Once again this fall, we asked those Sport Fishing fans who know of great charter captains to nominate them for Sport Fishing’s annual contest, Charter Captains of the Year. They responded and, in short order, we had the maximum of 60 names. Then a period of open voting followed. When the dust settled, and thousands of votes were counted, the five skippers in this gallery came out on top as Sport Fishing’s 2016 Charter Captains of the Year.
The 60 captains nominated this year comprised an impressive group. If “your” skipper didn’t make the top five, there’s always next year; be ready to throw his/her name in the ring when we issue a call for nominations next fall. The 2016 top captains are listed below alphabetically.
Also see the 2015 Charter Captains of the Year named by SF fans.
Capt. Greg Hildreth
Home port: St. Simons Island, Georgia
Phone number: 912-617-1980
Years as a fishing guide: 25
BELOW: Greg Hildreth runs a 25-foot C-Hawk and a 17-foot Mitzi (both with Yamahas)
BELOW: Hildreth’s favorite species to target: tarpon, red drum, tripletail and sharks.
BELOW: Hildreth’s proudest accomplishment as a fishing guide: “Being able to provide for my family all these years, as a full-time guide, doing what I love!”
Gray Light Sportfishing
Home port: Seward, Alaska
Phone number: 800-566-3912
Years as a fishing guide: 20 years in Seward, Alaska
BELOW: Andy Mezirow’s brand-new custom-built Radon Signature Series with twin Yamaha 300s
BELOW: Of all Alaska’s great fish, the king (chinook) salmon is hands down Mezirow’s favorite.
Mezirow (below at right with a ginormous yelloweye rockfish) says of his proudest accomplishment as a guide: “There have been so many great moments over the years. I’ve had tournament wins, landed world records, and experienced perfect days on the water. But I look back with pride on the days when I’ve taken out a combat veteran, or a Make a Wish Foundation participant, or an older person sick with cancer. I’m proudest about giving such folks their ‘bucket list trip.’”
One Shot Fishing Charters
Home port: Destin, Florida
Phone number: 850-585-9436
Years as a fishing guide: 4
BELOW: Adam Peeples fishes a 24-foot Cape Horn powered by twin Yamaha 200s
BELOW: For Peeples, no fish is a more desirable target species than swordfish.
BELOW: Peeples releases a marlin.
His proudest accomplishment as a guide? “It’s hard to narrow down a particular moment that was my proudest. Really, anytime that I can introduce kids to saltwater fishing and watch them catch their first fish on my boat is a proud moment. There is nothing like seeing the complete and pure happiness of a child catching a fish.”
Florida Keys Swordfishing
Home port: Islamorada, Florida Keys
Phone number: 305-481-0366
Years as a fishing guide: 13 (licensed; 8 full time)
BELOW: For taking on swords, Nick Stanczyk is well prepared in his 37-foot Freeman cat with twin 350 Yammies.
BELOW: While Stanczyk has proven his ability to catch all bluewater game fish, he’s chosen to specialize in swordfish.
BELOW: Stanczyk with a cockpit-filling monster swordfish.
As for his proudest accomplishment as a fishing guide, he says: “My proudest accomplishment as a guide was putting Logan Prickett on a daytime swordfish. He was blind and confined to a wheel chair, but he had heart and determination. We lost two swordfish the first day, but he wouldn’t give up, and the next day we caught two swords.”
Thomas Flyer Fishing Charters
Home port: Miami, Florida
Phone number: 305-374-4133
Years as a fishing guide: 36 (all on the Thomas Flyer)
BELOW: The Thomas Flyer is a 42-foot Post powered by Cummins diesels.
BELOW: Jimbo Thomas enjoys targeting the variety of pelagics for which the Atlantic off Miami is well known — dolphin, sailfish, wahoo, marlin, tunas and kingfish (like the fish that one of Thomas’s anglers holds up here).
BELOW: A happy angler with a good dolphin (mahi) on the Thomas Flyer. Thomas cites as his proudest accomplishment as a fishing guide, “Just being able to let so many people experience catching fish, and to be able to share my love of fishing and the ocean. I have the best job in the world!”