Interview published in Billfishing magazine
NAME: Dr. Ken Neill, III
HOME TOWN: Seaford, Virginia
TEAM: Healthy Grin
1. Tournament Competition (we would just like to know how you started fishing tournaments; how long; how many you have fished in and how many per year)
We started fishing in area billfish tournaments about 10 years ago. Tournaments like the Red, White, and Blue, Virginia Beach Invitational, Virginia Beach Billfish Tournament, Ducks Unlimited and other local tournaments. We fish 2 or 3 billfish tournaments each summer.
2. Personal Records (this would be any memorable day you’ve had; record size catches; etc.)
We actually have a number of record catches, mostly by accident. Pelagic species are seasonal off of Virginia so during the off-season, we started exploring the offshore bottom fishery and started breaking records. The Healthy Grin Team has set 10 all-tackle records in the past couple of years for a variety of bottom fish. The last 5 snowy grouper IGFA All-Tackle World Records have been set on the Healthy Grin. We keep breaking our own records. The Healthy Grin is a 305 Express Albemarle. It has been featured in a number of Albemarle newsletters and catalogs. Some of these record trips can be read about here: http://www.albemarleboats.com/family/letters.html
3. Tournament Preparation (we would like to know how you prepare yourself, your tackle, your boat, etc. before each tournament)
The service on the boat is always up to date. Before the summer season, all tackle is serviced and new line is placed on all of the reels. Prior to a billfish tournament, all of the wind-on leaders are changed out. All hooks are new and since we use natural baits, they are circle hooks. Whenever possible, we will fish a couple of days prior to the tournament and fish like we will be fishing in the tournament with the same spread and each crew member doing their tournament jobs.
4. Tournament Awards (if you’ve won any awards in any tournaments—please note the event name, location and year)
We have won a good number of tournaments…all inshore. Mostly striped bass tournaments. We have not won a billfish tournament yet. We have placed and have been in the money. Never a big amount. Our largest single win was a $10,000 prize in a Ducks Unlimited event.
5. Favorite Billfish Location (include a personal quote if possible)
Venezuela. The first time I went, it was at the invitation of Dr. John Graves. He was doing a pop-up satellite tag study of white marlin. He needed someone to catch fish so that he could tag them. “Bye the way, Guy Harvey will be joining us with his film crew”. I love research. That was just the first trip of many. Those 80 tagged white marlin are why we have the circle hook rule now. Almost no marlin died with circle hooks while about 35% died with J-hooks. Currently, we are doing a similar study with blue marlin. We have 60 tags to place and there is nowhere better to do it than Venezuela. It has been fun fishing with Guy and making his TV shows and fishing with captains Bubba Carter and Jimmy Grant has been a blast and an education.
6. Favorite “Fun Fishing” Location
Tropic Star Lodge, Panama. It is beautiful, you are treated very well, and the fishing is fantastic.
7. Other Interests
If I’m not fishing, I’m doing fishing stuff. I’m heavily involved with fisheries science. I serve as a recreational representative at the Virginia Marine Resource Commission. I write articles about fishing and I do a lot of photography. My articles and photographs have been published in magazines such as Salt Water Sportsman, Sport Fishing, The Fisherman, Tide, International Angler, Fly Fishing in Salt Water, Blue Water Boats & Sportfishing, and others. Some of my articles have been posted at my fishing club’s website: http://www.pswsfa.com/Tips.htm
It has gotten so that when out fishing, I’d rather be on the camera than on the rod.
8. Occupation when not fishing
Dentist, thus the boat name “Healthy Grin”
9. Thoughts on the Future of Sportfishing
Fuel prices are a factor. Young people today have so many other things to keep their attention. Some commercial fishing practices are detrimental to fish stocks. Those are negatives.
In this area, we have a lot of young anglers entering the sport and some of them are truly amazing anglers. Recreational anglers are better organized and better educated about the politics of fishery management than ever before. Politicians and fish managers seem to be getting the message of the importance of healthy fish stocks and the magnitude of the economics involved with the recreational fishing industry. We still have a way to go, especially on an international level, but we are headed in the right direction.
10. Favorite Fish Story
Every trip is another story. A short one was on one of the more recent Venezuela trips for white marlin. We were fishing circle hooks on one side of the boat and J-hooks on the other side. I was on the J-hook side and John Graves was on the circle hook side. On this trip, the Js were rigged split-billed and the circles were skipping. The fish would come in and look at the skipping baits, cross to the other side of the spread and eat one of the swimming baits. John got to watch me catch a lot of fish but he was too stubborn to switch up. A sailfish came in and I hooked it up. It was jumping and everyone had a good look at it. Jimmy Grant was the captain. He made a turn to see if we could get any more up. During the turn, I felt the hook pull and said that it pulled but while reeling, the line came tight again. I thought I was wrong about the hook pulling but when we got this fish to the boat it had turned into a white marlin. Jimmy said that he knew good and well that was a sailfish. The hook had pulled and what was left of the bait was grabbed by a white. Back at the dock, Jimmy tells the story and said that it was like going to bed with one woman and waking up with another. That led to a whole bunch of other stories.