Family is what lured Ft. Lauderdale-based angler Terry Stiles into the sport of fishing and its family that's keeping him in the game and on the trail of a big momma blue marlin.
"I was born in Cincinnati," Stiles tells. "We moved to Ft. Lauderdale when I was three years old. My dad loved to fish. We'd fish off the west coast of Florida for snook and trout and the east coast for dolphin and kingfish."
The passing of Stiles' dad in 1971 put a temporary stop to his fishing. It rekindled again when son Kenneth grew into a teenager and was ready to cast off upon the family's favorite leisure pursuit. "That was the late 1980's when we started billfishing and tournament fishing in the Bahamas at places like Treasure Cay and Chub Cay and over in the Abacos," Stiles says.
It was in Abaco that Stiles caught his first blue marlin. "The year was 1991. We were just out fishing with friends for dolphin, but typically we'd set out one large bait just in case. Sure enough, I hooked a marlin. We weren't set up for it, there were no real mates aboard only friends, and I was running the boat. It ended up to be a three-hour fight," he describes.
This experience confirmed Stiles as a blue marlin sports fisherman. "Blue marlin are among the biggest species in the Caribbean. That's what we look for, the biggest and the most. I want to catch one of those 1000-plus-pounders and my son wants to wire it. I'm also the video guy and I'd love to get a fish like that on film," he relates.
Stiles prefers light tackle. "The biggest we use is 80 pounds and we use 50 pound test on stand up. We feel that stand up gives you more agility and ability to go faster with the light tackle. Bobby Brown is our captain, so you know that as soon as Bobby raises the fish we need to be ready to go after the fish aggressively."
He continues, "Typically we focus on the use of effective teasers." "If we're fishing for sailfish, we use a teaser that looks like a pod of baitfish. For blue marlin, we use a bowling pin set up where the five pins go crazy behind the boat."
Through the years, Stiles has owned a number of boats. There was a 46-foot Bertram in the late 80's, a 34-foot Gamefisherman that Stiles enjoyed running with just he and his son, then a 55-foot Viking that Capt. Bobby Brown came aboard to run and for the last year and a half a 58-foot Merritt than Brown also helms.
"One of the best assets on the Merritt is the couch in the cockpit. It's nice to wait in comfort rather than just sitting on the coolers," Stiles says.
Every one of Stiles' boats has been named Cutnail.
"A cutnail is a nail that's used in concrete. It's a tough nail to drive and needs to be driven precisely. It's been the workhorse of the commercial construction business for years. And, that's what we do. The name Cutnail has always stuck with me," Stiles says.
Stiles is president and CEO of the Stiles Corporation, the largest commercial real estate developer in south Florida. In 2003, the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties named the Stiles Corporation "South Florida Developer of the Year".
While Stiles works on land, he plays on the sea and is equally successful on this medium as well. "In a typical year, we'll fish the Custom Boat Shoot Out at Chub Cay in January, then the last two legs of the BBC (Bahamas Billfish Championship) - Harbour Island and Boat Harbour. Then we'll go down to St. Thomas for the Boy Scout Tournament (USVI Open/Atlantic Blue Marlin Tournament or ABMT) in August and fish through late September. We'll also fish the Turks and Caicos and every other year we'll head to Isla Mujeres, Mexico, for sailfish. We fish about 80 days a year, but the most focused fishing is from May 15 through September."
The Cutnail team has won or placed high in several big name tournaments. For example, they placed 4th in the Boat Harbour HMY Billfish Blast in 2002, won a daily with a 371-pound blue marlin during one leg of the 2003 BBC and won the "Last Day Shoot Out" on the last day of the 2004 ABMT. During the tournaments, Brown captains, Stiles angles, Jody Whitworth is first mate and Kenneth Stiles is second mate.
"That was a great day," Stiles says of the ABMT win. "We released two fish before anyone else by mid-day. The rest of the day, we were listening to the radio with baited breath. It was intense, a lot of pressure for the crew, but it was fun, really fun."
One of Stiles most memorable fishing days occurred in Virgin Islands' waters. "We were fishing the hole in the wall when we hooked up a small tuna. The tuna was then swallowed by a blue marlin. We had a small boy in the chair and the marlin on 50-pound test. The boy fought the fish for over an hour and ended up releasing it. That was pretty neat," he tells.
In the future, Stiles would like to fish Madeira Island. "I kept hearing about the fishing there when it lit up, then the talk died down for awhile and recently I'm hearing about it again," he says.
"I'd also like to go back to Australia and take my son this time. When I went the first time, I caught an 800-pound black that was eaten by a pack of whaler sharks about 20 minutes into the fight. I did get a 450-pound black marlin as well," he says.
What fishing destination does he like best? "The Abacos," Stiles says. "There's a lot to do there. We have a small boat and we go out to different restaurants and dive sites. Of course, we have a shot at some big fish there too!."