Editor’s Note: Notes from the Cockpit is one of the few parts of this magazine where we depart from our usual how-to/where-to fishing framework to broach other topics related to fishing and fisheries. This month I turn the space over to John Unkart, an old friend and fishing buddy who I’ve out-fished countless times — ummm, I mean, gone fishing with countless times — as he shares some words of wisdom. – Lenny R.
The brochure caught my eye: “2nd Annual Arthur Smith King Mackerel Tournament - Largest Fishing Tournament in the World.” Once my eyes had read the list of prize money, my hand was reaching for a pen to fill out the application. The fact that I had never fished for king mackerel before was totally disregarded; this seemingly unimportant issue would not be a deterrent to my participation. Since 1974 I’d been a proud boat owner and cut my offshore teeth the previous few years chasing marlin, tuna, and mahi out of Ocean City, MD. So come October I felt ready, the boat was packed, and my fishing buddies and I set off for Little River Inlet on the North/South Carolina border where a slip was reserved for tournament week. This was 1979.
After securing dock lines we strolled over to the marina’s Tiki bar to try and obtain local info on mackerel fishing. With no World Wide Web containing unlimited information at the stroke of a key or the tap of a finger in that day and age, my education about mackerel fishing was limited to the couple of articles I had read.
The anglers enjoying their brews that sunny afternoon were in a good mood and friendly enough, unless a fishing question was asked. Eventually a local named Buddy Sein took me under his wing after a couple cold frosty mugs. As he stood in the pit looking over ballyhoo rigs, cedar plugs, green machines, and the small assortment of offshore lures in my arsenal, he shook his head. He then proceeded to teach me how to rig split-tail mullet, and explained how he trolled for king mackerel. Plus, he even provided a couple sets of LORAN numbers found to be productive over the past couple weeks.
The information he shared was literally priceless. We spent the next couple days practicing king mackerel fishing and found that Buddy’s fishing techniques were honed to a pretty good edge. During the tournament that weekend we even managed to bend a few rods. Over the next few years fishing the Arthur Smith tournaments we made the transition to slow-trolling live bait, our kingfish techniques evolved, and we managed to visit the scales a few times. However, my success started with a nice guy sharing information with a stranger he just met. I vowed to share fishing information after meeting Buddy Sein.
Fast forward 20 years. As the charter clients climbed off our boat one day, I noticed a new rig tied up a couple slips down the dock. While cleaning rods a young man full of energy came bouncing down the dock. He looked up at the dozen tuna flags flying off the rigger and said, “you had a good day!” Thus began a fishing discussion, and a friendship. This stranger was none other than FishTalk’s own chief angler, Lenny Rudow, who at the time was working for Boating Magazine. Lenny went on to say he would be fishing every weekend. I told him I’d be offshore everyday as the yellowfin were thick on the lumps and boat was booked for the foreseeable future (it was a great year to be chartering). I shared offshore tips, and when Lenny showed up on Fridays I’d provide the week’s hot bite locations. Time drifted by until one fall day a depressed Lenny was emptying the dock box, packing up gear and getting ready to untie his dock lines for the last time that season. He thanked me for sharing information. I said no problem, I enjoyed providing fishing information and learning by talking with anglers. He asked if I would be interested in writing an offshore article for Boating Magazine and share some of my tips with the wider world. “Aaaaaah...YEAH!”
Fast forward another 20 years. This year is the 20th year anniversary of my first published article back in the March 2001 edition of Boating Magazine. Since that time, I’ve written hundreds of articles for several magazines — along with a couple books. I’ve always tried to share accurate tips and techniques that worked for putting fish on the deck for charter clients, or allowed me to drag a fish out of the surf. When it comes to FishTalk Magazine, I can say without a doubt that Lenny is doing the same. He shared his vision for the magazine one day while we were offshore, deep dropping for golden tilefish. He made it clear, this magazine was going to provide quality, first-hand fishing information for Mid-Atlantic anglers. The staff of writers Lenny has assembled for FishTalk are at the top of the class, sharing knowledge gained through years of trial and error. And there is no better teacher than experience.
Speaking of experience, Buddy Sein should be an example for all of us when it comes to sharing fishing experience. Let’s cast it forward to other anglers and share our experience with them, whether we have one year of fishing experience under our belt or have been at it for decades. That’s what we try to do here, on the pages of FishTalk Magazine.
John Unkart is author of Offshore Pursuit and Saltwater Tales, available on Amazon.