SEDGWICK, Maine — On a sunny Tuesday afternoon before a bumpy boat ride, and the fishing and catching that followed, Captain Pete Douvarjo cast a friendly eye at the two young passengers joining him on his 21-foot Parker boat, “Reel Life.”
Captain Pete fitted the duo with life vests, telling them where they would be standing and where they wouldn’t.
Then he shared the rule that must not be broken.
“Here’s the most important rule,” the owner of Eggemoggin Guide Service told 9-year-old Will Caron and his 6-year-old sister, Paige Caron. “No hooking Captain Pete.”
The children of BDN senior editor Sarah Walker Caron laughed, but heeded his warning.
There’s nothing that can ruin a fishing trip quicker than a captain who’s got fish hooks dangling off him.
Captain Pete looks a bit like a real-life pirate — he’s got a stylishly wild beard, after all. But that’s where the similarity ends. He doesn’t say “argh.” He doesn’t wear an eye patch. And he has a wonderful way with children (and their parents) that he takes out on the water about 40 or 50 times per year.
“I’ve had [children] as little as 3 years old,” he said Tuesday while taking a BDN crew on his most popular adventure, the four-hour Family Fun Trip. “When we got to the dock, she grabbed me by the leg, looked up at me, and she said, ‘Captain Pete, I love you.’ Oh my God, did my heart melt.”
Captain Pete is quick to admit that his Family Fun Trips are pretty simple affairs.
“Like I said when we left the dock, this is not fishing,” Captain Pete said. “This is catching. And it is. It’s easy for me, and I guarantee the kids are just going to have a blast. They’ll giggle and laugh, and they seem to like the rough ride out, too.”
The ride out to the islands between Deer Isle and Mount Desert Island was a bit rough, and Captain Pete was right: The Caron children loved every minute, especially when sea spray drenched someone other than them.
Captain Pete isn’t just a family fun guide, though.
“I do offshore shark and tuna trips. I take people out to look at puffins,” Douvarjo said.
Some days he trailers his 20-foot Lund boat and heads inland, where he’ll take clients to the Penobscot River, and they’ll fish for smallmouth bass.
“It’s a world-class fishery,” he said of the river. “People have heard about it, but there are not that many people who fish it like you’d think. That river has got more smallmouth bass than any river in this state, and it’s one of the best smallmouth fisheries on the entire East Coast.”
But many days during the summer, he’s out in his home waters off Sedgwick, trying to manufacture some fun.
Not long ago, he specialized in striped bass trips, taking eager anglers to spots where they could catch plenty of the then-plentiful stripers.
“I could take you out and catch you 40, 50 stripers in a tide,” he said. “Eleven years ago, it started to slow up. It went from 50 stripers in a tide to five or 10. Then the next year, it was over. And it’s been over since.”
That’s when Douvarjo’s Family Fun Trips were born.
“You take people out mackerel fishing, pollack fishing. It’s not that difficult,” he said. “You’ve got to go where the fish are.”
Really, Captain Pete’s Family Fun Trips were an accident, he said. Then again, he may never have become captain if not for a health scare some 14 years ago.
“I was diagnosed with a melanoma,” he said. “The one that they found on my back was huge. I was basically given a year or so to live.”
Captain Pete decided he had to make some changes.
He always had wanted to get his captain’s license, he said. And he always had wanted to become a Maine Guide.
“I [told my wife], ‘Honey, I’ve got to buy a boat.’” he said. “All the money was going to doctors and the deductible. She said, ‘Who cares? If you check out in a year, they can come get the boat.’”
Obviously, that’s not how the story ended.
“The doctors were wrong, and I’m having an awful good time,” Captain Pete said with a grin.
And so are his clients.
On Tuesday, Will and Paige Caron hooked a few dozen pollack apiece, the vast majority of which were returned to the sea. They also landed a few mackerel.
But Captain Pete knows his craft, and he knows what children like best.
The biggest smiles came when each child got the chance to drive “Reel Life,” with Captain Pete standing by to give instructions.
At the end of the day, after pulling the boat back to the dock in Sedgwick, Captain Pete’s passengers declared the day a success. The captain agreed.
“It was a little rough, but not too bad,” he said. “Nobody got beat up, you all had a good time, you all caught fish.”
And nobody hooked Captain Pete.
Capt. Pete Douvarjo offers saltwater trips from June until the end of September. Freshwater trips on the Penobscot River run from late April until the end of October. For more information, go to http://www.eggemogginguideservice.net/.