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Predestined for a life on the water when his parents moved from Massachusetts to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, when he was 4 years old, professional photographer Scott Kerrigan grew up living on boats and fishing around the numerous docks, canals, beaches, and piers that surrounded his floating home in South Florida. An early love for the sport led to jobs in local tackle shops and charter boats, but the glistening allure of fishing internationally was impossible to ignore. He took his first traveling job as a 19-year-old mate in 1982, embarking on an illustrious career that’s still going strong more than four decades later.
Q: You fished the Cat Cay Tuna Tournament in 1982—what was that experience like?
A: That was my first travel job, fishing with Capt. Joe Kononchik on a 53 Hatteras called White Elephant. We were the only production boat in a fleet of all these beautiful customs—Merritts, Ryboviches, Whiticars. It was an amazing experience to sit in the tower with Joe and see those swimming Volkswagens as they crossed the white-sand bank. We used a single swimming mullet on 30 feet of piano wire, so when we were in position, I’d scamper down and get the bait in the right spot as we passed in front of the school. More than half of the time, a barracuda would nip off the tail just as we got into position. I’m probably fortunate we didn’t hook one—with my limited experience as a green Bahia Mar charter mate, I probably would have killed myself. But it definitely opened my eyes, and I wanted to see more of the world.
Q: What came next?
A: Cozumel, the Cayman Islands, Isla Mujeres and Key West became my circuit for several years. Around that time, I bought a simple film camera, just to be able to bring home some photos to show my parents. In 1987, I had a chance to go to St. Thomas for the summer blue marlin season. It wasn’t anything serious. The islands got hammered by Hurricane Hugo in 1989 but were back up and running when I returned for the season in 1990. After that, I went back every summer for 20 years in a row, either as a mate or a photographer.
Q: What was it like back then?
A: St. Thomas seemed like some distant, exotic land, but it had everything I needed—aggressive, hungry blue marlin, an AT&T phone booth at the end of the dock, and daily flights home if I wanted one. In 1990, I was working on Blank Check, another 53 Hatteras, with Capt. Brad Simonds. We fished the Boy Scout tournament and placed third, so I took my share of the winnings to the duty-free shops downtown and bought my first fancy camera. Back then, the fishing magazines were hungry for photos of this rarefied world of big-game sport fishing and international travel. My first photo of a blue marlin was published in Marlin in 1993, and it set me on fire. Richard Gibson was one of my idols, and really the man for action shots of jumping fish, so I worked hard to hone my skills. We fished a lot back in those days.
Q: What’s your favorite destination?
A: I’d have to say Isla Mujeres. It might not be an obvious choice, but the more places I see in the world, the more I enjoy Isla. It has world-class sailfishing, along with an island charm that’s unlike anywhere else on Earth. And if you can give the billfish a break for a day, the variety of other species you can catch there is pretty amazing.
Q: You fished with Revenge owner Sam Jennings and Capt. Mike Lemon for seven seasons in St. Thomas—what stands out about that experience?
A: I have so many fond memories of those years. I stepped off the boat in 2001 with 720 blue marlin releases as a team. I’ve never seen a group of people come together with such a unified focus of getting the next bite, and then doing everything humanly possible to maximize the odds of hooking, fighting and catching that fish in the most efficient way possible. I used to love when we fished a tournament with observers—they’d get off the boat at the end of the day in total amazement, wondering how four people could find, tease, hook, catch, tag, and then release a big blue marlin with only two spoken words: “Right short!”
Q: Most memorable days?
A: One year, the moon was late in September, so we stayed in St. Thomas and didn’t have any charters. Most of the other boats had already left, but the conditions were perfect, so my wife, Maria, jumped on to fish with me, Brad, and our second mate named Billy Lepree on Tex Schramm’s 53 Hatteras, Key Venture. Maria caught the first fish of the day, a nice little 100-pound blue, and didn’t want another one. Billy and I each caught four, which gave us nine. That afternoon, I pitched a horse ballyhoo to No. 10 on a bridge teaser, but we pulled the hook, and then we didn’t have a bite the rest of the day. At the time, nine blues in one day had been the island record for many years.
Another day we were fishing the Boy Scout with Mike and Sam on Revenge. We had seven blues going into the final day, and the second-place boat had five. Then we proceeded to go 0-for-6 on that last day, but somehow we still managed to win—the second-place boat caught only two and was behind us on time. I thought it was such a crazy finish. How do you go 0-for-6 and still win?
Q: What’s your favorite shot?
A: I’d love to ramble on about the artistic quality of a magically illuminated scene with a unicorn nibbling on sponge cake, but my favorite shot is one I took from the bridge of Blank Check in 1993. It was the first fish of a seven-day stretch, and it jumped on the leader like it was choreographed. That shot was also licensed for advertising use dozens of times over the years.
Q: What are some of the challenges you face?
A: Salt spray—now that’s a challenge. But from someone who’s been licensing stock footage for almost 30 years, it’s simply standing out in a crowd. Finding clients who want quality bespoke photography is a huge challenge.
Q: Back in the days of ﬁlm, did you know when you got “the shot?”
A: I believe you develop a Spidey-sense about it, but I didn’t know for sure until about 30 days after I pushed the button. I used to keep dozens of rolls of slide film in the fridge until I flew home and had them developed.
Read Next: Learn more about Marlin’s top photographers here.
Q: What are you up to these days?
A: I’m working with a production company on a television show called Sportsman’s Adventures, where I shoot all the aerial drone and still imagery, and some of the GoPro underwater video. My commercial work includes photo shoots for boatbuilders and brokers; I enjoy shooting fishing, hunting and adventure-travel photography for private clients. Recently I’ve been fortunate to travel to Africa, Alaska, Nova Scotia, the Amazon, Australia and Cape Verde. And I still love seeing my work in Marlin.