On the Water: Good help

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Caption: Capt. Charlie helps a “newbie” angler catch fish.

Good help

I have a lot of good friends who are captains, most of whom are also outstanding anglers. They fish Catalina regularly, but are not interested in running charters. Incredible!

They have their reasons:

• “I don’t want to ruin my love for fishing.”

• “I go to Catalina for pleasure, not to work.”

• “I cannot imagine the pressure to catch fish that a charter would bring.”

One friend suggested that I was crazy for starting Afishinados Charters and now he is simply astounded that I have lasted this long in this business.

Fisherfolk are funny people. Although you might think that they would be a gregarious lot, in truth, many of the top anglers prefer fishing solo or with a really good friend with similar angling skills.

They are a bit like pool players. Pool halls are gathering places, and in them you will find a good number of players who simply enjoy hanging out with friends. But the Pool Shark, the shooter with above-average skills rolls solo.

I tried fishing solo a couple of times. I even tried doing a little night fishing for sharks with just me and the sea. It did not go well.

I was drifting off of the Palos Verdes Peninsula in the dark, laying out lines and a bloody chum slick to attract sharks. I happened to notice a set of headlights going over the nearby cliff and crashing on the rocky shoreline below. By the way, it did not burst into flames like in the movies.

I radioed an emergency out on Channel 16 and directed the responders to the scene. Within moments the area was alive with helicopters, boats, sirens and emergency personnel.

A rescue team was making its way down the cliff as a patrol boat illuminated the smashed vehicle below and a helicopter was lighting things up from above.

I was outside the fracas, but could tell that nobody was found in the vehicle. It was apparently rolled off the cliff as a prank or perhaps the brake had failed. Regardless, the emergency scene subsided into a crime scene and then disappeared as quickly as it had appeared.

All the while I was drifting in a sea of blood and chum with no bites. I reached over the gunwale into the dark water to wash my knife off and made a thrashing sound. Then it hit me … what the hell was I doing out there?

It was not fun. The accident was pretty cool to have seen, and getting involved in the response was exciting, but now, here I was just drifting and waiting, alone.

I reeled in my gear, cleaned up the mess and have never fished solo since. In fact, I now prefer to bring a deckhand with me on charters; something I had never done before.

I got lucky finding Captain Charlie. He stepped into our operation a couple of years ago and has garnered a Five Star rating among Afishinados customers. He has found a way to consistently make customers happy about their outing regardless of the fishing or the weather.

I am sure that Capt. Charlie still feels the pressure though.

One of the biggest factors is risk taking. When we fish for fun, we try new things, we go to new spots. When fishing for customers on a three or four-hour charter, we cannot take risks, we go to where the bite was yesterday and use the hot bait or proven technique.

It is difficult to explain to a customer how important it is to the captain to catch fish. Literally, it defines what we do and who we are. So, we do not want to waste precious time experimenting. We want to engage the highest possible odds into our favor for catching something now.

One of the things I do to show my appreciation is to go fishing with Charlie. Halibut fishing, tuna fishing, salmon fishing, it does not matter. When we go fishing I take the wheel and Charlie catches fish. We are a pretty good team.

Finding good Captains who can fish and handle a boat filled with novice, excited anglers is not an easy task in a small resort town, even one filled with an inordinate amount of angling talent such as we have in Avalon.

I keep waiting for that young apprentice to show up and say ‘teach me to run charters.’ This would be a good business for an islander to master. Nobody is going to get rich running charters, however, it is a good living with a lot of perks and plenty of time to pursue other goals in the off-season.

In 2003, when I first started, my biggest challenge was to create awareness of Afishinados Charters. We succeeded and grew to become a successful operator. Now we have three boats and enough customers to keep a number of Captains busy.

It’s 2018, let’s go fishing!

Capt. John runs Afishinados Charters and Catallac Tours – john@afishinados.com – 888-613-7770

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