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Legendary Captain Lee Carver

Legendary Captain Lee Carver

Fish of the Week Judge

For this special edition Captain of the Month, we bring you the Captain who inspired Ponce Fish Network, a man who has devoted himself to our continuation week after week. Captain Lee Carver, a legend in his own right, dominated the charter fishing industry here in Ponce Inlet for the last 50 years. While his days of sport & head-boat fishing are behind him, he continues to hold his ranking and is now our weekly judge of the best charter catches in the inlet. Ponce Fish Network was built to give Captain Lee's former vessel, the F.V. Super Critter, a social platform to build off of and grow from. In the wake of the business' closure, the Super Critter serves as our inspiration and devotion to the cause, and will always have a special place in our hearts.

Captain Lee Carver moved to the Daytona area when he was just 13 and was instantly fascinated by the area's fishing culture. He spent his teens learning the ins & outs of saltwater and surf fishing, winning his first tournament at 19. Sitting on his balcony overlooking the Halifax River he tells me the story and laughs, noting when he caught the winning triggerfish that day- he wasn't even sure what kind of fish it was. I laugh with him because if you know this legend, you definitely can understand how hard it is to wrap your head around the idea that once upon a time he didn't know. As we sit he continues, his next tournament win would be a couple of years later; a stud cobia, something I am all too familiar with from his Super Critter days.

By the early 1970s, Captain Lee was hooked, despite being the one who was usually doing the hooking- and his career path was set in stone. In 1973 he landed his first mating job aboard the Sarus, owned & Captained by Dick Shine, which got his foot in the door while he learned more. His next and last mating job would be aboard the Virginia M, owned by Greg LaCour, which he would spend the next several years on. By 1978, his then roommate and friend Captain Dick Harper (F.V. Snow White II), would convince him to get his Captain's license, marking the start of a truly unforgettable career. Captain Lee received his license in 1978 and two months after was offered the helm of the Snow White III, owned by Al Kline. While he remembers Captain Paul Nelson Sr. keeping watch over him later on, he chuckles as he tells me one of his first trips he went it entirely alone. That feat may seem doable nowadays, but the equipment differences between now and the late 1970s are something worth noting. I remind him he is a natural, which should be an easy fact for him to acknowledge, but he does not. While I know that the man I am interviewing is a legend, it is very clear he is humble when it comes to admitting that.

Captain Lee Carver ran the Snow White III for seven years, before taking a job with Buddy LaCour running his 40-foot Viking. While he was a mesmerizing headboat Captain and bottom fisherman, his true passion had always been sport fishing, and his favorite will always be sailfishing. He ran the Viking for 3 years when a tournament opportunity would come up that would create the connections that would determine the rest of his career. Captain Lee adjusts himself in his chair as he starts to tell me the story, not just any story either, but THE story of THE fish. Every Captain has a story about their personal best fish, but this one hits differently for me. The thing about Captaincy is, how many fish a Captain catches in their respective career, there are usually too many great catches and too many memorable feats. The ultimate feat is the one that tops it all; the one that stuns the Captain that's seen it all. That's what dreams are truly made of.

Captain Lee talks about the lawyer from Deland he took out for a tournament, a trip in which he would meet his future boss and friend Charlie Schammel, and a catch that would forever be solidified in the history books. The tournament was the 16th Annual Invitational Bluewater Tournament hosted by the Northeast Florida Marlin Association in Camachee Island, and Captain Lee would put Charlie on a record-breaking marlin that would drop jaws back at the weigh-in. The blue marlin put up quite the fight, taking half of the 80lb line during the 45-minute fight, and took the 5 person crew almost an hour to get through the tuna door because of its girth. Reading the articles I have my confirmation of Lee's humbleness, as it quotes him directly, 'I'm never comfortable until a tournament is over," he said. "Our catch looks good, but other boats could come up with points in different categories. We've got to go back out tomorrow and Friday and keep trying." (Gary Smits, Sportswriter) He never quits. The blue marlin caught that day on the Critter Gitter weighed a whopping 608 lbs, a tournament record at the time. While they didn't win the tournament, being out-pointed by 2 blue marlin releases, they were certainly the talk of the tournament & newspapers far and wide.

Captain Lee has had lots of other tournament wins over the years; including 2 Striker wins, the Stuart Light Tackle tournament, and the NSB Angler with none other than Captain Tim Garrett (F.V. Waterproof Charters Fishing ) & Captain Joe Lyall (F.V. Blackhawk), as well as all the wins previously mentioned. He finally settled back into head-boat life again with Charlie Schammel, owner of the Critter Fleet, after a couple of years of running boats in New Jersey & North Carolina. Captain Lee would be the last Captain the Super Critter had at the helm, his final leg running from 1998 to 2021. Over those last twenty years though, he earned his rightful place at the top and will forever be known by customers for a deck covered in fresh fish, and by our Captains for his trademark 'Too Easy' over the VHF.

The adage rings true here; 'home is where your heart is' and you can still find Captain Lee on the water daily. These days he helms Ponce Inlet Watersports Eco & River fishing tours, a well-deserved break after spending most of his life out on the open seas. You can still hear him daily over the VHF offshore though, his verbiage seeps through every mate and Captain who has worked with him or been inspired by him through the years. The greatest lesson he ever taught will forever be if you are doing what you love... it's all 'too easy'.

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