THE BIG INTERVIEW
Meet the world’s top species angler.
In the world of species hunting there are those who rank as casual participants, along with many others who can be classified as enthusiastic participants. Next there are the fanatics, anglers whose entire angling focus is targeting new species. Sitting on the apex of the species-hunting pyramid is Steve Wozniak.
Steve, who lives in California is, without question, the world’s number one species hunter, a man whose quest to catch the obscure and the unusual has taken him around the world several times.
The American is one of those anglers who is genuinely as delighted when catching minute oddities from a tropical reef as he is fishing for apex predators in the deep blue oceans of the world. As a fellow contributor to top American saltwater fishing magazine Sport Fishing, I recently had an opportunity to put some questions to Steve…
DL: I remember when you topped the 1,000 species mark in 2010, a huge milestone for any angler, and likely a world first. What is your personal species tally today? SW:
I am now up to 1,803 species. My most recent addition was the Tahoe sucker from Donner Lake, California, and the big 1,800 was a flat bullhead I caught in Clark Creek, North Carolina.
DL: Can you explain what is it that you find so fascinating about species hunting? SW:
There is always something new to strive for when species hunting, which can make catching a four-inch blenny exciting. It also adds a complete new dimension to travel, and has let me make friends all over the world. To date, I have visited 91 countries, the most recent addition to that list was Kenya, in January 2018.
DL: When did you start serious species hunting? SW:
In October 1998 I was in an Italian restaurant near where I live, when me and a buddy in a fit of male competitiveness asked the waitress for paper and pens so we could compare species lists. Mine was bigger, at some 70 or so. I hit my 100th species on August 1, 1999, and my 1,000th on July 21 2010. My buddy is still stuck at around 100.
An oblique-banded snapper, from Kona, Hawaii
DL: If you could catch any species from anywhere in the world in saltwater, what would it be?
Some real unicorns would be a coelacanth or a goblin shark. On more commonly caught stuff, I’d sell my grandmother to get a spearfish or a dogtooth tuna, and I’d sell both grandmothers and a bonus aunt to catch both.
DL: I know you have fished in the UK. What saltwater species did you get, and which ones would you like to catch over here?
I have caught starry smoothounds, ballan wrasse, corkwing wrasse, small spotted catshark (lesser spotted dogfish), European bass, small-eyed skate, sea lamprey by accident, twaite shad, sandeel, spotted ray (a world record), undulate ray, blonde ray, pout (another world record) and turbot. I’ve caught plenty of other stuff as well fishing in other European and Scandinavian locations previously, such as cod and hake.
I would love to get a porbeagle shark. In UK waters I need a bull huss and, more desperately, a plaice because Marta, my wife, has caught one and I haven’t. I have also never caught a flounder, and don’t think this doesn’t keep me awake at night.
DL: Which saltwater species caught so far has given you the most satisfaction? SW:
There are loads of choices, but probably a big coral trout on the Great Barrier Reef. My first two trips there, with the aim of catching this beast that I had admired in books as a child, were blown out. My first coral trout caused quite a celebration, and I will neither confirm nor deny that I took off all my clothes and jumped in the water.
DL: Where is your next destination, and what are the targets? SW:
I’ll do a couple of local San Francisco trips after rock cod and stingrays, but the next big saltwater adventure is San Diego. I’ll be chasing a good list of species that can be caught from shore there, including California corbina, shortfin corvina, spotfin croaker, California moray eel, California killifish, zebra perch, mussel blenny, banded guitarfish, and horn shark. If I get four of the first five, I’ll be ecstatic. There is going to be a lot of tossing small baits and lures right in the surf line, with some chance of getting a world record on a couple of species.
DL: I know you have established a lot of IGFA world records. How many do you currently hold? SW:
My next world record would be number 183, which would be a real milestone, putting me into fourth place in all time. That’s right behind a family of three who happen to be my dear friends – Marty, Roberta and Martini Arostegui.
My most recent record was a V-lip redhorse from Green River, North Carolina. As a common theme, you will note that you have heard of the fish we have discussed, which makes you normal. ■
A sky emperor from the Red Sea, Egypt.
A very colourful swallowtail, caught out of Watamu, Kenya
A Port Jackson shark caught inAustralia
He’s seen the world