Capt. Fin Gaddy remembers the first Carolina custom sport-fisher he saw in the early ’80s returning to the docks in Morehead City, North Carolina. It was love at first sight with the most beautiful boat he’d ever laid eyes on. Inspired by reading articles about the adventures of Tred Barta, watching videos of Cookie Murray and listening to stories of other early pioneers in big-game fishing, it wasn’t long before Gaddy became consumed by everything offshore.
Now running his 57-foot Paul Mann, Qualifier, Gaddy splits his time between the productive waters out of Oregon Inlet and Isla Mujeres, Mexico. As past chairman of The Billfish Foundation, he continues to share his passion for the sport with his 7-year-old twins, Charles and Brown, and clients who travel from all over the world to fish with him. We caught up with Gaddy to find out more about his passion and billfish-conservation efforts.
Fishing wasn’t always the plan; how’d you make it a career?
I always wanted to fish, but my parents couldn’t come to terms with the idea of making a living working in the fishing industry. They saw it as a party occupation, and while I did do my fair share of that, I spent every chance I could offshore. In 1989, I started working year-round with Capt. Hank Beasley and Capt. Skip Feller aboard Top Billin. Five seasons later I decided to get my own boat and began running charters out of Oden’s Dock in Hatteras, North Carolina. Looking back, many of my first customers from Hatteras still fish with me today.
You’re coming up on your 11th season chasing sailfish in Isla Mujeres; what makes fishing there so special?
Isla feels like a second home. On top of the friendly people and incredible fishing, I like the fact that we don’t fly flags down there, and generally don’t discuss numbers. Fishing there is more like it used to be here at home. The day-to-day routine of everyone hanging out on the docks, grabbing dinner with our guests and enjoying the camaraderie that is missing a lot of time in our sport. Add the possibility of more than 50 bites a day and sailfish on baitballs — there aren’t many places like that.
Who were you most excited to turn on to good fishing?
From a popularity standpoint, fishing with Peter Laviolette, a Stanley Cup-winning coach, was pretty cool. But I would have to go with the trip I had fishing in Isla with the late Dr. Russell Nelson. He worked his entire life to conserve billfish populations around the globe, but I don’t know if he had ever experienced the magic of all the pieces coming together like it does in Isla. Rather than just taking the experience as good fishing, he explained the water currents, sardine migrations and the significance of why everything was together at the same time.
What makes Oregon Inlet unique?
Fishing out of Oregon Inlet is like nowhere else in the world. Every day I get to fish against 40 of the world’s greatest fishermen, and if you want to be humbled, this is the place for it to happen. In addition to the talented fleet, the diversity of fishing opportunities throughout the year — both inshore and offshore — provides a wide variety of species for my clients to catch.
Most memorable trip?
Man, that’s a tough one. A recent trip that stands out in my mind was with the boys. Brown was sitting on the bridge with me and all of a sudden started screaming, “White marlin on the teaser! He’s on the flat line. He ate, he ate!” To experience him spot his first marlin in the spread and to watch Charles catch another white marlin that trip is something I’ll never forget. Any fishing trip with them is a memorable day, and nothing beats seeing the smiles on their faces after catching a fish or to give them a fist bump on the way back to the docks. The enjoyment that fishing brings them has rekindled my love for the sport that I felt when I was younger.
How have you seen fishing change over the years?
That’s a loaded question, especially with the arms race we have going on today. Looking back, I can remember when we fished for whites on 50-pound gear with wire leaders and J hooks. It took a lot of convincing of captains to let me use even 30-pound reels with 50-pound line. Trying to catch a blue on light tackle was out of the question. The changes resulting from several conservation decisions, especially the increased use of circle hooks, have made a huge difference. Can you imagine how many sailfish and white marlin would die if we were all still using J hooks? They’ve made a huge difference, and we are all benefiting.