Fish & Feathers: 'Deep Secrets' of the charter boat fleet

RON MALAST photo

This article is intended " tongue in cheek," but is based on fact according to my personal observations.

The captains in the charter boat fleet operating out of Ilwaco number about 25, all with distinct personalities, yet all sharing a common bond etched in the particulars of the trade. These include the dangers of crossing the Columbia River bar, love of being at sea, successes and expertise in different aspects of the trade, exuberance of being the first boat to limit-out and head for home and the drudgery of being the last boat to finish up the day.

You have all heard professional baseball and football players who have hung up their spikes, stating the things they miss the most are the moments in the clubhouse and the friendships they established with teammates throughout their careers. Well, this is basically the same type of bonding that exists amongst charter boat skippers.

We have three major charter boat operations working out of Ilwaco: Coho Charters, Sea Breeze Charters and Pacific Salmon Charters. The characters mentioned represent all three charter houses but are primarily targeted out of Pacific Salmon Charters, because that's my home base and the individuals with whom I'm privileged to be closest associating with.

The feeling is, if you cannot have fun doing your job ... why do it? You are certainly not going to get rich in this profession.

Some personal observations include:

The master of sturgeon fishing: Butch Smith of Coho Charters on the Coho King.

The Top Banana (oops) of salmon fishing: Pat Schenk on the Four Sea'sons, SBC.

Best Dressed Captain: Don Aasen of the Kate, PSC.

Best Looking Award: Joanna Sarri on the Discovery, SBC.

Skipper in the greatest need of cosmetic surgery: Paul Knoles on the Net Prophet, PSC.

Mr. "Gabby" of the airwaves: Eric Hanson, pulling the "rickshaw" on StarDust, PSC.

Oldest Skipper Award: Frank Unfred, piloting the SeaJac 11, SBC.

Earliest Riser and Hardest Worker: Uncle Miltie on the Sara Kay, PSC.

Most Distinguished Skipper: Perry Van Over of SeaBreeze, SBC.

Proficiency on the tuna grounds: Tony Cook of SBC and Rob Gudgell of PSC.

Least-Liked Skipper, (after writing this article): Ron Malast of the Big Dipper, PSC.

During the endless hours of piloting a boat while trolling for salmon, radio talk has become a favorite pastime of charter boat captains and nicknames have become an every day part of our lives. Some of the printable names bestowed upon captains in the Pacific Salmon Fleet may be found in the archives of "Davey Jones' Locker."

The handle "Wobbler" belongs to one of the nicest guys to ever come out of Mexico, Paul Knoles, and it is attributed to his unique ability to steer his boat, Net Phrophet.

"Hop-Sing" is the handle of Eric Hanson for the hair on his chinny-chin-chin and his resemblance to the Far East culture.

"Iron Mike" Cole for piloting the steel-hulled SeaSport, PSC.

"Hoover" was stuck on SeaVenture, PSC, captain Jon Hanson for his ability to suck up the fish in any particular area in which he chooses.

Josh Theilen, skipper of the Patriot, PSC, carries the burden of "Big Bird" or "Walking Eagle" because he is too full of it to get off the ground.

Rob, (I don't know), Gudgell on the KatieMarie does not presently have a nickname but my recommendation would be "Bald Eagle" for his tenacious spirit and ... well, you know.

My handle is "Ahab" of "Moby Dick" lore; why, I'll never know, but I do answer to it.

All of the above-mentioned "Salts" are excellent skippers who will work their very hardest to give you a fishing experience to remember, and in times of distress, the most dependable people on earth.

Here's hoping that you enjoyed some inside secrets of the trade, and if not, oh well! I get my first Social Security check next month.

Do not bring any bananas on the boat!

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