The Bohannon Clan Loses One Of Its Own

Chris Bohannon, well-known and much-admired Captain\Angler of the Bohannon Clan died suddenly in his sleep on October 4, 2019, according to his wife and companion, Gail Anderson. They had scheduled a doctor’s appointment on September 18, and 16 days later, he was gone. Scans indicated he had metastasized Stage 4 cancer of the brain, liver, lungs, and bones.

Gail sorrowfully proclaimed,

“It happened so fast. It was not a prolonged decline, more like a tsunami!”

She further observed sadly, “My precious gift from God completed me. The joy Chris shared with his world and the influence he left on so many was his pleasure. He lived life his way, and remained true to his uniqueness.”
Chris came from a long line of fishermen, both sports and commercial, and he left a line of progeny to follow behind him.

A Celebration of Life was held on October 26, for this member of the brotherhood of fishermen, grandson of Cornelius “Neil” Bohannon (dec.), son of Jack Bohannon (dec.), brother of Kevin C. (dec.), father of Tara (Bohannon) Newton (R. C. “Bubba” Newton’s wife,) Kevin Bohannon, Brett Bohannon, and Christina (Bohannon) Holt, nephew of Charles “Lindy” Bohannon (dec.), cousin to Mike “The Beak” Hurt, and proud grandfather. 

The intimate affair was filled to overflowing as friends and family arrived to pay their respects; a harpist performed softly at the entrance; John and Holly Kirkpatrick served swordfish tacos, and others brought favorite dishes to add to the potluck buffet.
Throughout the afternoon and early evening, Mariachis entertained as favorite stories and memories of Chris’s life were exchanged. As guests departed, most shared a hug, and reminded one another to “Keep a Smile,” traditions both Chris and his dad had handed down to those whose lives they had touched.

Chris and his father, Jack, fished on many of the same boats over the years, not only in San Diego but also on the seas between San Diego and Cabo San Lucas.
Jack’s enthusiasm for fishing was contagious, and his acquired acquaintances were a wealth of resources to one another; his knowledge and techniques were persuasive and shared from boat to boat and to his sons.

His influence became widespread – from Fisherman’s Landing, Southwestern Yacht Club, the Marlin Club of San Diego, Marina Cortez, and most points in between.
Jack’s motivation came from instilling joy and passion in anyone interested in leaving the dock, and his objective? Every trip he made should be fun and memorable. If that meant improving glassing skills, knot tying, getting in a drop back, working the jigs, casting better, catching the first (marlin), or becoming high boat for the season, great!

But it also could mean if he had to resort to tying a bucket on the line and loosening the drag so the clicker would go off for someone to reel in a bucket of water, thinking he had a “fish,” he couldn’t let a newcomer go home skunked!

Jack was able to convey that sense of humor along with his enthusiasm for fishing to his sons, Chris, and Kevin.

Working as the dock boy at the Marlin Club of San Diego as a kid, Chris did whatever he could to be involved in the fishing world like his dad; he even cleaned the toilets on whatever boat Jack was working on at the time.

He realized the value of accurate casting, so he began weighing different bait, i.e., mackerel, sardine, anchovy, and squid. Then filling socks with sand of approximately the same weight, he would rig casting rods with different pound test lines and set up targets in the park at varying distances and he would cast over and over until he was satisfied with his accuracy.

When Chris came of age, he elected to join the Coast Guard. Upon the completion of his tour, he moved to San Diego and he studied at the University of San Diego.

As there was a surplus of teachers locally at the time, his professors encouraged him to continue his fishing if he wanted to remain in San Diego. And so, he followed in his father’s footsteps.

Though Chris chose to fish on yacht sport fishers, he was connected to the commercial fleet through his father, his brother, and many Bohannon relatives, and he always had a special place in his heart for members of that industry.

Chris had some fantastic years on the “Madrugador,” the same boat Jack was running when his nephew Mike “The Beak” Hurt caught his first marlin with his uncle as Captain.

A remarkable roster of well-known names, in addition to the Bohannon’s, crewed aboard that boat: “The Beak,” Pete Groesbeck, Billy Miyagawa, John Loyd, Pea Bod, Kit Ferrell, Maurice Smith, and Michael Berry, to name a few.

Chris was probably best known for his time on the “M & M Special,” owned by Mark McDowell. All the fish they caught were weighed in at the Marlin Club of San Diego as most of the annual contests in those days were scored by weight, and then the fish were distributed to orphanages, friends, and family, or the Portuguese Hall on Point Loma for Festa.

In 1997, Chris was in Cabo San Lucas for the season running “Jonathan IV,” when he received a devastating phone call. His father had died from an aneurysm.

In a brief period, two West Coast sports fishing legends had perished; Jack’s death was the second; Gene Grimes, the admired Captain of the ”Legend” for many years, and Jack’s best friend had died only two months prior.

Carl McLarand, owner of the “Legend” at that time, and Captain Tommy Neikirk led the large fleet of boats in a very moving ceremony distributing Jack’s ashes off Point Loma following his Celebration of Life at the Marlin Club of San Diego.

Before the service, Chris made a phone call to a young woman Jack had often spoken of affectionately. Jack had met Gail Anderson when she lived in Cabo San Lucas while married into another San Lucas pioneer family, the Orozco’s.

Now a teacher in the San Diego area, Chris wanted her to be aware of Jack’s demise and invited her to attend the service.

Now divorced, Gail’s attendance changed the trajectory of their lives, and as awkward a first date as that may sound, they married a few months later.

Chris left “Jonathan IV” for the 60-foot Hatteras “Fish This” that summer. Again, he was on that boat in Cabo San Lucas for the season when another horrific phone call came his way; his boss had died of a heart attack while home for Christmas. Captain’s jobs were few and far between at that point.

Gail had thrown Chris a surprise birthday party in Catalina earlier that year, and some of the local fishermen on the Island encouraged Chris to take up residency there. The couple soon re-located, and Chris enjoyed a break from running boats. The many odd jobs he took offered him an excellent diversion while on the Island. He fished often, but only recreationally, still finding himself in billfish tournaments each September – on “Bad Attitude“; they won the first “Zane Grey” Tournament aboard “Atun” and they won a Catalina Island Yacht Club tournament, as well as with Beak aboard “Hana Pa“, and other boats.

Carl Lambert called the day before Chris died…he really wanted Chris to see this photo. Through much emotion, he shared that Chris had worked tirelessly with him to get comfortable with the 39-thread linen. “Tell him that I love him. Tell him that I respect him. And tell him thanks for all the help on that 39 thread”

While on the Island, he met Carl Lambert, a local hotel owner, Tuna Club member, and owner of “Non-Taxing.” Chris and Carl shared a common interest in sportfishing. Chris embraced the Tuna Club with its impressive history spanning over a century in Avalon.

He ceased fishing “money” tournaments, transitioned off the Island, and was pleased to work for Carl full-time.

Familiar with the old-school fishing, Chris was a good fit for the Tuna Club traditions. He moved south to Huntington Harbor and skippered the “Pescador” for Doug Daniels, past president and member of the Tuna Club.

Chris increasingly grew fonder of the Tuna Club and its members who shared their passion for sportfishing. As a captain of a member’s boat, it was a critically important shift for Chris.

He kept a notepad and pen close at hand—always comparing current conditions with his decades of experience, recording it in his journals; searching for tidal and bait conditions, changes, and recurrences that could give his team the best opportunity for competing. He worked hard at noting weather and water conditions and how they influenced the fishing outcome, and he shared all of his acquired knowledge and skills with his boss.

Although Chris took fishing seriously, he was constantly reminded of his father’s admonition years before, “Your number one job is making sure everyone on board is happy; make sure they have fun—that they keep a smile.”

In 2018, Chris returned to his roots in San Diego, where he was honored to see his family names on the memorial tiles at the end of Shelter Island.

Chris was proud of his sons Kevin and Brett, and his son-in-law Bubba, now all on the waterfront carrying on the fishing tradition of the Bohannon Clan.

And he loved his grandchildren. His life served as a reminder to others: hug often, share what you know, and make life good for those you love.

Chris’s remarkable achievements and accomplishments are a monument to the Bohannon family; they will be added to the history of those who preceded him and will embellish the legacy of those who follow.

Get more great stories on the fishing history and West Coast anglers and captains from Gary Graham.

That Baja Guy-Gary Graham, the BD Outdoors Baja Editor, has more than five decades fishing experience off of Southern California and the Baja Peninsula. From light tackle and fly up to offshore marlin fishing, Gary has experienced all facets of this fishery. He's set several fly-fishing world record...