CTF name: Captbillb Real name: Bill Brown Age: 59 Family members: Pam (wife), Pat (son), Erin (daughter), Emmitt (the Wiemaraner) Current City: Enfield, CT/ Watch Hill, RI Hometown: Fall River, MA Occupation: Charter Captain/writer/seminar speaker/retired teacher
480-lb. thresher shark.
1. You were recently diagnosed with some serious health issues. Would you be willing to let us know what they are and how you are doing? Well...let's just say that Jeff Foxworthy has the "You know you're a redneck when..." all sewed up. However, I've got a lock on "You know you're f***ed when..."
- Two days after your annual physical, your personal doctor/friend/fishing buddy calls to say that he’s got something to tell you, but is adamant that he can’t discuss it with you over the phone. - He reads a diagnosis from a sheet -- with shaking hands, a white face, and a quavering voice -- that you’ve got two serious problems/issues that start with the letter found immediately after A and B. - You call the female lab tech who has taken more blood than Dracula has ever sucked, “Elvira,” and she takes it as a compliment. - You had some instruments that look like they’d be used in a Ridley Scott movie to kill the ‘Alien’ shoved up parts of your anatomical universe where ‘No man has ever gone before.’ - The above instruments have been prepped with ‘protection’ so that ‘safe surfing’ is assured. Believe me, that one got gets your attention! - The question, “Doc, are you absolutely positive that that thing will really fit where you’re going to stick it?” is met with a silent stare. - At least 8 ounces of what one can only assume was PENN Blue Reel Grease was employed to accomplish the impossible. - Real time, ultrasound video imaging allows you to see the back end of your ‘nads’ in real time, up close and, totally, too personal. It’s definitely a sight that will make your knees shake. - You realized that you’ve won the ‘Reverse Lottery’ in that only 600 people in the U.S. (1/7,000,000) get so ‘lucky’ each year with HCL (just go to GOOGLE for that one). - After the ultrasound is ‘plugged into your body,’ you’re informed that a total of 12 biopsies will be taken from a VERY sensitive part of your anatomy. (“What the hell is that about, Doc, part of the Dunkin’ Donut’ promotional gig?” “Hey, Doc, just make sure that you don’t lose count and make it a baker’s dozen!”) - A mental note was taken, “Wouldn’t that biopsy needle be slightly too large to bridle-rig a bonito for a blue marlin?” - After the final warning was given, “It’ll only feel like a little pinch,’ an Exocette missile was jammed into the above described, sensitive parts of my body. - “Doc, there’s no doubt that you passed that course in medical school, ‘Lying M-F 101’ with flying colors.” - “Hey, Doc, why are you ignoring all the ‘One Way Only’ signs?’ - You’re told that you may, “Bleed a little over the course of next few weeks during the course of normal bodily functions.” “So, it’s only going to be when I’m coming or going that they’ll be a problem?” “Can I borrow a Midol?” - You’re informed that you’ll get a ticket for another re-ride of the above described ‘procedure’ is scheduled for September 11 (Hmm! Isn’t there some other traumatic event associated with that date?) - “Screw the Random Drug Tests! Give me some of the really ‘Good Stuff’ when 9/11 rolls around!”
To hear the rest of a very long list of ‘You know you’re f***ed’ tidbits, you’ve got to venture out on a charter with me.
I’m in the ‘watchful waiting period in regards to the HCL and will be undergoing a second internal ultrasound for the lower unit on 9/11 to decide how that issue will be addressed.
(By-the-way, Mitch knew of this development awhile ago and honored my request to keep it quiet as I’d rather not have “My prayers are with you..” posted publicly. Never the-less, I’d truly appreciate any and all prayers directed to the ‘Captain who’s manning the helm up in the Celestial Bridge.’)
2. What is your most memorable “Fish that got away story”? In August of 1999, we’d spent a very successful, early morning fishing aboard the BILLFISH for yellow fin tuna with 7 or 8 in the boat before the 10- to 15 NW winds began to blow from the ENE at 30- to 35-knots. Winds from that quadrant quickly stacked up some 6- to 8-ft. breaking seas at the 14545/43750 lines south of Block Island. It was so rough that we kept breaking off the 45- to 65-lb tuna at the transom when the boat would lurch up like an express elevator before we could get a gaff into the fish.
A small center console had hooked up much earlier on a giant in the 800+-lb range and then began taking on water when that behemoth dragged their vessel backwards through the wet hell that the day entailed. They’d called in a ‘MAYDAY’ when their bilge pumps failed and water was up to their knees. They then radioed Capt. Skip Pettis onboard the DORADO to relate that they’d tied the rod to an orange poly-ball and tossed it overboard before heading north while trying desperately to dewater their boat (Close call, but they made it). We all heard that highly charged conversation on #66 with a feeling of dread.
Their radio request of “Could you try to find the ball in order to return the rod & reel?” was taken up by many boats, ours included, as we made our way towards safe harbor at BI. There was no joy on that account as the sea conditions got progressively worse, long after we’d headed into New Harbor to overnight.
Very early the next morning, at ‘O-Dark-30,’ while sitting in a slip at Champlain’s, I mentioned to my mate, Rick Russell (former USCG Petty Officer- who’s now deceased and honored at PT. Judith Light), that I was wondering exactly where that fish might had taken the ball. We couldn’t leave the dock as planned at 0430 as a very violent T-storm was raging overhead. While sitting there waiting in the tempest to abate, I employed my knowledge of both water and quarry to plot a course that the fish might have taken and then plugged the numbers into the LORAN.
Finally, at 0645, the storm lost steam and we headed out in 4- to 5 ft confused seas. Since the spot where I thought the ball/rod & reel/giant BFT might be found was just slightly out of the way to where we’d done the deed the day before, the bow was pointed towards that location. To everyone’s great surprise, including mine, the ball was found, bouncing along with rod, reel, and fish attached, less than 1/8 mile from where the ‘X’ had been placed on the chart, 7 miles from where it had been hooked. Rick retrieved the ball from the bow and let out the war whoop, “The rod has a f***ing FISH ON IT! That was the start of an unbelievable battle where the Al DePiro party from Derry, NH, fought that fish for nearly 8 hours on a very light, 30-lb class rod with a 6/0 Diawa reel spooled with 100 yards of 130-lb line and tied straight to the hook.
After enduring several throttle to the stop chases, two thunderstorms featuring lots of sparks, the reel slowly falling apart piece-by-piece, the hook pulled with the fish, beaten, on the surface, less than 20 yards off the boat. Capt. Harold Smith on the Karuna was circling us at the time to help lift the fish into the boat as I didn’t have my block and tackle aboard on that fateful day.
That was Rick’s final big fish at the all too young age of 39. As we watched it swim away, it was realized by all aboard that we hadn’t lost the fish. That bluefin in the 850-lb. category had truly won its freedom by never giving up.
As a postscript, Mike Harrington of Narragansett, RI, called two days later to lay claim to the rod, which he’d bought at a tag sale for $50., after leaving a message on my answering machine that stated.. “I heard that you might have a rod and reel that belongs to me, and if it’s the wrong Bill Brown that I’m calling, do I have a fish story to tell you!”
3. What is your most memorable “fish that almost got away but didn’t story”? There are a whole lot of them to be considered, but there’s no doubt that it was the 506-lb. thresher that won the Oak Bluffs Monster Shark Tournament in 2003. The Wietcha family group- John, Peggy, son Jon, and his girlfriend- now wife, Bridget, along with my- then- 15 year old son Pat (mate), managed to hang onto a fish from hell to win the 2003 OBMST. It wasn’t the trophy, Calcutta money, or glory that made it the most memorable catch. That remembrance was the small, satisfied smile on Pat’s face that reflected the shared memory of what we’d accomplished against some very good teams that made this fish so special.
4. How did you get interested in fishing, and what is one of your earliest fishing memories? My Dad and uncles took me out in various outboard skiffs fishing the Taunton, Cole’s, and Lee’s River’s along with Mount Hope and Narragansett Bays, ranging as far as the Sow & Pigs off of Cuttyhunk. Also, going smallmouth fishing in South Wattuppa Pond in Fall River/Westport, MA with my Dad when I was 4- to 6 years old. Owning my first outboard boat at age 10 and fishing the above bodies of water with my cousin, Bob, to catch anything that swam while trying not to drown each other doing- in retrospect- some relatively dumb things.
5. Do you have any memorable freshwater fishing experiences? I’ve done more than my share of trout, small and largemouth bass, along with CT River shad angling, and Lake Ontario trout, salmon, and steelhead fishing starting in the mid-1970s. Florida Everglades where the largemouth bass fishing can be fantastic!
6. Is there a destination you haven’t fished but would love to? New Zealand where the next all tackle, world’s record Common Thresher weighing over a half-ton will be taken. Greg Skomal and I have had many conversations about this one.
7. You do a lot of winter speaking engagements, fishing shows and seminars. Do you have a good or funny story from doing one of these events? Well, the best one was during the mid 1980s at a Hartford Surf Fishing Club meeting at the Polish National Home in Hartford. I was showing slides and relating the where, when, why, and how’s of capturing various salt water species. My employer on the FISHMONGER, Capt. Russ Hicks, had slipped a slide in the tray which depicted me pulling my shirt down to straighten it, to be presentable, for a brochure photo. I had been captured on film with my pants down around my knees with a pair of ‘tighty-whities’ totally on display. There were a couple of old Polish ladies dressed in all black who almost choked on their pierogies as I kept on repeating the mantra, “How the hell did that one get in there?” with that 6’ X 8’ projection of that scary event on the screen.
8. You have some very impressive fishing accomplishments. People want to know about them. Let’s go. List them! I.G.F.A. Hall of Fame- Display of the largest thresher tail that they’ve aware of- 2000 to present. The Northeast Taxidermy mount was donated by the angler- Ed Mikkelson, Newport, RI. Five of the six State Record Game Fish Records that my customers set were taken in tournament competition. We’ve cut off 4- 5 guaranteed State Record Gamefish (sharks- no food value or entry in tournament competition on those dates) R.I.P.C.B.A. Largest Mako- 2006 Oak Bluffs Monster Shark Tournament- 1st Place- 2003 Massachusetts State Record Thresher Shark- 2003 Rhode Island State Record- Thresher Shark- 1999 Snug Harbor Shark Tournament- 1st Place- "Other Species"- 1998 Rhode Island State Record- Dusky Shark- 1998 Mohegan Sun Casino Shark Tournament- lst & Most- 1997 New London Shark Tournament- lst Light Tackle- 1996 New London Shark Tournament- lst Fly Tackle- 1996 Snug Harbor Shark Tournament- 3rd place-1995 Niantic Shark Tournament- Most Sharks (87)-1994 Oak Bluffs Monster Shark Tournament- 2nd place- 1994 R.I.P.C.B.A.- lst Place- Little Tunny- 1994 R.I.P.C.B.A. Tournament- 1st Place Shark- 1993 Niantic Shark Tournament- 2nd Place- 1993 Niantic Shark Tournament- lst Place- 1992 Rhode Island State Record- King Mackerel- 1992 Foxwood Casino Inshore Tournament- 1st Place 1992 R.I.P.C.B.A.- Outstanding Catch Award- 1992 Rhode Island State Record- Tiger Shark- 1990 R.I.P.C.B.A.- Outstanding Catch Award- 1990 Rhode Island State Record- Blue Shark- 1989 R.I.P.C.B.A. Tournament- Blue Shark- 1989 Niantic Shark Tournament- Most Sharks (69)- 1989
Featured on ESPN, NESN- Northeast Angling 2004/2005, along with many other regional and national TV shows dating back into the 1980’s..
Captain and Angler- Ernest Hemingway Blue Marlin Tournament- Havana, Cuba- May 1990 & 1991. Meeting and speaking with Capt. Gregorio Fuentes (Hemingway’s captain) over the course of two days.
Seeking out and catching a wide variety of species, both back country and offshore, that highly impressed some hard core FL Key’s guides.
9. Describe your closest brush with death while at sea. Which time?
However, the closest was probably when I fell overboard in the Montauk Rips at the BIS Buoy on a roaring, ebb tide, July 6, 1996… fully dressed.. boots on, and sank like a stone. I went deep enough to see the umbrella rig coming near me (300-ft out). I actually tried to get myself hooked in the arm so that they would reel me in. I was totally pissed that it missed me by about a foot. Had to blow bubbles to orient myself in the pitch dark of the depth so that I could start heading to the surface. Bill Broadbent, my mate on that fateful day, backed down hard, and the passengers- per the pre-charter- safety briefing- tossed me the life-ring roughly 350 yards from where I’d first gone swimming. They lifted me over the gunnel via the old, grab the face/crotch lift technique. That’s the one and only time in my life that I was totally happy to be groped by a guy. Swallowed a whole lot of seawater and was most definitely hypothermic in what should have been my last day on earth.
Two words- Floatation Coat!
10. You have a very raw sense of humor. Describe how that has gotten you through certain things in your life. Besides chartering for over 25 years, I’ve played lots of contact sports including rugby, spent some time as a Navy pilot, CT State Trooper, and taught special ed to classes that contained some very challenging kids for a whole lot of years.
As of late, I’ve acquired a bunch of new material if you look back a question one. While it’s not always easy to walk away from confrontation… you can nearly always put a ‘mythical sword’ through an adversary with a bit of wicked wit without the dope on the rope knowing that he or she has been ‘slain’ without any real damage/violence being done to either party.
The Rich Cooney group from Saunderstown, RI -- a longtime customer -- with a thresher caught in late August aboard the BILLFISH.
11. Did you ever consider hanging up the charter business? Not as yet, although it’s much harder to make it worth while in today’s economy. I’d like to catch up with Capt. Bob Linden or Capt. John Wadsworth. It’s still just too much fun chasing those finned thingies with a new crew aboard everyday.
12. Who did you look up to when growing up? My Dad and uncles who’d all served in major actions/arenas in WWII. They had a way of discussing some life threatening/changing events with a sense of humor/humility that hid the horrors that they’d all endured. They’d all been young guys who’d served their country and were quiet, but proud patriots.
13. You’re put in charge of the CT DEP. What five things do you do? Unify the DEP so that of the various branches work as one entity so that the left hand knows what the right is doing.
Put the poachers in the eastern part of the state permanently out of business. Eight years and counting on the DEP CO’s to do something about that one.
Put the illegal ‘charter captains’ operating out of CT ports out of business. One guy, out of Mystic, has been going at it for six years. Again, no enforcement action has been undertaken in this area. (Don’t want to hear any lame excuses… I’ve heard them all.)
Do a better job of marketing the need for the marine license and unifying the regulations with the adjoining states so that salt water anglers will buy into it. Regulation for the recreational sector is coming and I’d like to keep the monies collected within the state.
Although it’s not been a major issue in regards to the CT DEP, the enforcement of striped bass possession in the EEZ has gotten totally out of hand in regards to the overzealous methodology being employed. Boarding the same charter vessels two or three times over the course of a few weeks ‘to search’ for striped bass has had a chilling effect upon the tourist industry and has squandered the good-will that the law enforcement agencies have built up over the years with long time charter boat operators. The waters abutting SE CT, RI, NY, specifically, all of Block Island Sound, should be open to both possession (state bag and size limits applied) and fishing. A dialogue should be initiated by the DEP to see if an ‘easement’ could alleviate this situation and stop the daily routine of ‘Striper Enforcement.’
14. Do you have any scars that tell a story? Physically, I managed to get nicked by a brown (Sandbar) shark, while ‘jawing’ a dead mako or two, and there’s a couple of knife slices from filleting my fingers rather than a fish, along with a couple of holes from hooks. Rugby and football have left a few dings in my hide, as well. Mentally, there’s plenty of ‘war wounds’ to be found with the loss of friends at an all too young age as the leading causation of those memories.
15. What’s the most generous thing someone has ever done for you? Honestly, there’s too many to count, but all are fondly remembered. Frank Sousa, fellow outdoor writer and Springfield Sportsman Show producer, has been a close friend and mentor who has always given of himself in too many ways to count without fanfare or a desire for a public acknowledgement of his MANY kind deeds.
Richard Stanczyk of Bud N’ Mary’s who has ‘Been there for me’ as a friend. Other individuals, including quite a few from CTF (you know who you are), who’ve demonstrated that they have huge hearts and truly care about what I’m going through at this time.
16. What advice do you have for guys just getting into offshore fishing? NOAA Lies! You never have enough safety equipment or fuel. You don’t really know as much as you think you do about fishing out upon the deep blue. Murphy was conceived on a boat, grew up on a boat, and spends most of his time on a boat just waiting to spoil your day or plan your demise. Most important point- no fish is worth your life!
17. Let’s talk politics. Who are you voting for in the upcoming presidential election and why? I’d rather give up all of my prized logbook than answer that one! I’m truly an Independent when it comes to presidential elections and I haven’t seen or heard enough of what the present candidates are offering up. I’m still in a state of flux in that regard.
However, any candidate with a first name beginning with ‘H’ and a last with “C” is most definitely not in contention for my vote in next year’s election. I’ve heard first hand from a few of those who worked in the WH that there’s not only any number of skeletons, but too many brooms in her closet, as well.
18. Do you have any regrets in life? I only wish that my Dad was still alive. He was a person who had a sense of humor, goodwill for all, and was widely respected for his wit and wisdom. While I’ve never smoked, the smell of a good cigar brings back thoughts of my Father and his beloved stogies, along with the knowledge of how good a man he really was. I truly miss him.
19. What advice do you have for a young person looking to make a living out of fishing or the fishing industry? It’s a way of life that’s a whole lot harder than it appears to be. Tread very lightly and be aware of what you say when you open your mouth as the really good anglers don’t say a whole lot. Let your catches speak for themselves. Most importantly, realize that you really know very little until you’ve got at least five years of chartering under your belt.
Carefully study what makes your quarry ‘tick’ in order to figure out their feeding habits, preferred temperature parameters, and the locations where they’re most likely to be found at various times during the season.
Finally, you’re not going to catch everyday regardless of how good you think you are. Don’t make excuses when it happens. Tell the customers EXACTLY the reasons that YOU failed to catch what they were looking for starting with your own bad decisions in regards to your game plan for the day.
20. When looking back on your life -- outside of fishing -- what are you most proud of? Being able to say that a whole lot of former students have come back to visit at various times in order to thank me for giving them a real understanding of just how important education and always trying to do your very best really is- at a very early age. One of my favorite sayings to all my students was: “I’m your teacher for one year and a friend for life if you let me be. Please, don’t fold, spindle, or mutilate me.” An amazing number of kids in my classes remembered those words and have thrived.