Harry Sargeant, a Boca Raton, Florida-based sports fishermen and owner of the ACY 65, Black Gold, spent the first 27 of his professional career years in the Navy. While a young Navy man's salary didn't allow Sargeant to charter fish for even a day, what he learned about ship handling in the military led to a career that allows him to fish on his own luxury rig literally anywhere in the world.
Born and raised in Patterson, New Jersey, Sargeant says, "My father and I used to go fishing out on Long Island Sound. It was small boat fishing back then, for stripers, flounder."
Sargeant joined the Navy at age 17 and was deployed on ships stationed in the Mediterranean, South Atlantic and Caribbean.
"I first visited St. Thomas in 1953 on a submarine," he says. "I remember we'd have beach parties at Magens Bay and ride the donkey's on the beach. That was back when there were still wild monkeys there too."
Sargeant retired from the Navy in 1978, having spent the final 17 years of his career as a commissioned officer running ships. His talent for shipping led to his rapid recruitment by a company that tankered liquid asphalt around the world. Sargeant took to the job like a duck to water and by 1984 formed his own spin-off company. Today, he owns 10 tankers and runs several companies all in the same line of work. No wonder he named his boat, Black Gold.
It was in the early 1980's, when Sargeant and his wife, Janet, re-located to Florida, that he started fishing seriously.
"That's when I got my first real boat," he says. "Actually, my son had re-built a boat with a friend and the two of them wanted to sell it. I bought it. It was a 58' Choy Lee."
In 1999, Sargeant moved over to a 58' Viking.
"We fished the BBC (Bahamas Billfish Championship) four years in a row with that boat and won it once," he says.
It was aboard this boat that Sargeant and his crew, including Capt. Keith Bokenhagen, traveled from Florida and the Bahamas to Cancun, Mexico; Venezuela; and the Virgin Islands.
A few years ago, he moved up to a 65' ACY.
"We designed the boat," he says. "It's got plenty of storage so we can put everything away. It's also a good sea boat and gets good speeds. We'll typically run at 32 knots, but top speed is 42 knots."
All of Sargeant's boats have been named Black Gold.
"The last few years we have mainly fished in the Bahamas and the Virgin Islands," says Sargeant. "We usually do about seven tournaments a year, but this year we're just doing three - the July Open, A.H. Riise and Boy Scout - all in the Virgin Islands."
Tournament and fun fishing both have their time and place, he says. "Fun fishing is a relaxing break. In tournament fishing, you have to pay attention all the time. They both have their time and place and both are enjoyable."
It was in Virgin Islands' waters, the North Drop to be exact, where Sargeant experienced his best fish story. "We were out fun fishing," he explains. "I had hooked up a blue marlin and it came out of the water about 30-feet behind the boat and shot straight at me. I ducked, put my hands up over my head, and the marlin went right through my arms and buried his bill in the fourth step of the cockpit cabin door. I was still in the chair and the marlin's body was slung over me and he was beating me with his tail. He was about 350-pounds, so you can imagine. I released the rod and pushed him off. When he worked his bill loose, he jumped around the cockpit, opened the door with his tail and slid out. He was just hanging by the gills when he came back in, gave another tail thrashing, and swam off again, this time for good. I've never experienced anything like it."
Sargeant's best day was also in Virgin Islands' waters.
"We released seven blue marlin in one day two summers ago," he says.
Its no wonder blue marlin are Sargeant's favorite fish.
"They are the most exciting fish to catch," he says. "When you catch them on pitch bait, you can see from the bite all the way to the release. It makes for some exciting fishing."
In the future, Sargeant says, "I think the slow down in the economy and rising fuel costs are hurting some fishermen, making them take it a little more conservatively."
On the topic of conservation, Sargeant adds, "I think sports fishermen by nature, since we spend a lot of our time out in nature, are more sensitive to the environment. We tend to respect the ocean and its inhabitants."
Photos - Dean Barns