Work, play and family all go together for Dallas, Texas-based angler, Don Schmidt, owner of the 64-foot Viking, Omigosh. "I'm lucky enough to work with my family and fish with my family too. All four of my kids have caught a blue marlin."
Born in northern Texas, Schmidt says he got his start fishing on the state's inland lakes. His family moved nearer the coast, between Port Aransas and South Padre Island, when he was a teenager.
"We lived about 30 minutes from the beach," says Schmidt. "The first saltwater fish I ever caught was a 40-pound ling."
He continues, "My Dad always had a bay boat. Then, he moved up to a center console. We had friends with big rigs and went fishing with them too."
Billfishing in the Gulf of Mexico means going 100 to 120 miles offshore.
"Back then, it would be a real long day or usually overnight," Schmidt says. "We have a fast boat now and can easily make it a day trip. Out at 5 a.m., lines in from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and back at the dock by dark."
Schmidt bought the Omigosh, which cruises at 34 knots, last year.
"It's a 2007 Viking convertible, a cross between a custom and a production boat," he describes. "It's got a custom cabin interior; all the electronics like fish finder, radar, side scan sonar and five cameras - one each on the outriggers, one of the fly bridge, one aimed at the deck and one on a stick we can move around in the water. The camera works best on a sunny, cloudless day between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. The kids love it. They can see what's coming up."
Schmidt adds, "In general, the boat is comfortable and efficient. We bought it with the idea of long range fishing and that's what we're doing. It carries 2200 gallons of fuel."
Schmidt and his family launched off this year in April. They fished the Yucatan, Isla Mujeres and Cancun first, then headed over to the Bahamas and finally as far south in the Caribbean as the Virgin Islands. Next year, he plans to take the boat to the Pacific.
"I have always wanted to billfish more and finally could afford it," says Schmidt, who is an attorney and also owns an oil and gas company. "Real fishing isn't conducive to a day job."
Schmidt caught his first billfish sixteen years ago while on a scuba diving trip to Costa Rica.
"You can't start off shooting elephants," he says, in an analogy to his other favorite sport, hunting. "When I was a child, I didn't catch big fish or go very far to do it. The older I got, I decided I wanted a professional crew and to devote more time. Just like hunting, you start with squirrels, move up to deer, and finally elephants. In fishing, I started with bass and crappie, then red fish, sailfish and finally the marlin bug bit me and big fish is all I want to catch."
Schmidt usually trolls a combination of lures and dead baits and enjoys pitch baiting.
"We're also set up to fly fish, but we've never had good enough weather to do it," he says. "I'm hoping this will change in the Pacific."
Schmidt says his best days fishing are with his kids. "I've had my nephews on the boat this summer along with my kids," he says. "They're all between the ages of 8 and 17. When we're fun fishing, we draw straws to see who goes first. The kids have caught marlin as well as dolphin and wahoo. My wife, Penny, caught a 600 blue marlin this summer."
Even though Schmidt likes to fun fish, he's got serious competition on the mind too. For example, Omigosh finished 13th out of 69 boats in the 2009 Bahamas Billfish Tournament and only fished two legs - Boat Harbour and Central Abaco. In the Central Abaco tournament, Omigosh finished second with a grand slam - a blue marlin, white marlin and sailfish. In the Virgin Islands, Omigosh finished fourth at the July Open Billfish Tournament (JOBT) and was one of four boats going into the last day that could have easily taken the lead.
The highlight of the JOBT for Schmidt came on the second day, when he hooked up a grander-plus blue at mid-day.
"It was easily over 1200 pounds," he says.
Schmidt's nephew, James, offered a more vivid description: "It looked like a big truck barreling down at us."
Schmidt elected to cut the fish free and stay in the tournament running.
"The bad thing about letting it go," says Schmidt, "was that we thought no one would believe us. The good thing was that we had a tournament observer onboard who verified the size."
Omigosh finished up the summer placing 11th out of 34 boats in the USVI Open/Atlantic Blue Marlin Tournament or 'Boy Scout' Tournament. By the time he and his family left the Caribbean on August 15, Schmidt was ranked third in the Caribbean division of the World Billfish Series.
"I'm looking forward to fishing tournaments in the Pacific," Schmidt says. "Even though I like to fun fish, I'm competitive and enjoy the fun in the gambling arena. After all, fishing is part skill and part luck."