Angler’s amazing feat: 1,000 species of fish and counting

Steve Wozniak is arguably the world’s most prolific fisherman, having recently attained a milestone that probably will never be matched: 1,000 species of fish landed via rod and reel, after visits to 63 countries and 37 U.S. states, and flying more than one million miles.

“Actually, I’m up to 1,008 now,” said the Northern Californian software company executive, acknowledging that what began as a casual hobby several years ago “has become a twisted obsession.”

The 1,000-species mark was obtained when he reeled in a small, nondescript coalfish off Norway.

“Early on I thought the 1,000th fish would be something exciting like a giant blue marlin in Aruba, but it just happened to be a coalfish,” he said.

Wozniak, 47, who travels extensively on business, devoted practically all spare time during his travels to employ local guides and target new species on the quest to reach 1,000.

He used traditional tackle to catch common game fish such as marlin, tuna, grouper, halibut, trout and perch. But he used extraordinarily light line and miniscule hooks to lure some of the smaller, truly obscure denizens from the depths of oceans rivers, lakes, “and everything in between, including hotel fountains,” he joked.

He released the majority of fish for the sake of conservation, after they were photographed.

Among exceptions was a large moray eel that exploded in a fit of rage after being hauled aboard the chartered boat off Portugal. Wozniak and John the guide leaped onto deck chairs while letting “El Diablo” the eel wear itself out enough to be safely dealt with.

“So John and I stood bravely on the chairs, like brave 9-year old girls bravely avoiding savage mice,” Wozniak wrote afterward on his blog.

Among his strangest catches are an evil-eyed puffer caught on a river in South Africa, and something called a sarcastic fringehead, tiny but “pound for pound the meanest fish in the universe,” landed off Central California.

If it ends with the word “fish,” Wozniak probably caught one. On his list are sailfish, monkfish, wolffish, treefish, soapfish, parrotfish, porkfish, lionfish, catfish, roosterfish, triggerfish, redfish, goatfish and so on.

Also in his logbook of catches are striped bass, steelhead, cod, tuna, salmon, pompano, shark, and dozens of species people might not have heard of, including a clown featherback, a klipfish, a spotted wobbegong and a rock cale.

During his travels Wozniak also set 15 International Game Fish Assn. world records, mostly involving species that had not previously been caught and submitted for record consideration by the IGFA.

Wozniak’s longest battle was five hours with light line against a 251-pound tuna. His most cherished catch was that of an Atlantic salmon because he had launched numerous unsuccessful campaigns before finally logging the catch off Northern Ireland.

The IGFA does not recognize the number of species an angler catches, but verified Wozniak’s 15 world-record catches. Wozniak, an IGFA member, says he has photographic evidence of every catch and, in most cases, he has guides as witnesses.

Only one known person has come close to matching Wozniak’s feat: Patrick Sebile, a lure manufacturer and an IGFA representative, recently logged the capture of his 600th species.But with Wozniak still feeding his obsession — he’s trying to arrange a trip to remote Eastern European waters — he’ll be next to impossible to catch.

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— Photos: Steve Wozniak (top left) poses with a Pacific sailfish caught off Costa Rica; a treefish landed off Santa Barbara, Calif. (middle), and a bluewing gurnard bagged off Botany Bay, Australia.