Captain Carl Snow……Story of Survival and Professionalism
In 1992 I came to the coast of North Carolina without a job or a penny in my pocket. I did have however, a supporting wife and the grand dream of becoming a fishing guide. At that time, I had never caught a saltwater fish, and the only boat I had ever been on was a homemade pontoon boat and the ferry boat that ran between Southport and Fort Fisher, NC. A few years later I had a small charter boat that cost me less than $1000 out of pocket. I learned the basics of saltwater fishing from a small group of African-American guys fishing from a broken-down pier in the Intercoastal Waterway. They gave me the nickname “Sun Screen” for obvious reasons.
With that, I began my journey. A journey that allowed me not only to enjoy fishing in phenomenal places across this country, but I also met some of the most interesting people ever. People that have left their mark on the saltwater fishing community and etched themselves in my memory forever.
Tim Wilson, Editor and Chief
Please meet a Legend of Saltwater Fishing…..Captain Carl Snow.
Not long after I started my fishing career in the early 90’s I frequently heard the name of Captain Carl Snow from Carolina Beach, NC. At that time he was probably the best-known charter captain in the Cape Fear region. His career started at 18 years old when he met the owner of Bald Head Island, a man by the name of Frank Odell Sherrill, the owner of S&W Cafeterias. He convinced Sherrill to allow him to carry people over to Bald Head for a day of surf fishing. Three years after that humble beginning, he had expanded the business to 4 jeeps and 60 to 70 fishermen a day.
Carl moved to the next level when he purchased his first charter boat, the “Carol Ann”. It was a 21′ Simmons with high sides pushed with an 18 HP gas engine. The Simmons was constructed in nearby Wilmington, NC, and sold to Carl at a whopping cost of $800 which was paid off in only 6 weeks. After a few years, Carl took another step when he moved his charter fishing business from Corn Cake Inlet near Kure Beach, NC, to Carolina Beach, NC, in the early 70s. At that time, the Carolina Beach basin only held 7-8 charter boats with a head boat fleet of 5-6 boats that were nearly always running at full capacity for customers. It was the perfect place for Carl to move his growing charter business to the next level. In addition to the charter fishing business, he spent his winters commercial fishing off the North Carolina coast. It was lucrative, but dangerous at times. It was on a cold winter’s day on February 19, 1991, while commercial fishing that will stick in Captain Carl Snow’s memory for a lifetime.
Approximately 42 miles off the coast, a fire broke out on Carl’s boat. The vessel sank and Carl and his deckhand were forced into the small life raft and waited for help. After enduring the fridged environment for 8 hours, but seemed like a lifetime, a ship was passing in the near distance heading east. It was a freighter, “Byer” heading to Sadia Arabia with a load of missiles. Carl and his deckhand waved their brightly colored life vests in that direction to get their attention. It worked. They knew safety was near when the ship’s stacks had stopped smoking and then started gradually to slow and turn. They were soon recovered on the “Byer” and later extracted from the ship to a United States Coast Guard helo.
This story has been told countless times by anglers along the southeast. It serves as a continuing reminder of the potential dangers in the ocean. The story also became known as the legend of Captain Carl Snow. We as captains and fishermen look at Carl differently than we do others. We feel a higher level of respect for him for what he went through and the poise that he demonstrated on February 18, 1991. We also think about what we would have done had it been us in Carl’s and his deckhand’s place. Most importantly, we think about how it could have been on that burning boat that cold day.
Carl’s charter days continued to grow over the years thanks to his fishing experience and integrity. He’s well respected not only by his repeating customer base but also by his fellow charter captains. Today, he has somewhat retired, having turned the business over to his son. However, there are days he can still be seen behind the wheel in the flybridge of the “Fish Witch III” filling in. It’s a sight that folks in Carolina Beach have become used to and hope will always be there.
In closing, I want to say, that this story barely scratches the surface of Captain Carl Snow’s story. While interviewing him, I found him to be not only professional but also kind and humble. A trait we find all too seldom these days. THANKS, Carl. Thanks for your professionalism and for setting the example for the rest of us to follow. You’re a true Legend of Saltwater Fishing.