Freedom Alliance Hosts Veteran’s Fishing Trip in North Carolina

The event unites vets with offshore sport fishing

Freedom Alliance, an organization that is dedicated to our nation’s veterans and especially those wounded in combat, recently hosted an offshore fishing trip in North Carolina. Five veterans, all highly-decorated current or retired members of the U.S. military, took part in two days of fishing, where they had the opportunity to not only bend the rods on some nice game fish but also enjoy some quality time with their peers in a beautiful setting. The trip coordinator, Freedom Alliance’s Pepper Ailor, describes the trip from his point of view.

Bill Pino, the founder of Squidnation, offered to charter Qualifier, a boat based out of North Carolina's famous Oregon Inlet Fishing Center, for our group of veterans. Maggie Provine, the sister of Freedom Alliance President Tom Kilgannon, gave the use of her oceanfront beach house in nearby Nags Head. And Wayne Enroughty and Jimmy Baynes offered to host us for a day of fishing on Jimmy's charter boat, Sniper.

2017 freedom alliance offshore fishing trip north carolina wounded veterans
Capt. Fin Gaddy's Qualifier awaits the team in the pre-dawn darkness of the Oregon Inlet Fishing Center.Courtesy Freedom Alliance / Pepper Ailor

Our group rolled into Oregon Inlet Fishing Center, where Bill introduced us to Qualifier owner Capt. Fin Gaddy and his mate, Colin Oxnard. The docks were bustling with activity as everyone prepared to head out for the day.

As the sky began to lighten, we saw that the weather was beautiful. Last year, Bill chartered a boat for Freedom Alliance but the weather was rainy, windy, and the six-foot-plus swells caused some seasickness among our guests, so the blue sky was a indicator of a great day to come.

2017 freedom alliance offshore fishing trip north carolina wounded veterans
Good weather and a calm ocean greeted the team of veterans as they headed offshore with several other boats.Courtesy Freedom Alliance / Pepper Ailor

We hadn’t even gotten all the lines out yet when we had a triple hookup on mahimahi. Then Gaddy found the tuna. Over the next six hours, the guys caught a limit of nice yellowfin tuna. The last fish of the day turned out to be a chunky bigeye that really made our day.

The next day, we planned to fish with Jimmy Bayne, who came to help Freedom Alliance through a roundabout means. While we were in Los Sueños, Costa Rica, for their annual tournaments, artist Steve Goione introduced us to Wayne Enroughty. His boat, Sea Toy, wasn't available but he partnered with his friend Jimmy Bayne to host us aboard Jimmy's boat, Sniper. We met Jimmy and his mates Trent and Chris Raiford at their slip at Pirate's Cove in Manteo. They had also invited a good friend of theirs to ride along: Bassmaster champion angler Woo Daves.

2017 freedom alliance offshore fishing trip north carolina wounded veterans
The group shifted to Capt. Jimmy Bayne's Sniper for the second day of fishing.Courtesy Freedom Alliance / Pepper Ailor

The action once again started quickly, with yellowfin tuna biting before we could get all the lines out. A mid-morning lull gave Enroughty a chance to talk to the veterans. It was obvious that he was not only interested in their service, but was grateful and cared deeply for these men. Topics ranged from war stories and the challenges faced by veterans to their perspectives on disabilities, both physical and mental. We returned to the dock later that afternoon with another respectable catch of yellowfin tuna, which was cleaned and bagged for the journey home the following day.

2017 freedom alliance offshore fishing trip north carolina wounded veterans
The veterans had a chance to relax in between bites and share tales from their deployments.Courtesy Freedom Alliance / Pepper Ailor

After the trip, one of the veterans remarked, “Freedom Alliance gave us the chance to go on the trip of a lifetime, fishing in the Outer Banks, and I cannot express how great an experience it was. Being able to cut loose and enjoy the camaraderie with other vets while fishing on some amazing boats with great people will easily be the highlight of my year.”

Mission accomplished.

2017 freedom alliance offshore fishing trip north carolina wounded veterans
A mahi takes to the air behind Qualifier.Courtesy Freedom Alliance / Pepper Ailor
2017 freedom alliance offshore fishing trip north carolina wounded veterans
Squidnation founder Bill Pino and Qualifier mate Colin Oxnard scan the spread.Courtesy Freedom Alliance / Pepper Ailor
2017 freedom alliance offshore fishing trip north carolina wounded veterans
A tripleheader of yellowfin tuna keeps everyone on their toes.Courtesy Freedom Alliance / Pepper Ailor
2017 freedom alliance offshore fishing trip north carolina wounded veterans
A nice tuna comes to the gaff.Courtesy Freedom Alliance / Pepper Ailor
2017 freedom alliance offshore fishing trip north carolina wounded veterans
A vet takes to the chair to battle another big yellowfin.Courtesy Freedom Alliance / Pepper Ailor
2017 freedom alliance offshore fishing trip north carolina wounded veterans
Another tripleheader!Courtesy Freedom Alliance / Pepper Ailor
2017 freedom alliance offshore fishing trip north carolina wounded veterans
A nice mahimahi near the end of the fight.Courtesy Freedom Alliance / Pepper Ailor
2017 freedom alliance offshore fishing trip north carolina wounded veterans
While this vet took some friendly razzing from his buddies, the bigeye tuna at the end of his line gave him bragging rights back at the dock for the largest fish of the day.Courtesy Freedom Alliance / Pepper Ailor