Capt. OB O'Bryan - 2009 Honorary Board of Captains
CAPTAIN OB O'BRYAN
ABMT 'Captain of the Year'
By Carol Bareuther
CAPT. O.B. O’BRYAN – 2009 ABMT – BOARD OF CAPTAINS (BOC) HALL OF FAME
The profession of sports fishing has taken Capt. O.B. O’Bryan all over the globe and provided him with experiences that most men can only dream about.
A native of western Massachusetts, in the Berkshires, O’Bryan’s scenery changed and future cast when he moved with his family to Pompano Beach, Florida, in 1951. “There was pretty much just fishing and farming there at that time,” he says.”
O’Bryan’s father got his captain’s license and ran Dan Garnsey’s drift boats for 33 years. “I went out with my Dad from the time I was six years old,” O’ Bryan says, “not working, but fishing.”
High school, college and a four-year stint in the Air Force followed. Afterwards, O’Bryan took a bell captain job at the urging of a high school friend’s father who owned an inn. He also started working part-time fishing for his Dad. “Drift boats are not all that exciting, so I looked for something different,” he says.
It was 1970 when O’Bryan took his first mate’s job working for Capt. Al Fields out of Hillsborough Inlet, Florida, on the La Bolo Jr. Sailfish, white marlin, blue marlin, wahoo and dolphin kept him busy on the day trips. Seven years later he had his captain’s license in hand.
“I stayed local until 1978,” says O’Bryan. “The next year, I started running a boat called the Lumberman. That’s when we began fishing the Bahamas for giant tuna and going down to St. Thomas for the blue marlin. I’ve gone to St. Thomas every year since, except for 1992.”
O’Bryan briefly ran Pete Boinis’ Ship’s Café, once in the early 1980s and again in the early 1990’s, positions that book-ended a decade-long and successful stretch captaining Bill Knight’s Knightlines.
“We used the 53-foot Jim Smith at first while Bill was building his 60-footer,” O’Bryan says. “Bill was one of the first owners to have input into the way his new boat was designed. Jim’s boats were all about speed. For example, he weighed every piece of wood in the boat. But, Bill wanted teak in the interior and bigger water and fuel tanks so he could reach out and travel.”
Travel is what O’Bryan has always loved.
“Rather than fishing from Point A to Point B, we headed for the hot spots like Venezuela and St. Thomas,” he says. “Bill would lay out the schedule for the year in January. That would be it. I would make all the arrangements, including the hotels. It’s all part of being a captain and that’s an interesting part for me. I love to explore.”
Exploring international waters translated into some spectacular catches.
In 1984, Knightlines was the first boat in Venezuela to catch a triple grand slam. “We released 3 blue marlin, 3 whites and 6 sailfish all in one day,” O’ Bryan says.
In St. Thomas, he continues, “On one of our best days we caught 8 blue marlin, a white marlin and sailfish.”
Jim Knight, Bill’s son, won Top Angler in the USVI Open/Atlantic Blue Marlin in 1986, with O’Bryan at the helm.
O’Bryan also caught a wife while working aboard Knightlines while docked in St. Thomas.
“I met Charlene when she was working in Stewart’s (Loveland) tackle store,” he explains. “She’s from Connecticut. We have the same interests, and we just hit it off. There are few women mates, but Charlene is one of the best. Her passion is wiring. She has a good technique and she’s strong.”
After Knightlines, O’Bryan briefly worked for a Brazilian boat builder and ran two of his boats fishing for giant tuna off Nova Scotia. “He had to pay $100,000 per boat to register to fish in Canadian waters and I always had to travel with a Canadian onboard, but the fishing was incredible up there.”
A year later, O’Bryan was captaining the Courtesan and added Isla Mujeres to his annual destinations.
In 1998, he and Charlene spent 34 days with Guy Harvey in Isla Mujeres. Harvey filmed episodes for his Blue Planet Series, which aired on the BBC. “We were the first to get video of sailfish balling bait out of a school,” O’ Bryan says.
Does this make OB a TV star?
“Heck,” he says modestly, “I’m just the boat captain.”
Today, and for the past several years, O’Bryan helms the 58-foot Merritt, Sea-D, and enjoys fishing four generations of the owners family on the boat.
“There are different owners, different situations. It sometimes hard to find the right combo, but you always want to stay fishing. Its all about word of mouth,” he says.
What keeps O’Bryan fishing after all these years?
“It’s the thrill,” he says. “Even if you don’t catch anything, it’s just being out there.”