Remembering Captain Herbie Schulz
Dedication to Captain Herbie Schulz 1923 - 2006
It is never a surprise that when you have a strong and supportive family, you feel like you can do anything that you can imagine. When that family includes your father, fishing legend Herbie Schulz, you know that you will be destined for greatness. Captain Herbie Schulz was a fishing phenomenon who ran a charter fishing business from Boynton Beach and later on, Lantana, for 60 years. He captained the Southern Comfort I, II, and III and made a name for himself by offering the best charter fishing service that he could. He bent over backwards for his customers and he was putting fish on the dock every day.
In memory of this great pillar of the fishing community, we honor Herbie Schulz on this dedication page. Please take a moment to read about Herbie’s life and how everything that he did touched so many people from all walks of life. Although Herbie Schulz will always be missed, he lives on in the hearts of all who knew him and his memory is an inspiration; Live your life to the fullest and love what you do. That is what Herbie Schulz did, and he wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
“Frail is our vessel, and the ocean is wide; but as in your mercy you have set our course,
so steer the vessel of our life towards the everlasting shore of peace, and bring us at length
to the quiet haven of our heart's desire, where you, 0 God, are blessed,
and live and reign for ever and ever. Amen.”
- Seafarers Prayer of St. Augustine
Herb Schulz has chartered everyone from kings, queens and jokers from Boynton Inlet since 1939.
As told by Chris Dummit, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Captain Herb Schulz doesn’t get excited about much anymore. If a 500-pound marlin was to slap at one of his trolled ballyhoo….well, maybe. But it’s difficult after 55 years of sportfish chartering to get worked up over your umpteenth bonito. Still, day after day, Schulz comes to the B-Love docks in Lantana and his 42-foot Bertram, Southern Comfort III. He limps from his car to the beamy boat, showing a bit of his 71 years. And he talks up his latest charter. “I told them it was going to be choppy,” Schulz said last Thursday after he spoke to the Pertschuk family: a grandfather, his son and son-in-law and their two daughters. “But they said they were here to fish.” That should be Schulz’s motto. Schulz is one of the oldest and longest-operating charter captains in the area. He has fished out of the Boynton Inlet since 1939 when charter boats docked along the inlet sea wall. The skin on his arms is drawn tight like sun-dried leather and his hands are knobbed with age and use.
There have been a few changes,” over the years, he said, with the kind of understatement that comes from gradual evolution. When Schulz came to live in Boynton Beach from Michigan in 1924, he was just a baby and the youngest of four children. His father was a coal miner, but came to Florida with a relative to work in the tree nursery business. Schulz said he never really knew why his father made the move, but he guesses, the dangers of mining might have prompted it. “In those days, you might go down in that mine and you might come out and you might not,” he said. There were three small stores in Boynton Beach when he was growing up. In the inlet, there were snapper, snook, even sea trout. And there were mullet schools in the fall stretching up to Palm Beach.
Schulz started chartering at age 16 with a 36-foot sport fishing boat bought for about $2000 by his sister. Esther Stevenson was 10 years older than her baby brother, and she was an avid fisherman. To kick off his business in style, Schulz bought a white captain’s hat because a marina owner told him he would stand out among the other guides. He is now on his 50th hat and his sixth boat.
“Back in those days, the bottom fishing was so much better. You just didn’t use the same equipment you use today,” he said. “We would use 15 feet of No. 8 leader wire and catch big mutton snapper over 20 pounds. Now you have to use 40 feet of mono leader and you’re lucky if you get a bite.” Back then, Schulz wouldn’t see another boat all day long. Two miles offshore was “no man’s land.”
Shortly after he started chartering, World War II began and Schulz joined the Navy amphibious force. He was a bosun’s mate on a landing craft tank and was stationed from North Africa to Sicily and Italy. On D-Day, he was hauling troops to shore at Omaha Beach. “We never got hit,” Schulz said. “There were 36 ships in our flotilla and the day after the invasion we had six. We were very fortunate.”
As Schulz was telling his story, his clients were busily catching kingfish, barracudas and bonitos as fast as they could wind them in. Schulz has found a mother lode for the two granddaughters, ages 9 and 12. At the sound of their high-pitched squeals, he grinned widely and belted a belly laugh. When Schulz returned home after the war, he began chartering again out of the Boynton Inlet docks. During the 1940’s and ‘50’s, there were 17 boats that operated out of that site and the entire fleet eventually grew to more than 40 boats. But those charter vessels were practically the only ones on the water. The small, fiberglass, private boat had not been mass-produced, there was no such thing as a weekend warrior.
Fish-finding techniques differed drastically, too, in the ‘40’s. “There was no ship-to-shore radio, no Fathometers. In those days, we had spots on the beach we’d use for landmarks-where the water tower might be over a pine tree,” he said. “We did a lot of bottom fishing. We caught a lot of sailfish. People would pay their money and they wanted something to take home with them. “…..Back then if you didn’t come in with 100 pounds of fish you was a bum,” he said. That was when you a boat charter cost $40. Today’s prices begin at $250 for a half day. During the summer, when the tourists left, most charter boats headed north to ports between Daytona Beach and New Jersey. Schulz tried Daytona for one long summer in 1947. But a 20-mile run to the fishing grounds and using Clorox bottles to mark productive fishing zones was too much work and hassle.
Through the years, Schulz has fished people in all walks of life. He fished comedian Jonathan Winters, hockey star Bobby Orr and even royalty. “One guy I fished was a king, I forget what island,” said Schulz, whose archival pictures show him as a muscular young man, general-like with light eyes. “I also fished Miss America. We filmed a movie short with her for Paramount News. It was comical really.” Schulz explained that the episode was in the early 1950’s and the studio used an actor as a mate. But the man didn’t know how to gaff a fish. He tried to pull a fish in and the wire kept slipping through his hands.
Schulz was married in 1946 to a woman he met on a charter. Doris and Herb Schulz have had four children in their 48 years together. Their son, John, manages the tackle shop at the B-Love dock. “I consider myself very fortunate,” he said of his life and marriage. My wife has been good to me, very supportive. I said when we got married ‘I want you to remember, you’re marrying a fisherman.’” Doris Schulz said it has been no sacrifice. “I think for someone to do what he loves about all his life is just about the ultimate,” she said. “He grew up with his feet in the ocean.”
Schulz has a stellar reputation among charter guides as well. “He can catch them when they’re not biting,” said Captain Mike Zubak, who runs The Elf III out of Palm Beach Yacht Center in Lantana and has known Schulz since the late 1950’s. “He’s been up and down that reef so many times.” Zubak described Schulz as a good family man, a dedicated father and husband who was a “damn good bowler.” “He doesn’t drink,” Zubak said. “Herbie’s a Coca-Cola man.” Schulz also works hard at his craft, Zubak said. “He doesn’t want to watch television.”
Schulz said he just plain loves fishing. It’s the thrill, and the suspense of not knowing what’s going to hit the line or what is going to happen next. He has seen two elderly people die of heart attacks on his boat. Both were likely to be victims even on land, Schulz said. But the mate had to administer CPR to one and the other was rushed to the beach where lifeguards worked on him. Schulz’s closest call was the day his client caught a blue marlin of more than 500 pounds in the Bahamas in the early 1970’s. The marlin was “green”, a term used when describing a fish that has plenty of energy left by the time it is brought into the boat. “It just went crazy. I put the flying gaff in him and the mate had him wired up. He just tore us up,” Schulz said. “I was all skinned up. I lost my watch, lost my glasses. We got him but we paid the dues.”
Schulz has survived bouts with business woes, too. As the number of charter boats has dwindled, he has kept his going with customers who have been visiting for 25-30 years. He still makes 250 to 300 charter trips annually. “You can’t be harsh on your people,” he said. “We roll out the red carpet for them. We go out to have fun.” Schulz plans to keep his business going indefinitely. He just applied for his 11th Captain’s license. Each is good for five years. “When I can’t climb those steps to the bridge, I might quit,” he said. “But then again, I might get a hydraulic lift. You don’t know.”