Captain Perry Romig

21 Sep Captain Perry Romig

It is with a heavy heart I write this post.  This week I have lost my mentor, my fishing buddy, my Captain, Perry Romig.  A father, husband, a skilled craftsman and outdoorsman, Perry influenced everyone who he was around.  “Hey Slick” he would say whenever he saw you, or me, or anyone (unless you were a girl and it was “Hey Gal”.)  We all were slick, his nickname was slick.  He told me it came from when he used to paint cars years ago, he would do a slick job, and I am sure it was.  Still years later he was putting a slick finish on boats in his shop.  He was a master at fiberglass work and thousands of boats his hand has passed over, including my own just a few months ago.  In a day he designed and built a new structure to keep my engines from literally falling off.  He was as good as they come in his trade.

Perry catching rockfish off the beach

Perry catching rockfish off the beach

Perry's 50ft boat, the "Topless"

Perry’s 50ft boat, the “Topless”


Perry loved to fish, I think that is even an understatement.  He was fishing well before I was born.  I met him about 15 years ago and he was just building the “Topless” his very own 50ft sportfishing boat.  He built this boat from scratch, starting with a bare Evans hull and doing every bit of work himself with the help of friends.  Imagine one of us trying to take on a job like this, building your own boat?  And 50ft worth of sportfishing boat at that!  That type of skill is something you do not see every day.  I was just getting into offshore fishing around the year 2000 and started hanging around down at the dock in Greenbackville, Virginia.  A commercial fishing harbor with crabbers, monkfishermen, and one main charter boat, Perry’s.  By the time I met him, he had a reputation of being the best sportfishing captain around.  My friends and I would be fishing on smaller boats, having hardly a clue what we are doing and day after day Perry would come rolling in on his old boat, the “Miss Alice” with great  catches of tuna and dolphin.  He never had a mate on any of his boats, I can remember someone asking why and he replied “no one can do it like I want it done.”  That was the truth, he had a way that he wanted things done, and his way sure worked.


The first year he built the Topless he finally got a mate to help him.  The boat at this time was not even completed, but that didn’t stop Perry from fishing.  Topless at the time literally had no top, but Perry was still out there.  The only thing that could make Perry stop work was a fishing trip.  Jamie worked for him the first year and I would hang out down at the wharf and watch him roll in with great catches of tuna.  That year there was an awesome yellowfin bite 60 miles south at a place called “Waynes world” off Virginia beach.  They were doing long trips every day, but loading the boat every time.  I spent the summer jumping around on friends boats, picking at a few fish here and there, but Perry set the standard, not just for me but the whole harbor and all of

He could rebuild any boat no matter what shape it was in

He could rebuild any boat no matter what shape it was in

Chincoteague for that matter.  Even the boats at Wachapreague had names for him.  Captain Billy Gingell who was running the American Made at that time would always call him “Slick-ovich” after the great line of Rybovich boat builders.  Captain Billy went on to run the Waterman out of Virginia beach for a few years but would always love to keep in touch with Perry.  Captain George McCullough on the Janie Mac also from Wachapreague, was the top captain there for years.  Perry always respected Capt. George and I am sure learned quite a few things from him.  When Perry started running his own trips, and fishing in Georges holes, well, George would get a little vocal about it.  “Perrrrry”  He would say with the gruffest voice you have ever heard on the radio, “What are you doin’ over there Perry.”  The two of them respected each other and years later I was lucky enough to to have Capt George join us on the Topless for a trip, even then he was glad to give me some tips, and Perry too.  

Perry on the bridgfe

Perry on the bridge


Later that first year the Topless was commissioned, Perry had the large tower built on it.  This gave the boat the real “sportfisher” look.  I spent the winter in college, still riding down to the docks when I had the chance.  Perry spent the winter taking parties rockfishing in the ocean.  At this time it was uncharted territory fishing the giant schools of rock off the eastern shore.  He was the only one doing it, and it worked out great for him, for years he had that fishery to himself and he loved it.  Spring came along, Jamie moved on and picked up a ride as a mate on an Ocean city boat and that left an open spot with Perry.  Perry had seen me plenty of times down at the dock, and I had fished a fun trip or two with him.  

One day a mutual friend of ours, Paul, was chatting with Perry and mentioned that I would love to work for him if he need a hand.  I never thought he would actually take me up on it.  I knew so little about offshore fishing at the time, the only thing I had was the drive to go.  Paul called me the next day and said “Perry said he will hire you if you want to be a mate this year, he’s down at the boat go talk to him.”  That phone call and ride down to the boat was a big life changer for me.  There was only one way to learn, and that was to be thrown right in the mix of it, and I was.  Perry’s first trip was only a few days away and I was nervous.  Here I am on a big time boat, hardly knowing how to rig a ballyhoo much less leader a fish well or make a good gaff shot, and there is a crew of people who are going to rely on me to help them fish?  Into the fire I go.

Wintertime rockfishing on the "Topless"

Wintertime rockfishing on the “Topless”


Perrys office for many years, a view from the bridge

Perrys office for many years, a view from the bridge

Our first trip was supposed to be a shark trip.  Guy named Mark (sharky Mark) had chartered Perry and loved to shark fish, it was May, the perfect time.  Well, Perry was not too keen on shark fishing, or even stopping the boat for that matter.  Our shark trip took us deep in the Norfolk canyon.  I have no idea to this day why he went there, if there was a temp break, or what he knew, but that is where we went.  We shark fished for about an hour, enticing two GIANT basking sharks around the boat, well over 20ft of shark just swimming around us not interesting in any bait (thank god.)  We were battling the sailor gulls, who can dive to exactly 28ft according to Perry, and they kept eating our shark rigs.  After about an hour Perry had enough of sitting still and we went trolling.  He rigged up the baits, put them out, I stood there watching, not knowing what he really wanted me to “do.”  BAM, fish on.  BAM another one.  We caught 15 bluefin tuna that day, all in the middle of nowhere deep in the Norfolk canyon.  These were the smaller class of bluefin, about 30 lbs, perfect to practice on.  Back at the dock I was helping clean some fish doing the best I could with my limited tuna cleaning experience,  The charter guys said they had a great time and handed me a wad of cash.  Wow, thinking to myself, I just got paid to fish.  


Tuna coming over the rail

Tuna coming over the rail

From that day on, for the next 8 years I do not think I missed a single trip on that boat with Perry.  Fishing with Perry became my life in the Summer.  The next year I had passed Perry’s bait rigging school.  This is back when we would fish 109lb coffee color piano wire for school bluefin tuna and king mackerel.  It’s amazing these days, only 15 or so years later I feel like we have to use expensive 80lb fluorocarbon leader to catch a fish when we caught so many years ago on wire!  That next year was our busiest ever.  We ran 32 days in a row on one stretch and over 80 trips that summer.  Perry and I became a team, he would say what he would want done from the bridge and I could hear and understand him instantly.  He wanted things done a certain way and he trained me to do it, the way HE wanted.  There were reasons behind his methods, some of them I would question in my mind only to see minutes, or years later that there is a good reason.  


Always putting a family on fish

Always putting a family on fish



Mako’s to Mahi He was happiest on the water.

“Slick dog” he would say over the radio, talking to me from the bridge down to the cabin below “Fix me a sandwich and bring me a pear.”  The Wachapreague boats always got a kick out of this and would often ask for a sandwich over the radio as well.  I always tried to keep the boat stocked with food, if not, Perry would starve us!  He would be fine with a pack of crackers and a can of beanie weenies all day, he loved those little cans.  One day we had some potato salad but ran out of plastic spoons.  I made him a plate of whatever food we had that day, and some potato salad on the plate.  Well, no spoons so I had to improvise, I took two plastic butter knives and duct taped them together to make a wide sort of shovel.  Both knifes had their cutting edge to the outside.  I took the plate upstairs (as he would call the bridge.)  About 10 minutes later I hear him hollering from up there.  “Slick, i’m cuttin my mouth to pieces tryin’ to eat this potato said, ain’t we got any spoons!”  The thought of him fighting with those plastic knives taped together still makes me laugh to this day.  


Brian and Kyle Pulling out a big Bluefin on "Topless"

Brian and Kyle Pulling out a big Bluefin on “Topless”

Perry was one of the happiest people I ever knew.  He always had a joke, he would always be smiling.  No matter if we went out, didnt not catch a single fish all day, or I would break things or loose gaffs, he would always be the same happy Perry when he got back to the dock.  Most evenings we would go into the local restaurant at the harbor and as I would be leaving he would say “If it’s any consolation, it all starts over in the morning.”  Because of me, Perry had to “Kyleproof” his boat.  I earned the reputation of being hard on steel, rigger bender, gaff thrower, lure looser and quite a few other things.  I can’t believe he never once raised his voice at me, not a single time, (and I probably deserved it once or twice.)  

Topless at the White Marlin Open

Topless at the White Marlin Open

On my second year we were blind trolling along in 50 fathoms, had not had a bite all day, it was after lunch and the ocean was flat as a lake.  A nice blue marlin charged up on our short rigger, a squid chain with a green machine.  The blue ate it before I could get to the rod.  Had I done nothing we would have hooked the fish fine, but in my mind I needed to pick up that rod and set the hook hard.  SNAP, broke off our only fish of the day and lost his lure.  Another lesson learned for me, but Perry never said a word other than “You broke him off slick.”  Damn I felt so bad, but he never got mad.  He taught me to always look at every rod tip all the time, another lesson I learned the hard way after getting piled on with tuna and heard a shotgun sound go off as the line was wrapped around a rod time.  “Keep an eye on your rod tips slick.”

Sitting at his controls, he battled a lot of fish from here.

Sitting at his controls, he battled a lot of fish from here.


A big striper, Perry loved to fish anywhere.

A big striper, Perry loved to fish anywhere.

As the summers went by we became quite a team, at least in my eyes.  After every trip we would put up our catch flags, and ride through the Chincoteague Inlet, stopping at the Chincoteague Inn bar to wait for the old bridge to open.  The people at the bar would cheer when we held up the fish we caught.  He would sometimes book charters for the next day right there.  Perry was confident, I heard him book a charter there one day and tell the guy, “If you don’t catch a fish tomorrow, the trip is free.”  Now that is confidence in fishing.  Fishing everyday really gives you an edge on how they are moving, Perry loved it.  We could know right where to start the next day, what patterns they liked, he could anticipate where those fish would be.  These are things that take years of experience to learn, and he had it.  Every morning going out there was a captain from Wachapreague that would say the mornings prayer.  Well, Perry started his own thing to sort of make fun of the wachapreague fleet.  Perry had the “Wachapreague theme song” and the captains on the radio would always laugh.


I worked round’ the mill but didn’t know how

Milked a billy goat instead of a cow

It was dark and I couldn’t see

The dog gone thing shit all over me


This was always followed by laughs and “good lucks” for the day along with some chatter about the day before.  He was in his element.

Smiling watching someone pull on a bluefin, This was Perry's thing

Smiling watching someone pull on a bluefin, This was Perry’s Happiness


Perry was one of the last owner/operators of a charter boat.  The boats you see now are all owned by a corporation, or a very wealthy guy who hires a captain to run it.  There are few left that still do it own their own.  Around 2008/9 the fuel prices started going sky high, people in our area really couldn’t afford to pay for fuel for a tuna fishing trip.  He had to raise just prices and even then he would barely break even.  At the same time I had the chance to take a “real” job.  It was a hard choice, for years I wanted to go to Costa Rica for the winter, live the mates life.  

Always happy, Perry loved putting people on fish.

Always happy, Perry loved putting people on fish.

Well, another old Captain told me once, “It’s the best job in the world, but it’s no way to make a living.”  So in 2010 I took the “real” job and now I didn’t have the chance to drop what I was doing whenever the boat went out.  Perry stuck with it, getting some other guys to hop on board, Brian was able to fill in most days when I couldn’t, he still loved putting people on fish.  He would spend days in his shop working on boats, but if he had the chance to fish, he was gone, you can bet.  In the winter we would do a little duck hunting, he loved “Gunnin.”  He told me a story about duck hunting on the bay one time.  He would carry a metal bucket of coals with him in the boat to keep him warm in the morning, one morning he put them in the bow, and the coal ash blew all over his face and he was black as night by the time he got hunting.  The stories he had were never ending, I am sure I never heard them all, just when I think I had, he would have a new “old” adventure he would tell me about.  I would love to be able to write each of those stories here, it would be enough to fill a book.  I got the chance to take Perry offshore in my boat this year.  I put him behind the wheel and he loved it.  He was on the radio and commented “they all still know me out here.”  We had a great day catching some tuna and a big wahoo, his favorite fish.

Capt Perry was one of the last true good eastern shoremen.  Living all his life in Greenbackville, talking with that mix of Chincoteague and lower shore draw that we all loved.  Making an impression on everyone he met.  He was an artist with his hands and had a eye for making things “slick.”  I hope he is spending his time right now trolling the 20 line in heaven with a black and purple seawitch out 330 yards, still after that big bite.  Captain Perry, you will be missed by all.


The formal obituary can be found here


    Posted at 23:58h, 21 September Reply

    Pretty work Kyle…..nicely done. He will me missed, but certainly not forgotten!

  • Jason bloom
    Posted at 01:00h, 22 September Reply

    I met and fished with perry in late 90’s on the miss Alice and like the story said slaughtered some nice tuna. We fished a few more times with him and learned a lot fishing on the topless. Perry was a very good captain and knew how to raise fish. Rest in peace captain we will take it from here with the tight lines you provide us.

  • Jason Rizzo
    Posted at 02:01h, 22 September Reply

    Nicely written Kyle. That day this year out on your boat I remember chatting with Perry seeing how your day was going. When I was kid I would always watch you guys come by me in my aluminum boat in front of Capt. Bobs marina as I was hardhead fishing counting your flags dreaming of the day I’d get to run my own boat out in the ocean. Always loved his boat and he eas always so nice to my father and I. May he rest in peace.
    Tight lines

  • Don mauzy
    Posted at 02:34h, 22 September Reply

    Nicely put Kyle… He will definitely be missed.

  • BF Schoeberl
    Posted at 11:01h, 22 September Reply

    Awesome job for a life time of fishing. R.I.P. Perry

  • Wayne Gwaltney
    Posted at 11:37h, 22 September Reply

    Excellent story on Perry. He will be remembered as a great man,craftsman,captain, father,and husband.Rest in peace my freind

  • Andy Hill
    Posted at 12:24h, 22 September Reply

    1st Class Man….and 1st Class write up Kyle…thanks for sharing….he will be missed….

  • Rob Sparks aka, terp
    Posted at 12:25h, 22 September Reply

    Dam kyle i still cant believe it. What a great tribute to someone who has touched and helped so many. Hope the big dog finds peace in heaven. Gonna miss him and the always great conversation.

  • Melissa Lambertson
    Posted at 13:09h, 22 September Reply

    Perfectly written story Kyle, thank you for sharing!

    “Hey Gal, wanna go fishing?”
    1995 aboard the Rare Vintage. My first time on a sport fishing boat headed out into the sea. We loaded up at the Greenbackville Harbor with all of the gear, food, beer, and unbelievable amounts of ice! The motor is running and the ropes undone at the darkest hour of morning. The bay is flat as we cruise past the harbour buoys. ” Chincoteague bridge, Chincoteague bridge” Perry calls out on the radio. Like magic she’s already turning, clearing our way. Bridge Master sends his good luck wishes and we are headed for the inlet to meet the ocean. It’s getting a little rougher as we break over and the sun begins to peak. I am not sure where we are going, but I sit and watch the last piece of land leave my sight. The boat comes to a hault and the action of lines baited and thrown in begins. I take in the routine Perry and Chad have going on. We start trolling along waiting, and waiting…
    The only thing to look at was the back of the boat and wide open water. The ocean, it was so beautiful and peaceful. So blue and clear.
    A line starts to pull. I get seated in a chair and suddenly a pole was strapped on me. “Alright Gal, got one for ya” the most amazing fish breeches the surface and dances across the water. My first time out, my first fish, and Perry hooks a White Marlin for me. I didn’t even know what I was doing, but I could feel how proud he was,
    We caught some other fish that day and hung our flags on the way back in. We smoked our celebratory cigars while passing the bars along the waterway home. People always cheering him on for the catch display….he loved it for sure.
    This was one of many trips I was fortunately able to go on with Perry and what ever crew he could round up for the next morning.
    Perry was a member of the Eastern Shore Marlin Club and Chic Charter Club for many years. He would take his group of guys out for the annual tournament. Then it was the girls annual tournament. He volunteered a day of fishing to give girls a chance to experience what traditionally, the guys did. Let me tell you, we pulled some shenanigans on him, he loved it, great memories! His crew would usually be his wife Nancy, and daughters Allison and Stacy, Charley, Lexie, Myself and any other friends we could convince to be apart of this event.
    Girls would be spread out all over the boat. On the floors, motor cover, down in the cabin, fast asleep. But when a line pulled, the blankets flew and the excitement began! The day would end, we hung our flags and our bathing suit tops. That got some cheers for sure. Perry had a big smile on his face and a big cigar in his hand. I am sure he looked forward to the Chic Charter tournament every year…we sure did, fish on or not.

    Thanks Captain Perry and your fleet, Mr.Magoo,Rare Vintage, Miss Alice, and Topless. Thanks for instilling in us, your love of the sea.

    ” And soon, too soon, we part with pain, To sail over silent seas again.”

  • Debbie Waidner
    Posted at 15:55h, 22 September Reply

    I fished on Topless as well with Perry. It was a fine day fishing with a fine man.

  • Sam Sellard
    Posted at 16:59h, 22 September Reply

    Before I met Perry face to face, someone was telling about Perry and the Rockfish out in the ocean. I called him and introduced myself and it was as if he knew me for ever. Very forth coming with infor mation and sharing what he knew. That was about 10 years ago now. I always enjoyed stopping by the shop when I was up that way and seeing what he was working on. Wife Jean, got to know Perry over the years and loved as I did listening to the stories. Listening to Perry spin a tale about fishing or about his growing up here on the shore, it was surely a joy!!!

    I got kick over the last couple a years, Perry would call me from time to time asking about the how the weather was going to be over the next day or two. I didn’t pay it much mind as I was happy to help. I came to find out later that he could not run a computer and when his wife was away, he would give me a call for a weather forecast.

    God Speed my Friend!

  • Tony celona
    Posted at 18:27h, 22 September Reply

    Well done Kyle…….God Bless

  • Jack normand
    Posted at 19:31h, 22 September Reply

    Great eulogy Kyle. I didn’t know him well but fished with him some and of course he has worked on my boat. He will be missed by many.

  • Anthony Matarese
    Posted at 23:37h, 22 September Reply

    RIP….. Remember fishing by him many time over the years when he was still fishing. 50 fathoms between Norfolk and Washington use to get a lot more coverage throughout the year when he was fishing..

  • Tony prato
    Posted at 00:51h, 23 September Reply

    Capt Perry was a great man. I will miss our talks at Baywitch on days he didn’t fish. I always love watching him come in the harbor. Him and my poppop Capt Jim Houser of the Enforcer can now troll the 20 line together. Rest easy Captain

  • Gary Rilee
    Posted at 01:34h, 23 September Reply

    I mated for George for 8 seasons during the hay days and Perry was right there. We had few friends out there but Perry was one of them. One hell of a fisherman. He was always trying something new. When the wahoo started cutting us off her came up with that little piece of wire between the hook and the crimp. Saved the day and bunch of times. No mistaking him on the radio. Got a big kick out of him getting north and south mixed up with up and down. Always laughing and making people laugh whether he knew he was doing it or not. One of the good ones for sure !!!

  • Curly
    Posted at 14:05h, 23 September Reply

    Thanks for all the great fishin. Miss ya Cap.

  • Cheryl Maguire
    Posted at 16:48h, 23 September Reply

    I never seen Perry have a bad day……Always smiling…..He will surely be missed. God Bless his family and friends.

  • Linda Henderson Gordon
    Posted at 21:52h, 23 September Reply

    This is the most beautiful memorial I have ever read. My smiles and tears were both flowing as I read this touching personal tribute to the life of my neighbor.
    There is a large vacancy in the heart of Greenbackville. We shall miss Perry always. His cheerful greetings and friendly manner instantly made everyone a friend.
    May God bless and comfort his family……and Kyle you did a beautiful thing… captured the essence of Perry with your heart and written words and pictures……THANK YOU!

  • Daybreak
    Posted at 10:21h, 24 September Reply

    Many of us that fished with Capt. Perry probably did not, at the time, realize the significance of the experience. As Kyle and others have made clear, Perry set the standard in so many ways. His work ethic and dedication to the sport was unsurpassed. More important than the fish he caught was the number of lives he affected in a positive day. Each and every day of life, I rise before the sun. I learned this habit from Capt. Perry, and decades later, it remains.

  • george mcccullough
    Posted at 11:32h, 24 September Reply

    I was lucky to know Captain Perry for several years. During the 25 + seasons I captained the Janie Mac we were fortunate to work closely with some of the best from Ocean City to Hatteras. Perry had my respect as a professional. But none close to making all of smile listening to his jokes, songs and just being Captain Slick. I was blessed to work with him painting my charter boat and later restoring my center console which I still fish today.
    Perry was my friend.
    God Bless

  • Scott Lenox
    Posted at 17:05h, 24 September Reply

    We fished some wintertime rockfish with Captain Perry out of Greenbackville a bunch of years ago. He put us on the fish and we had a great time with him. I talk about that trip often and I’ll never forget how awesome he was. Captain Perry was a good human being and will be greatly missed.

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