Count on Captain Wild Bill to get the
by Christine S. Lucas
Published in Richmond Hill Reflections, 2011
Contrary to his name, Captain Wild Bill isn’t crazy and doesn’t have hair that sticks out like Albert Einstein’s. He is a fanatic about one thing: fishing. He made sure I knew it, too.
While chatting at the clubhouse by the Yellow Bluff Marina located in Liberty County, Georgia, I wondered what constitutes a fanatic as it pertains to fishing. The licensed Captain who offers fishing and scenic charters to some of Georgia’s remote barrier islands used a fishing trip he and a friend took in bitter, wet weather to explain.
“It was drizzle to rain–drizzle to rain,” Captain Wild Bill said. “It was so cold you just wanted to curl up in a fireplace.” That didn’t matter to the man who was born in an animal hospital just outside Mount Airy, North Carolina. Water dripped down his face and he continued fishing with a big grin. They ended up catching 128 legal-size fish but kept just enough to eat. “[Fanatics] don’t feel the cold,” he said.
Captain Wild Bill learned to fish at the age of two, on his dad’s lap, both in North Carolina and Sarasota, Florida. One of the first fish he ever caught was bluegill, Lepomis macrochirus, a freshwater fish also referred to as Bream. A couple years later he moved to Long Island, New York with his mother. His parents had divorced and the four-year-old began earning the ‘Wild’ that would be added to his name years later. He was a little scamp who would run off without telling anyone. “I was like a dog you didn’t want to let out,” he laughed.
The young Captain was first called ‘wild’ by fellow players during sand lot football games–a full-contact version of the sport sans padding. It continued to ring true through his maneuvers on the high school wrestling team but even more when he joined the United States Marines after one year of college. “People never knew what I was going to do,” he said. He was sent to journalism school by the military and spent two years as a war correspondent from 1974 to 1976.
Captain Wild Bill considers himself a Southerner and moved to Savannah after the military. He worked at Delta Airlines–mostly as a ticket agent–for nineteen years. Downsizing was a concern. “I hung on like a tick,” he recalls and eventually downsized of his own accord by moving from Georgetown to the Cottages at Yellow Bluff.
Captain Wild Bill’s work at the Yellow Bluff Marina–lifting people’s boats from the water–helped him build a three hundred person subscriber list for the fishing report he began writing and self-published from 1997 to 1998, the Saltwater Journal. People want the scoop from a man whose charmed fishing career includes a flounder jumping onto the boat he was in and landing at his feet. This caught the attention of the Savannah Morning News who asked Captain Wild Bill to write a weekly fishing column. The formally-trained journalist also began conducting “Eat, Sleep, and Fish Seminars” and has found himself in the same league as accomplished anglers like Savannah’s Captain Judy and Hilton Head’s Captain Fuzzy Davis.
I called Captain Judy to chat about Captain Wild Bill, and asked if she remembered a certain story where he’d jumped off a perfectly good boat into water with a 4-foot shark swimming around.
“Was that the time with his clothes on or off?” she asked not sure if I was referring to a time when the Captain stripped and dove into 54 degree water to try and rescue an expensive pair of glasses.
Once clear, she explained bonnet sharks look down to feed. “His toes could have been in jeopardy with no problem,” she told me. “The way he fishes, he goes by a whole different theory,” Captain Judy went on to explain. “[He fishes] by watching a bloom on a tree or something, a leaf that might mean the redfish are biting.”
Being a fish magnet runs in Captain Wild Bill’s family. A while back he got a call from his mother who was in Sun City–near Bluffton, South Carolina–walking her dog when a bass weighing about a pound fell from the sky and landed between the sidewalk and the curb. How could that happen? Her son who is a member of the Ogeechee Audubon Society and Friends of Savannah Coastal Wildlife Refuges explained that it had to have been from an osprey that was forced to drop it by a bald eagle.
According to an April 2010 press release from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, nearly one third of Georgia’s 159 counties had bald eagles nesting in them in that year. The National Geographic website, http://animals.nationalgeographic.com, supports Captain Wild Bill’s claim in an article detailing our national bird’s thievery.
Captain Wild Bill sees abundance and works with nature. It’s what makes his Eco Adventures in as high demand as his fishing charters. He recalls on one such trip being amidst thousands of Common Green Darner dragonflies. Above them were Tree Swallows, and above them were fifty raptors called Mississippi Kites. Captain Wild Bill offers his clients, among other things, what he himself gleaned that day.
“This time I saw colors,” he said. “By me learning about the insects, the birds, and the fish, it adds color to my world.”