Beginning with this issue, our new column Top Hook will highlight some of the best anglers, groundbreakers and record takers, tackle shop owners, and tackle innovators the Chesapeake and mid Atlantic region has to offer.
We kick things off with a Q&A with Dr. Ken Neill, III, a resident of Seaford, VA, who should be no stranger to the readers of PropTalk. His photos of impressive catches have graced our pages for years. Aboard his boat Healthy Grin, Ken and his buddies have set 12 IGFA All-Tackle World Records and numerous Virginia state records. He currently holds the Virginia state record for tautog, a 24-pound, three-ounce beast he decked in 2012. Neill is an IGFA representative, serves as president of the storied Peninsula Salt Water Sport Fisherman’s Association, and is also a member of the Virginia Marine Resources Commission.
PT: What are your favorite three fish to catch and why?
Neill: #1 Marlin. It is such a visual fish. Nothing is more exciting than a big, blue marlin coming into eat, and white marlin put on such a terrific aerial display. Especially with the white marlin, there is a lot of skill involved in being good at hooking them, and as soon as you get overconfident, they will put you in your place.
#2 Bigeye Tuna. I love catching all of the tuna, but these Volkswagen-sized beasts will just about give you a heart attack when they explode on baits right off of the transom. All tuna fight hard but the bigeye is just plain mean and nasty.
#3: Wahoo. They just look cool, and their initial screaming run is impressive. They are also very good on the dinner table.
What’s your most memorable catch?
We have established 12 IGFA All-Tackle World Records and multiple state records on Healthy Grin. Those were mostly caught by my fishing buddies while I ran the boat. One morning the crew did not show for a tautog trip, so I went by myself. I had to change my destination to an easier structure to anchor on by myself. I was back to the dock before lunchtime with the new Virginia record tautog, 24 pounds, three ounces.
Any fishing superstitions?
No bananas on the boat but when the fishing is slow, we break out the Snickers bars because they are lucky. We like the tradition of throwing an angler in the water after his first blue marlin so much that we have expanded it to you may be thrown in for your first just about anything. While fishing out of Morehead City for big bluefin tuna, we somehow came up with the idea that it is lucky to drink a beer after every big tuna you catch… no matter how early in the morning it is.
What gear won’t you leave the dock without?
My cameras. I’ve gotten to be more interested in getting “the shot” than in cranking in fish myself.
What’s the most under-appreciated game fish and why?
Jack crevalle. They are not good to eat and are considered a trash fish over much of their range, but the ones we get are large and they fight very, very hard.
by Capt. Chris D. Dollar