When we started this special section of your magazine, it wasn't hard to put Captain Scott Moore on the list of legends. As people who live by whitebait -- and more accurately chumming (first for, and then with) "scaled" sardines -- the name Scott Moore reminded us of where the practice came from. To us -- and everybody we know that fill their live wells with fresh living baitfish -- the name is synonymous with chumming.
Although most of us haven't met Captain Scott Moore, there aren't many live-bait fishers who don't identify chumming for (and with) whitebait with the Captain's name. There's good reason to do so. This silver trout -- all 17 lbs of her -- did NOT succumb to injured Pilchards. Streamer fly, we're told.
Being the publishers of an online fishing magazine made the next step in writing this profile easy. Just search the web, right? The history of the world's civilizations are there. If we needed some background on somebody we considered the founder of snook fishing as we know it, the data was surely available on the web. We could just read, learn, and write. Add to that the fact that we know Scott; adding our personal experience to known history could generate an excellent story.
Wrong. There were plenty of stories about Scott catching snook. Even more about Scott catching fish with the rich and famous. But not one about the guy we knew.
So we set out to write our first "legend" article -- from "scratch" -- about a true legend in our sport. We used as source a converstation with the Captain spanning several days. We hope that the piece will prove fascinating to anybody interested in fishing for snook, just fishing, our environment, our sport, and what's important in the quest to become a professional charter guide. The Moore legacy doesn't stop with Scott; his son Justin -- who was granted his Charter license at age 18, is proof that snook genes run in the Moore bloodline.
Genetics? Captain Scott's son Justin and holding his daughter Jordan. We can tell by the direction her eyes are looking that he's already training her to look for the flash of whitebait. You can almost see the castnet being held between her (still) little hands as it softly unfolds over balled sardines.
Scott's history is a history of a man growing up to fish. Moving to Cape Cod from the Azore islands, he ended up in Florida -- at age 6 -- in 1952.
When asked when he started fishing, Scott laughed. "We moved from Cape Cod to Sunset Beach here in Florida. We had a house on the water. I fished every night -- I don't really remember the first one. I do remember fishing constantly, and catching whiting, snook, trout, flounder and pomps on the beaches in the evening". As he got older, the family moved to Manatee, and there he started fishing the waters of Terra Ceia Bay, the beaches (and the pier on) Anna Maria Island, and many of the same flats our readership fishes to this day.
In 1969, just out of high school, the true master of our sport got his first boat.
We asked Scott if -- as according to local myth -- it was him that invented whitebait chumming. Using whitebait chum is the method of using corn-meal (or similar) chum to catch whitebait, then whispering a secret song to them, so they would dance near the surface -- attracting hungry snook. In fact, if you're familiar with the technique, it will often get fish hungry and feeding even if you weren't sure they were nearby.
For people that fish exclusively with artificials, and are so elite they frown on live bait? So be it. For the large majority of professional charter guides, and serious amateurs -- it's the only way to go. While shrimp can be counted on as being more consistently available in the winter months, and artifials like Gulp! baits have gained tremendous support from the community, chumming with live bait remains the most surefire method of attracting and catching snook. And redfish. And just about any other species of fish that eat other fish. All of them.
Like all of us, I attributed chumming live bait to Moore. He corrected us.
"I didn't invent chumming. When I first got to Manatee, there were already a few people that knew about the technique. But it was definitely a closely-held secret between a few guys. It was G.B. Knowles* that really let the secret out of the bag. And then Frank Sargeant started talking about it."
He went on with the fascinating interview; "From there it really spread. I got famous for it, but it really wasn't my invention. To this day, a lot of people still don't understand the right way to chum bait and to use it to chum fish. Back when I first learned it from the old locals in Manatee, most of them fished from boats, but there were guys that waded and used live bait, too."
Interestingly enough, the first article ever written about Scott was in Florida Sportsman magazine, and it wasn't about using chummers to ball hungry linesiders -- it was about catching big snook on plugs in the Braden River. By then, his reputation had spread; his client list was filled with repeat customers. People who fished with Scott caught fish with Scott. His incredible ability to find fish became legendary. It's easy to put him first on the list.
We asked him about teaching, and what he thought of the future of our sport. "The most promising thing out there is the Internet. It's the perfect classroom for teaching the right way to fish, and the right way to protect our environment. The thing we have to watch for are organizations like PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). Although they might think they're protecting fish from our mishandling of them, they're really working against the best conservationists there are. Fisherman."2
"We have fish in Florida. They belong to us. They belong to the residents of the state in which they are found."
Don't believe us when we say the guy can talk to snook? Wanna see Scott's State-owned Snook being fed by hand? Seriously :) Click the Play button3
If you know the political leanings of the publishers of this magazine, you'll understand our connection to the way Captain Scott thinks -- about chumming and about the politics of fishing.
The interview with Scott came at the perfect time. The morning of March 30th -- the second day we got to talk to the Captain -- was the last day he had off for the next four months. Seven days a week, the Moores are booked to catch fish for anxious customers. At this point, it's the rare new client Scott meets; his client base, built over many years of excellent hunting for Florida species -- is far beyond his capacity to fish with them all.
But the cold winter we just experienced hit Scott and his son Justin just like it hit all the many captains we talk to:
"It's a good thing we were able to do this now. We're pretty much booked for four months." Although Moore recognized that's a long straight run of back-to-back trips, he supplied the perfect reason for the tough summer workload.
The Legend of Scott Moore lives on in son Justin. "It's probably not a surprise that Justin grew up on the water fishing. He caught his first snook at four years old. At 13 he was running my 24' boat to Boca Grande."
Recognize the guy in the picture? You're right -- it's Captain Justin Moore. Oh yeah! The other guy? NFL SuperBowl Champion Coach Tony Dungy. But you know that.
His pride in son Justin was clear, as the Captain continued his wonderful story. "I had a little 17 footer we used sometimes for fishing ourselves, and he fished that boat all throughout high school. He got his Captain's license at 18, and it's not because he's my son that I say he's the most water-wise Captain on the coast. And a great dad, too." You can see Justin and Moore's beautiful granddaughter being held in the picture of his son on his new flats boat.
Scott raised his family as a guide -- something that any of our local professionals will quickly tell you ain't easy. "Nobody gets rich being a guide" Scott went on "Having four months booked straight is a great thing. Thank God for Karen (Scott's beautiful wife). We were blessed to raise three kids -- Justin, Kelly, and Katie -- by working hard. If it wasn't for my wife, we never would have been able to do it."
Moore didn't only raise a gorgeous family by spending time on the water showing people exactly how it's done. On the wall of his home are
the 1983 World Record 2lb Class -- one of the very first records for a catch-and-release fish (the importance of which Scott stressed during our conversation).
The world record snook.
- Florida Sportsman's Conservation award in 2001
- William R. Mote award in 1998
- Founder of the Florida Guides Association
- Don Hampson Conservation of the Year Award in 2004
- West Coast Fly FIshing Club
- Sarasota Sport Fishing Club
- Florida Coastal Conservation Association.
There are more, but Scott said to the writer "These are the one's I'm proud of". In our opinion, Scott's presence in our waters has done a lot more to be proud of than a few awards on the wall of what might be called his office.
Thanks Scott. For all you've done. You are the Legend.