CHESTER CHAMBERS - FROM MEAT FISH TO MARLIN
Ask Chester Chambers his secret for catching and releasing winning quantities of blue marlin and his answer just might surprise you.
"I've been fishing for 30 years," says the Ft. Pierce, Florida-based angler. "Marlin in the Bahamas and sailfish in Mexico and southern Florida more recently. But, it's been the years of bottom fishing for mangrove snapper that has really given me the touch for getting marlin to the back of the boat."
Born in Millville, New Jersey and raised until age nine in Port Elizabeth, Chambers started his sports fishing career angling in the headwaters of the Delaware Bay for carp and raccoon perch. "My dad gave me a can of worms and hooks and the New Jersey equivalent of a cane pole and I was hooked."
Chambers continues, "My family moved to Ft. Pierce shortly before I turned ten. I can still remember my 10th birthday present. It was a real fishing pole. My friends and I would bicycle over to the local park after school and fish for mullet and blue gill."
A driver's license at the age of 16 broadened Chambers horizons. "We'd go west of town and fish for bass. Then, I met Reid Macy. Reid had an old junky 23-foot boat. We'd go 12 to 20 miles offshore three or four days a week and fish for grouper and snapper. Boy, once I got to saltwater, fishing really became an obsession."
Luckily, Chambers has enjoyed a career that's allowed him the flexibility to fish about 100 days a year. "I started with the company, Krause Industries, when I was 16. I bought it from my in-laws a couple of years ago. It's been nothing though to just up and go fishing for a day."
Krause Industries is a manufacturer of PVC well points and environmental products.
Chambers love of saltwater sports fishing has led him to several locales.
"Reid and I would travel up to the Outer Banks anywhere from June through September and charter with Capt. Chip Shafer out of Oregon Inlet in search of tuna," says Chambers.
The two also angled in several sailfish tournaments along the southern Florida coast. "I'd team up with Reid and that's how I met Hans (Hans Kraaz, owner/captain of the 58-foot Bayliss, Vintage). We'd all charter a boat and fish about five of the big sailfish tournaments between January and July, like the Pelican Yacht Club's Invitational Billfish Tournament and the West Palm Beach Fishing Club's Silver Sailfish Derby. We did real well right off the bat. We always finished in the top five, but then again we chartered with Capt. Glenn Cameron aboard his boat, The Floridian. Glenn brought us a lot of local knowledge."
It was with Kraaz, says Chambers, "that I got to travel and fish in exotic places. I'd read marlin magazine for twenty years and never dreamed I'd be fishing in some of these places, but I did thanks to Hans wanting me on his team. That moved me into a different arena. Bottom fishing is hard; it takes a lot more time and its tougher. Once you get into billfishing, though, you start to raise eyebrows."
However, it was back in the early 1980s that Chambers caught his first blue marlin. The story of this catch is one of his favorite fishing tales. "My father-in-law and I were off Ft. Pierce trolling for dolphin, wahoo and kingfish. It was July. Flat calm. Hot. Late in the day. Then in the blink of an eye all hell broke lose. We hooked up a double-header blue marlin. My father-in-law broke his off in 2 to 3 minutes, but I fought mine for three hours - no belt, no fighting chair, 50-pound line. And, it was big, about 400 pounds. The fish jumped once or twice, then sounded. The two of us had a real tug of war for a while until I finally got it up within about 6 to 7 feet of the boat. Unfortunately, I didn't have a gaff or anyone other than just my father-in-law aboard, so I had to release it."
Chambers travels with Kraaz have taken him to many locations.
"When Hans took delivery of his boat three years ago, he took it down to Isla Mujeres, Mexico, and I'd fly down for three or four days. We'd catch sailfish by the gobs," Chambers says.
Last year, he adds, "We went to the Bahamas. The first blue marlin tournament I fished in was at Cat Island in April. We ended up placing second. We fished Cat Island a few more times and went to Rum Cay too."
After that, says Chambers, "We came down to St. Thomas. Boat wise, we placed around fourth or fifth in the July Open, but I lost out to Sam Jennings on the Revenge for Top Angler. A month later, I got my revenge all right."
The release of five blue marlin earned Chambers the Top Angler $10,000 cash prize at the 2005 USVI Open/Atlantic Blue Marlin Tournament (ABMT). "The third day of the tournament was my best day ever - three blue marlin," he says.
Blue marlin are one of two species that Chambers claims are his favorite to catch. "Blue marlin are awesome fish. It's their size, their bite, and their jump. They're not hard to hook, but they do need a lot of finesse to get them in. Bottom fishing has taught me this kid gloves approach. And, it comes from years of having a rod in my hand. I almost feel like a rod is an extension of my arm."
Chamber's other favorite fish is the mangrove snapper. "I like the challenge. You can't see the bite and if the fish knows you're there, then the game is over. You'll lose it."
Tournament fishing is a regular on Chamber's annual angling schedule. In addition to the sailfish tournaments in Florida and the last two year's participation in the USVI Open/ABMT, he and Reid have fished the Wal-Mart FLW Kingfish Series. "We ended second in our region this year," Chambers says.
With Kraaz, Vintage mate Mike "Dewey" Price, and Macy, Chambers will fish the La Guaira Shoot-Out in Venezuela.
"Venezuela is one of my favorite fishing destinations," he says. "My first day fishing there last April, I caught my first grand slam. You can catch just about anything, anytime."
In the future, Chambers sees conservation as becoming more and more important. "I see more regulations in the form of quotas, closed areas, and higher license fees, but I think it will work and its worthwhile. For example, they banned long liners off the Florida coast six or seven years ago and the swordfish have come back in unbelievable numbers."