THE BIG IN­TER­VIEW

Meet the world’s top species an­gler.

Sea Angler (UK) - - CON­TENTS -

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.

SW: SW:

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

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