Captain Norm Isaacs is best known for his many television appearances on fishing shows, namely the popular and exciting Big Game Fishing The World, where he can be seen battling some of the largest ocean fish in the world.
Nowadays, people would be surprised to know that Norm grew up as a freshwater fishing enthusiast and regularly competed in bass tournaments. But in the late 60’s, the South Texas coast lured him to the ocean and Norm became an offshore skipper in South Padre Island.
The chance to battle even larger saltwater fish brought him to Kona, Hawaii, in the early 80’s, where he spent many years perfecting his offshore techniques. Now, instead of competing in bass competitions, Norm has won and placed in over thirty offshore tournaments.
Norm is a longtime friend of BD Outdoors. We caught up with him recently and asked him some questions so our readers can get to know him better.
Q: What’s your favorite place to fish for marlin?
A: Well, I’d have to say it’s a split between Kona and the Great Barrier Reef. I ran a boat in Australia for a month, and it was a wonderful experience. Kona also has some phenomenal fishing, with lots of variety. When you’re out there fishing, your next bite could be a 20-pound spearfish, or it could be a one thousand pound marlin. You just never know, and that’s one thing I love about it.
Q: What is your favorite type of marlin to catch—blues or blacks?
A: That’s tough to answer. In my experience, generally speaking, blacks are more active around the boat, and they are more aerial. But blues are a better fight pound for pound. If someone wants a real battle, a blue will fight harder than a black, most of the time, although sometimes in my experience I’ve even seen it vary by the location. For example, we’ve had 500-pound blues in Midway fight for only 20 minutes, but 500-pounders in Kona were taking us all over the ocean.
Q: What’s your favorite lure and its position in the spread?
A: My favorite lure is a wide-range Moldcraft soft-head. There are several reasons for that. They’re not expensive, they can be run at any speed and in any sea conditions, and they are proven to catch everything from 10-pound dolphin to 1000-pound marlin. The first grander in Australia caught on a lure was on one of these. As far as the position in the spread, that varies from boat to boat.
Q: A lot of tournaments support charities. What’s your favorite charity event?
A: It’s the World Sailfish Championship. That tournament has contributed an enormous amount of money over the years, and I’ve been happy to be involved in it. It primarily helps raise funds for Boggy Creek, which is a children’s charity for kids with serious diseases or terminal illnesses. It also helps support Don Shula’s foundation for breast cancer research.
Q: What’s your next adventure?
A: I’m scheduled to do a series of shows out of Costa Rica and possibly Nicaragua. If all the loose ends are tied up, we will be filming in a month or two.
Q: Are you currently on TV?
A: Right now you can see me on Big Game Fishing the World. It’s on a lot of channels, including Comcast Midwest, Tuff TV, Untamed Sports, America One Sports, and some smaller cable outlets. The show reaches about 65 million households, throughout the USA and beyond.
Q: Why did you stop drinking?
A: (laughs) I got tired of waking up wondering who I knew that had cement furniture and all their locks on the wrong side of the door. Plus, I realized I’m allergic to drinking. That’s right, when I drink, I break out in spots… spots like Tijuana, and jail. Since I put the plug in the jug, which was over thirty years ago, I haven’t woken up in a country without remembering how I got there.
Q: Have you embraced the Internet and social media yet? What do you like and dislike about it?
A: I have to a small degree, more for necessity than anything else. Computers are a little bit of a mystery for me. We didn’t have them in school. I do like it and see the value, but it’s a little bit scary at times. Like on Facebook, when people see that I’m on there, they often ask questions, and when I answer them, the questions just keep coming. I feel like I’m being rude if I have to stop answering.
Q: What’s your favorite boat?
A: The one that gets me home. I’ve operated all sorts of boats, from big ones to tiny ones. I ran a 31 Bertram for thousands of hours, and I’ve run Cabos, Vikings, etc. It really all depends on conditions, and whether or not I’m making a long run or a short run. If I’m traveling far, I will want a big boat. But if I’m fishing somewhere locally, I just don’t need a big one.
Q: How’s your son, Darren, these days? Audiences watched him grow up on your TV show.
A: Darren is doing great. Right now he’s a skipper on a Viking, based out of South Florida. They had it down in Panama for a couple seasons, and they’ve spent parts of the last two years down in the Dominican Republic.
Q: Where do you live now and how do you occupy your time?
A: Right now I live in Hobe Sound, Florida, and I love to fish. It doesn’t matter if it’s going after sailfish offshore or little bass in the ponds. I don’t charter anymore, but, besides the television shows, I love to do seminars for the public.
Q: Who is your favorite billfish artist?
A: Both Carey Chen and Guy Harvey. I know both of them very well. I’ve fished with both of them. There’s also some really good ones that aren’t as well known.
Q: What’s the best meal you’ve ever had?
A: There are two of them, and they were both in Australia. One was a coral trout we speared off the Great Barrier Reef, and we fixed it and ate it that night. I don’t know what the chef did to it, but it was very basic and very good. The other one was a hamburger after being away for a month offshore on that mothership. We were being fed eight-course fancy meals on that boat, and that’s all great, but after a month of fancy food, I was ready for a hamburger.
Q: What’s the most memorable catch of your life?
A: That’s easy. You’ve probably heard of the Make A Wish Foundation, which helps kids with terminal illnesses fulfill a dream or take any trip they want. Well, there was this 11 year old kid in the program, and his wish was to come to Hawaii and fish with me. He was the nicest, sharpest little kid I had ever met, and boy was he into his fishing. It was a delight to have him on board, but the fishing was not easy. We fished deep water, shallow water, with everything from live baits to lures, and we could not get a strike! I didn’t know if he realized that there are days when you just don’t catch any marlin despite your best try. Oh man, I was getting worried, but I wasn’t going to quit until we ran out of gas. Talk about pressure, that’s pressure. Then at about 3 or 4 pm, a beautiful 300 pound blue marlin came in on our spread and hit the lure. He fought that fish beautifully all the way to the boat, and he got to touch it, tag it, and watch it swim away. It was a huge thrill for him, but an even bigger one for me.