Through the years, Angling Unlimited has been blessed with exceptional captains. Sadly, Captain Phil, a pillar of production and customer service, has to move on after 13 amazing seasons.
Phil’s AU story began during his college days at North Dakota State University (NDSU), where he met fellow AU-alum Nick Hoban. Intrigued by Nick’s summer job opportunity, Phil contacted Captain Chuck to inquire about a position. Phil spoke to Chuck on the phone and was told AU had one remaining position – fish processor. Phil initially turned down the position, because he wanted to be on the water. But, as fate would have it, Chuck visited Fargo to meet with Nick and pressed Phil to join the team. During that meeting, Phil gazed at Chuck’s Sitka photo albums and knew he couldn’t say no.
Phil spent his first season as processor, but also deckhanded a bit with Captain Tom. That taste of the ocean brought Phil back for another summer – this time as a full-time deckhand for Captain Ben Baumann. He credits those three years with Ben for his success as a captain.
“I learned so much from my time with Ben,” said Phil. “He was a great mentor and we were a solid team on the water. It never felt like work, because we were always having fun.” Phil earned his captain’s license in 2004.
Many of Captain Ben’s groups grew and guests who knew Phil’s work ethic and smarts as a deckhand jumped at the chance to have him as a skipper. Phil’s genuine personality, leadership, and drive impressed his clients, which made for many returns and requests in the years that followed. Phil began his captaining tenure by splitting time with Nick Hoban. The two alternated groups as captain and deckhand throughout the season. Then, the following year, Phil became full-time, captaining Gannet for two years and finishing with seven years on Larus.
“I hope clients will remember my hard work ethic and my devotion to helping them catch fish,” said Phil. “I was very dedicated to making it their best trip possible.”
Each day had its special moments. From the daily drive through the serene straights, to a client catching their first king, to a humpback whale sighting, to landing a big halibut. Phil loved that enduring quality about the daily adventure in Sitka. He also noted a few career highlights.
“The big halibut in 2010 was probably the defining moment of my career,” Phil shared. “It’s the story I’ve had to retell the most and it definitely got the most publicity.”
In May 2010, Captain Phil and client Jim Peterson landed a 430-pound halibut. It set the benchmark for big halibut at AU and was only 29 pounds shy of an Alaska state record!
Another lasting memory came this past year when 13-year-old Keegan Gallagher landed a 48-pound king at Point Mary. It was not only one of the largest kings Phil landed as captain, but also having a young kid catch it made it unforgettable.
Phil’s summers in Sitka gave him a family. He met his wife, Brielle, while she was a hostess and he a deckhand. They have a nearly one-year-old daughter named Zaley.
Many of his clients evolved to friendships and most crew members feel like family. A majority of the crew attended his wedding and a few were even in it! Phil shared he will miss the people most as he leaves the helm. “Every year the crew has been awesome and different,” said Phil. “Even though people move on, they’re never really gone. We pick up as if no time went by when we meet again.”
After 13 memorable seasons, Captain Phil is saying farewell to full-time captaining. But, he says it’s not goodbye. He doesn’t rule out future opportunities to captain for AU. As the saying goes, “You can take the man out of Alaska, but you can’t take Alaska out of the man.”
“I’m not sure who’ll miss Phil more, the customers or Chuck and me,” said Captain Tom. “For 13 years this bright eyed, smart, hard working guy has showed up for work ready to give 110 percent – every day. I can’t count how many times Phil has come up to me after he put in a 12 hour day only to ask if there is anything else I need him to do. It was always a genuine offer – he meant anything from pull a boat for outdrive service to emptying the trash. And, he was still smiling.”
Captain Phil plans to earn his teaching license to transition from substitute teaching to a full-time position. His ideal role is teaching 5th or 6th graders in the Grand Rapids school district where his wife Brielle also teaches. Good luck, Captain Phil. You will be missed by the people who worked with you and the people who fished with you.