a better overall understanding of the “charter boat business.”
The boat had everything a nice 50’ boat had, except it was crammed into 36’ boat. Space was tight and the maintenance work was frustrating. It was miserable to go into the small engine room to change the oil, swap a bilge pump out, work on the generator, etc. And, I’m a small guy! This boat was a private boat before I owned it, and I realized it would make a better private boat than a charter boat. The ideal charter boat would minimize maintenance and upkeep.
Now we did catch plenty of fish on this boat, but after two years I finally decided it was time for a center console. I didn’t want to go in an engine room anymore (or at least anytime soon). Swordfishing was becoming my primary target species on charter trips so I wanted a boat with speed, stability and comfort. That’s when I came across Freeman Boatworks. My friend had fished one over in Venice, Louisiana and had nothing but nice things to say about them. I reached out to Freeman and eventually went on a sea trial at the Miami boat show. I’m pretty sure I had my mind made up before the show; I was going to get Freeman. I rode both the 34’ and the 37’, but I knew it was a better business decision to get a 34’. The build time was about one year back then. A few months passed and then they started calling me about getting a 37’ Freeman instead.
There was another 34’ coming to Islamorada and they wanted to have a bigger model down here. Scott was relentless and continued to stroke my ego about all the swordfish I caught. He would say all those big fish sure look better in a 37’ Freeman. Long story short, I gave him a green light to upgrade me into a 37’ from the 34’. Months passed and finally early the next year, I had a brand new 37’ Freeman delivered to Bud n’ Mary’s Marina. I told Scott (the guy who talked me into buying the 37’) I would trade him a swordfish trip in exchange for trailering the boat down from South Carolina.
I felt like a kid on Christmas when the boat showed up that night. It was pure excitement, big Yamaha outboards on the back, a pair of 16” Simrad screens on the console, JL speakers up and down both sides of the boat and a giant red, white, and blue wrap from Pelagic. The next morning, we put the boat in the water and Scott showed us everything on it. I figured he would drive back home after that, but he insisted on fishing that day. I was used to leaving at sunrise on my old boat and it was almost lunchtime now. I told him it was a 30-mile run to the close spot and we were already cutting the day short.
I wanted to give him the best-shot possible and put in a full day fishing. He insisted on fishing, so we loaded everything up and punched it offshore. I wasn’t used to running 35 knots, and sure enough we were out there in no time! I didn’t have any spots in the GPS, but I knew the area very well. On the second drop, the rod doubled over and we were tight. Two hours later, Scott caught his first ever swordfish –a 248-pounder! Not a bad way to break in the new boat! I knew I had made the right choice. It was also good for my street credit with Freeman. The last three years have been a fun ride. The boat became extremely recognizable with the red, white and blue wrap, and I’ve built a thriving charter business.
The best part is I haven’t had to go in an engine room in over three years! We’ve got better and better at swordfishing the last few years, and one reason we have more success is because we have more fishing time each trip. The boat is extremely comfortable when fishing and drifts amazing. I’ve never been on another center console that can drift in 4’ – 6’ waves with a similar level of comfort. The boat has it benefits when fishing for other species like sailfish and dolphin, too. You can walk (or run) around the entire boat while fighting fish, casting at fish, gaffing fish and you can chase fish with the angler on the bow. The boat has plenty of live well space with one well built in the transom and two in the deck and more storage than you could ask for in each sponson.
Sure, a center console isn’t for everyone, but for being a one man show and running a successful charter operation, I don’t see myself on another type of boat anytime soon.