Cast of a thousand

Steve Wozniak's coalfish in Norway was his 1,000th different species. Courtesy Steve Wozniak

Sitting in the middle of a Norwegian fjord, Steve Wozniak expected something along the lines of lightning bolts from the hammer of Thor.

But no. No fanfare. No banners. No confetti. No nothing. Just still quiet and a bank of fog further back in the fjord.

"There was nothing," he said. "I was just sitting there, just drooling in my lap like some kind of moron."

His smallish coalfish, Pollachius virens, caught around 10 a.m. on July 21, culminated a journey of 10 years, including more than a million air miles, thousands of hours on the water and thousands more figuring out what exactly he caught and where he could catch others unlike it.

With a small fish and short fight, the 47-year-old from San Ramon, Calif., reached his big goal of catching 1,000 species of fish. It didn't come in epic form he had imagined.

"It's one of those things where none of these milestones really are how you envisioned," he said. "When Henry Aaron passed Babe Ruth for the most home runs, the ball just scraped over the fence. He would have rather had it go into the upper deck."

Wozniak's big moment was unceremonious for sure. A young German named Kevin Hobbins, a guide out of the village of Vangshylla on the Skarnsund Sound, had talked with Wozniak about the quest and said they should be able to find a coalfish rather quickly.


Cast of a Thousand

When it was yanked up on deck, "He asked, 'Is that it?'" Wozniak wrote in his 1000fish's blog. "I said 'I think so.'"

They snapped some pictures -- that's how he records his catches -- and the coalfish was back in the fjord. Wozniak sat and reflected, wondering if anyone else could hear the "chorus of angels singing 'Hallelujah.'" He was grateful and humble, saying he thought about some way to thank all the people who've assisted in making his quest possible.

"I did not expect to get to 1,000 in Norway," he said. "I didn't expect this much variety."

He had said he wanted a huge "Atlantic blue marlin or something like" for his milestone catch and have it captured on video, but it ended up just two guys fishing, kind of like it all began.

Wozniak's species quest was borne from a bar bet to see who had caught more, and it didn't take long for Wozniak to get "stupid" about pursuing 1,000. As vice president of license compliance at SAP, he travels worldwide and maps out fishing trips in his off time.

An interest in biology and his inquisitiveness of what could be on the other end of the line spurred him on.

"Back when I was a kid, it was just always fascinating to me," he said of fishing. "Watch your dad catch a fish and it seems like he's got magic powers. The idea of you going out and catching one just seemed so far away.

"When I became a quasi-adult, I starting figuring out I could catch a few fish on my own."

As the Forrest Gump of fishing -- "You never know what you're going to get" -- Wozniak has held onto that childlike thrill to toss a hook and line into drainage ditches, mall ponds, tiny streams or any body of water to see what might bite.

"There's just so many wild, crazy, different things out there," he said. "Now and then I'll pull up a weird whatzit that I've never caught before."

Yet it isn't always about new species. Wozniak said there are fishing venues, like casting for pike on the Thames River, that he loves so much he will always do. He's fortunate to have a fish friendly girlfriend, Marta. She understands his passion but isn't always sympathetic, especially when she reels in something he never has.

On their recent trip, Marta landed a European plaice, a type of flounder, and wouldn't let Wozniak forget he hasn't crossed that species off his list.

"She would be sitting in the back of the boat singing, 'There's a plaaaaace for us,'" he said. "We're talking about going to eat and she's saying, 'We're going to try a new place.' It was harsh.

"It's all good fun. We've been together six years; she just has a lot of fun. When I'm a jerk, the fish gods seem to punish me."

Like on a trip to Hawaii. Wozniak said he enjoys one particular concrete jetty where he's marked off a dozen or so species. The plan was for Marta to pick him up after his morning of fishing, but when she got there, he didn't want to go. She asked him to fix her up a rod, and boy did he.

"I give her line too heavy, hooks too big and wrong bait, figuring she'd be out of the way," he said. "And she promptly caught in two drops two species I've never even seen. It was just horrible. And she's like, 'Can we leave now?'"


Then again, sometimes the fishing gods are all about Steve Wozniak. After catching a small eel, Marta turned to Wozniak, all smuglike and said: "Can you figure out what this is so you can add it to list of things you haven't caught?"

Double uh-oh.

"Right then, I have one on my line," Wozniak said. "So there seems to be some universal justice to some of this."

Wozniak doesn't think he'll ever get the best of his other female foil, 12-year-old Jaime Hamamoto, unless it's in his blog. The daughter of Hawaiian fishing buddy Wade Hamamoto, she effortlessly catches fish, which appears to taunt Wozniak to no end. He's dedicated an entire blog entry to her titled, "The Worst Little Girl in the World."

Unknowingly, she gets under his skin with such innocent statements like, "Steve, what's this one?" Their mutual love and admiration are apparent, as on his last trip she sent Wozniak home with a little gift in his tackle bag. He found the stinky dead crab 24 hours later.

It elicited this declaration from Wozniak: "This is war, you little snot."

As war goes, Wozniak's assault on fish is far from over. He concedes the second thousand will be harder, but he also has set goals to record 100 IGFA records with what he calls the "underrepresented fish." On his way, he hopes to fish in 100 countries -- 37 more to go -- and all the states -- he has 13 to go.

"I can go to places like the Maldives Islands, Mauritius, Peru, Ecuador," he said. "I can go for a week and catch 50, 60 species of fish, because everything is new. It's doable. It will keep me busy."

The quest didn't slow after 1,000. A screaming reel awoke him from his celebratory trance and he was after another. He caught two more on the day and five more on the trip. A surprise catch of a sand sole at home in Half Moon Bay has his tally at 1,008.

After writing a long thank you note to all the guides, scientists and others who have helped him, he'll be back out with fishing rod in hand.

"The next goal for me is always the next one, just one more," he said. "I hope someone breaks it some day. I hope when we're all gone, there's still species to get."

For more on Wozniak's quest, check out Grand ambition. For the complete photo gallery, click here. Check out Wozniak's account of his quest at 1000fish's blog.