Some anglers like catching. Some anglers like tournament winning. Then, there are sports fishermen like Capt. Ray Rosher who likes both of these. But what he really finds rewarding are the friendships made and experiences enjoyed through a lifetime of sports fishing.
Born and raised in Miami, Florida, Rosher caught the fishing bug early and from both his father and grandfather.
"My dad had a camp in the Everglades. I started going out there with him when I was 3 or 4 years old and we'd fish for bass," he says. "That started my enjoyment of fishing. But, it was my grandfather who got me hooked on blue water fishing."
Rosher was only a grade school student when he started fishing for sailfish with his grandfather, a regular customer on the day boats that fished out of Pier 5. This was the era of the late 1960s and early 1970s when all the big names fished out of Pier 5 - Bill Harrison, Buddy Carey and Kenny Spaulding.
"My grandfather would even let me skip a day of school to go fishing," he says.
Rosher's grandfather occupies a special place in his heart.
"He was from England. A quiet, proper English gentleman," he says. "He left England as a teenager and sailed as a steward with the Merchant Marine. He had a really neat photo album with pictures of him at the pyramids, him all over the world."
Rosher's grandfather ultimately landed in Miami, met Rosher's grandmother and the family fishing dynasty was born.
"His interest in fishing was contagious," he says. "My grandfather knew how to make it interesting. He taught me all the fundamentals, like how to rig properly."
It only follows that Rosher would make a career out of sports fishing.
"Actually, I stumbled into it," he says. "My father bowled with Bob Lewis. Bob's son Jimmy and I were friends. Before we could drive, when we were only 14 or 15 years old, our parents would drop us off at the marina and we take the skiff out and go fishing."
Shortly thereafter, at the age of 16, Rosher landed a job as second mate on Lewis' private boat, Chief, a 32-foot Prowler, and also on his two sports fishing rigs, Tropicat I, a 36-foot Ensign, and Tropical II, a 38-foot Bertram.
"I worked those boats for Bob with Jimmy as the first mate and then as the captain," he says. "Then in 1982, I got my captain's license and had the chance to run the Tropicat II, I ran it out of Key Largo for the next 18 years entertaining the clients for Kelly tractor, the Caterpillar dealer in Florida. We'd fish 150 to 200 days a year."
What Rosher liked about Key Largo, and the type of fishing he was doing, was that he angled for anything and everything - sailfish, dolphin and bottom fish like grouper.
"It was great training," he says. "Key Largo has lots of fish, lots of different types of fish and I got to learn a lot of different techniques. It's a great place to learn about fishing."
Rosher also became educated about the sport from the people with whom he worked.
Photo right: Ray and wife, Charmain - Ray's mate on Father's Day night - with the bite of THEIR lives. Mako Shark was caught by angler Glen Heitman.
"I met Capt. Bill Harrison in the summer of 1980 and Jimmy (Lewis) and I worked with him on a commercial boat out of Key West one summer, catching deep water snapper, grouper and tilefish. It was a real eye opener," he says. "Bill was an intelligent wonderful guy. I owe a large part of my education to him."
It was Rosher's association with Capt. Harrison that led him to the Virgin Islands.
"I first came to St. Thomas in 1988," he says. "Bill was running Ralph Christiansen's old Pescador, the 53 Whitaker, and I fished with him."
Rosher says he fell in love with Virgin Islands' waters.
"Every day is exciting there," he says.
In 1999, Rosher decided to strike out on his own and set up a sports fishing charter business. He built his first boat with Lou Rambo in Riviera Beach, Florida. The vessel, a 33 Rambo, took four months to build. Rosher christened it the 'Miss Britt', named for his oldest daughter. He ran the boat out of Monty Trainer's Marina in Coconut Grove.
The big difference Rosher found in working for himself versus working for someone else was the number of tournaments he could fish.
"Back when I was working for Kelly, we'd do two tournaments a year - the Miami Billfish Tournament and the Bertram Hatteras Shoot-out," he says. 'Now, I fish dozens of tournaments a year."
What Rosher likes best about tournament fishing, he says, "is the anglers and crews you meet. There's great people and competition. It's a mental challenge, but as much as winning I enjoy the journey along the way."
He's won over 25 tournaments to date, but the two wins that stick most in his mind were those in 2005 and 2006 at the Rolex/IGFA Offshore Championship held annually in Cabo San Lucas.
"That tournament has been the most life-changing for me," he says. "It was like the Olympics. There was no money involved, but there we were with 70 boats and teams from 30 different nations. Winning was great, but the chance to meet so many people with common interests and learn about their challenges - beach launches, traveling for long distances to get to the coast, substandard equipment, limited access to tackle, barely being able to afford to fish, and an isolation from the stream of information - made me feel lucky and privileged to be able to fish every day for a living."
The friendships Rosher made at the Rolex/IGFA Championships spanned half way around the globe. When he filled in for Capt. Peter B. Wright for a short time in Australia, he made a several hundred mile detour inland to Brisbane to visit Robyn and Bodo Muche, makers of the trophies handed out at the Rolex/IGFA event.
Rosher adds, "That doesn't mean every other tournament I've fished in hasn't been exciting and special. Winning is great. The money is great. But what I tell my crews is that it's the memories of the fish and the people you were with that will last the longest!"
Today, Rosher mainly runs his two charter boats, both named “Miss Britt” having built his second vessel - a 43-foot Torres/Bacle custom walk around, in 2006.
He's not always at the helm. In fact, he fished as an angler aboard the Chach, a 58-foot Monterey, in the 2009 USVI Open/Atlantic Blue Marlin Tournament in St. Thomas.
"It's a privilege to step into the cockpit," says Rosher. "You can feel the pressure as the fish comes up in the spread and you hope you don't miss it. It humbles you as a captain. Any crew would benefit from being an angler. It's easy to think that someone should be able to catch every fish that comes up to bite, but things happen. You're under pressure. You don't want to let your team down."
Billfishing and pitch baiting are at the top of Rosher's list for fun. "The visual aspect of the pitch is what's exciting. Watching the bite is amazing. Catching is almost secondary to the process of pitching."
The opportunity to fish aboard the Chach is one that came through friendships cemented over the years. Rosher ran the Patriot and Freedom for Damon and Dino Chouest during part of the BXRL over four years.
Up coming, Rosher, and his wife, Charmain, who works as one of his tournament crew, along with Damon Chouest, Dominick LaCombe, Capt. Al Miller, Capt. Jimmy Brasher, Capt. Dave Dolpho (captain of the Chach) and Capt. Alex Castellanos will fish 11 sailfish tournaments in southern Florida. Dino Chouest was kind enough to donate his boat the “Freedom” for the season. After that, come May, its marlin fishing somewhere.
Rosher's enthusiasm for sportfishing is reaching yet another generation. His youngest children, toddlers Cheyenne and Dakota, are already enjoying the ocean with him.
Capt. Ray Rosher can be reached at:
Miss Britt Charters
P.O. Box 165826
Miami, FL 33116
PHONE: (305) 596-0419
FAX: (305) 596-0847
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