PASS-A-GRILLE, Fla. (WFLA) – If you are familiar with fishing, you have probably heard the term “junk fish.” It refers to a fish that, presumably, is not valuable.
Steve Wozniak absolutely despises that term.
“It is a fish and it is the fish I caught that day,” Wozniak said, “and it is wonderful.”
He truly appreciated every one of the more than 2,000 species of fish he caught since he started keeping track of them about 23 years ago. He shared that momentous moment with 8 On Your Side’s Gabrielle Shirley recalling it occurred over an Italian dinner after a fishing excursion. According to Wozniak, he reeled in more fish than his friend.
“We got bickering about which of us had caught more types of fish and the waitress, who wanted no part of this, brought us a yellow legal pad and two pens,” he said, “and we listed away and I had more.”
Wozniak took that piece of paper home with him and he decided to add to it.
“I said, ‘Wow! This is kind of a cool thing to add a different angle to fishing,’ and I started looking at what I caught,” he said, “and I started trying to get more variety on trips. I travel quite a bit internationally.”
Wozniak is an executive at a software company so he is still traveling and he is still fishing. He flew from his home in California to Tampa on May 12 and the very next day, he found himself on Pass-a-Grille Beach fishing for his 2,000th species.
“It adds a level of nervousness to it,” he admitted. “Every time you get a bite there, it was fairly pressure-packed for me.”
Wozniak stated he had been hoping to catch a Gulf flounder, a fish that has succeeded in eluding him.
“When I hooked this thing,” he recalled, “I knew just from how it fought it was going to be a searobin. I did not know which one.”
Luckily, his friend, Martini Arostegui, was able to help him identify it. Ryan Crutchfield, who fishes in the area, also joined them.
“I pulled it up, we got it on the beach, and we got the book,” Wozniak said. “I had one of my best friends tell me what it was and it was great.”
Wozniak caught his 2,000th species, a leopard searobin, on Pass-a-Grille Beach.
“It was a big thrill,” he said. “I did not make too much of a show in public but I took everyone out to a big, steak dinner at Fleming’s that night.”
They celebrated the catch but then they moved on to the next catch. Wozniak traveled from Florida to Alabama where he has already caught at least 15 new species.
“All of these crazy, little fish are biting pretty well. It is a hoot!” exclaimed Wozniak. “You never know for sure how many you have gotten on a trip because you have to go home, go through the photos, look in the books, talk to scientists and other folks in the species hunting community, and identify everything.”
It is a process but it is a process Wozniak knows well. He records his catches on an Excel spreadsheet, which keeps growing and growing because he keeps going and going too.
“There is no numerical end goal,” he said. “When I hit 1,000, I stupidly promised 2,000. I said, ‘Now, I am going for 2,000,’ and here we are, 10 years and nine months and some change later. I would love to get 3,000. I would love to get more than that. We will see how long I go, how long my feet hold out and all of that other good stuff but the goal is the next one.”
The next one, which could be big or small or beautiful or ugly, is the perfect one for Wozniak.
“The ugly fish are what has put me where I am,” he said, “so God bless them!”