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National Champion

by Steve “Tuna” Tornovish

You know that you’re operating at less than genius level if you manage to bury your truck in the beach sand. And if you do this while out in the middle of nowhere, in a place with zero cell phone reception, your IQ score is even lower. Finally, if you manage to achieve all of this when it’s three o’clock in the morning, you can be pretty certain that you’ve won the golden dunce cap. That was exactly where your friend Stevie was in early June about four years ago, covered in beach sand and mosquito bites, praying for someone to come driving by to rescue me from my self-inflicted predicament. And it was in this situation where I first met Noah Karberg.

Noah and his fishing buddy Homer Ray IV were returning from a successful night of striped bass fishing when they found me and took pity on this poor fool. They quickly attached my heavy nylon tow strap to their truck and saved me from my humiliating situation. Even better, they did it without pointing and laughing —much appreciated, guys! With their rescue mission completed, Noah and Homer simply drove off into the sunrise. I owed those two a debt of gratitude, so I hit the tackle shop and bought two gift certificates for my rescuers. I knew how to track down Homer but I really didn’t know much about Noah. I soon learned that he worked at the airport as the assistant manager (Noah is now the manager of Nantucket Memorial Airport). Aside from that, Noah was a blank slate.

I got to know a little more about Noah in the next few years. I immediately admired his fishing tenacity. Noah was a guy who put his time in and caught a lot of fish. Plus he seemed to have a lot of fun while doing it. Somewhere along the fishing gossip line I heard that Noah had been a member of the University of Michigan’s championship (freshwater) bass fishing team. I had to know more! Noah was kind enough to sit down with me recently and spill the beans.

“I’ve got street cred!” Noah joked as he described growing up as a city boy in Cleveland, Ohio. He told me that it was his grandfather who had introduced him to fishing. Noah said that his grandfather had fished to feed his family during the Depression years, spearing catfish trapped in the river spillways or running trot lines. It was a different time and successful fishing trips were required to keep people alive. “I came from hillbillies,” Noah told me, smiling.

Noah’s love of fishing helped to guide him into the University of Michigan’s natural resources program. While at school, he would sneak away with his buddies and fish from the banks of Lake Erie whenever he had some free time. In 1999, his junior year, Noah learned about a fishing team that was being formed to compete against the other Big 10 Schools. Noah was all in. He joined the fishing team, and they won the inaugural Big 10 Championship. “Most universities have fishing teams now, but we were in on the ground floor.”

When Noah moved to Nantucket in 2008, he encountered an entire different world of fishing. “It was a huge learning curve. There’s so much water available here. When I was a kid, I had one fishing rod and would go to one spot on the bank of a river or lake and that’s where I would fish for the day. Learning to work with tides was tough.” Noah started his surfcasting career by tossing heavy metal Hopkins lures on Nantucket’s south shore. “I always could cast a mile, so that was my game.”

Noah said that he learned the more subtle aspects of striped bass fishing from his friend and, at the time, employer, Sam Myers. “Sam showed me how to fish soft plastics and poppers, as well as when to fish them. He really helped me with my game management.”

Noah continued to learn the many facets of Nantucket fishing but his big “aha” moment came from watching videos put out by a Long Island fisherman named John Skinner. “I was awake with my kids when they were babies so I watched fishing videos. I learned so many different tactics from watching those videos. It was like being with my grandpa again.”

John Skinner is a big advocate of fishing the bucktail jig. Noah followed suit, employing the tactics that Professor Skinner taught. “Skinner helped me to learn to think about the water I was fishing in three dimensions. I learned how small differences in technique could really factor into better results. His videos helped me to learn to be more consistent.” Noah had his high school buddy Mark visiting during the time that we talked.

Noah and Mark had fished the night shift the previous evening. “It was hard for Mark. Even though he’s a very experienced fisherman, fishing at night is a different deal.” Noah said that although the learning curve was steep, Mark made the necessary adjustments and caught seven fish during their excursion into the darkness. “I caught 27 stripers and Mark caught seven. I helped him with technique, and it worked. He hooked up as I was talking him through it, getting him to slow his retrieve down.”

It is apparent that Noah is a very precise guy. “If you look in the back of my truck, you’d see that I have six rods, all rigged for certain conditions and situations. Two have metal lures ready to go. Two have hard plastic lures, such as the Diawa SP Minnow or the Yozuri Mag Darter. And the last two are smaller west coast style rods, rigged for throwing soft plastics. Some of my buddies laugh and say that I probably have a specific rod rigged for July 23rd at 3:24 AM. Well, yeah, I probably do.”

So does all of this work? “I keep a very detailed fishing log. I’m up to 130 stripers so far this year.” Yikes—that’s a TON of bass for a season that was only about 30 days old at the time of our interview! But if you spend a few minutes with Noah, none of this is surprising. He is extremely focused and detail oriented. He learns something on every trip. And his results speak volumes. I can certainly take a lesson from him.

As much as Noah loves and excels at beach fishing, his favorite activity is fishing from his boat with his wife, Jennifer, his daughter Meara (8 years old) and his son Quinn (5 years old). “Being out on my boat and fishing with my family is my greatest joy. My schedule allows for night fishing, so that’s what I do mostly.” Noah laughs as he tells me about how excited little Quinn is about having jigged up a black sea bass on a recent boat trip. “He’s still talking about it!”

I asked Noah what advice he would have for a beginner surfcaster. “Just keep casting. Just keep learning. Throw a Spofford Ballistic Missile: it’s easy to cast, it’s on top of the water so you can see it and it’s lots of fun when a fish grabs it because you see the whole thing.”

Fishing has always been much more than a recreational pastime for Noah. “I never feel more connected to the world than when I’m hooked up on a big fish. It’s absolutely spiritual.” Noah Karberg is a fishing champion indeed.

Steve “Tuna” Tornovish is a Nantucket native who has spent his life fishing from the beaches of his beloved island. He loves to introduce clients to the joy of fishing with his Nantucket Island Fishing Adventures: stevetuna.com

Articles by Date from 2012