Capt. Paul Wagenseil is quite familiar with tarpon fishing in Boca Grande Pass. Born and raised in Englewood, Paul started fishing when he was a kid. After receiving a kayak as a birthday present, he started exploring local creeks and canals, and his love of the sport grew from there.
“I was raised around water, so naturally I enjoy spending my time that way,” he said.
His dad was originally from Long Island, New York, and his mom was from New Jersey. They grew tired of the cold winters and relocated to Englewood 30 years ago.
Paul attended Englewood Elementary School, L.A. Ainger Middle School and Lemon Bay High School. He met his wife, Kristen, while they both were attending Lemon Bay High School. They have two children: Aubrey, four and five-month-old Paul Jr.
The young fishing captain is employed by Englewood Water District and works in the collections department. His duties include fixing and repairing pipes and maintaining other kinds of equipment to help keep the plant running smoothly. He’s been working there for almost three years. He started out working night shifts at the plant, which gave him plenty of free time to fish during the day.
“I switched over to a different department, and now I work Tuesdays through Fridays,” he said. “That made things a lot easier, and now I’m able to spend more time with my family,” he said.
Paul has been a fishing captain for almost five years. He worked as a first mate for Capt. Dave Chatham since he was in high school.
“Dave has taught me everything I know. He is like my idol,” Paul said. “He’s a very good fishing captain and one of the best people I know. He was a groomsman in my wedding.”
Paul met Dave when they were both building docks on the island and working for Innovative Marine Services.
“We were a part of their first group of employees, and Dave and I quickly became friends,” he said.
After graduating from high school, Paul did odd jobs here and there, and then Chatham called him and asked him to be his first mate. Paul gladly accepted the offer, and it was his full-time occupation for a few years. Then the opportunity at the Water District became available, and he decided to apply for that position since the job came with benefits and a pension.
“I did it for my family – it was the right thing to do,” he said. In 2016, Paul had the opportunity to purchase Chatham’s former boat, a 24” Morgan, which he named “Miss Aubrey” in honor of his daughter.
“She loves going out on the boat, and I can’t wait until my son is old enough to fish.” Paul and Kristen just purchased their first home in Englewood last year. His mom, Lynn, and Kristen’s mom both live in Englewood, so luckily there’s usually a babysitter available when needed.
Paul said he comes to Boca Grande almost every day, especially during tarpon season. “I work for several people on the island and I try to run as many charters as I can,” he said.
He’s out on the water as much as possible whether it’s for a charter, just for fun or even just to practice a bit for the annual tarpon tournaments.
He was a captain in the 2017 World’s Richest Tarpon Tournament and both Howl at the Moon tournaments as well as the Gasparilla Island Kids’ Classic Fishing Tournament that took place last weekend. His team caught two tarpon at the recent Ladies Howl at the Moon Tournament and two at the first Howl event in May, but didn’t get any during World’s Richest. His team caught one fish at the Kids’ Classic on Saturday.
“I love this time of year; it’s what we all look forward to every season,” he said.
Kristen sometimes comes along on the fishing trips as first mate, but Paul feels confident he can run the boat and man the lines at the same time.
“If the weather is bad, I like to have someone go out with me – but I can usually run it myself unless the water is rough. Luckily with this boat, the people fishing are literally an arm’s length away.”
Before the 24-foot “Miss Aubrey” received her new name, the boat was named “Jill Marie” for Dave Chatham’s wife, and before that, it was Capt. Cappy Joiner’s boat. “
That boat has a lot of history,” Paul said. “So many fish have been caught on it … I wish I knew half the stories it could tell.”
Paul said Dave Chatham rebuilt nearly everything on the boat, so it was ready to go when he purchased it. He keeps it in the water behind Dickie and Leslie Coleman’s house.
Paul picks up most of his fishing charter clients through word-of-mouth referrals and via Facebook. He also gets quite a few overflow charters all well. Overflow charters occur when a client requests a certain fishing captain, but that captain is already booked for that day, so he refers the client to another local captain.
Paul also has a smaller recreational boat, a 22-foot Aquasport that he keeps on a trailer and uses for personal trips with family and friends.
When he is not working or running his fishing charter business, Paul enjoys going scuba diving. He’s been diving since he was 13.
“My dad was a diver, and I have an aunt and uncle who wanted to learn, so I took the class with them and got certified.” He prefers diving locally and exploring the artificial reefs, ledges and hard bottom surfaces.
He has yet to dive in Boca Grande Pass but looks forward to doing that some day.
“I’d really like to see what’s down there, and I think it would benefit me as a fishing captain to learn more about it,” he said. “If they ever schedule another Pass cleanup I would definitely do it.”
Paul, 24, has two older brothers, Pete, 27, and Chris, 30. The guys enjoy going deer hunting together in northern Florida when their schedules allow. Chris is a jet pilot for a private company, and Pete builds docks for Innovative Marine Services.
Paul and his family enjoy spending leisure time on the water and stopping at the sandbar near the Boca Grande bridges to visit with friends. Kristen and Aubrey both fish, and Paul intends to teach his son to fish as soon as he’s strong enough to hold onto a pole. Kristen is a receptionist for Center for Sight in Englewood. The family lives in east Englewood with their Boykin spaniel, Max.
Max was born one day before Paul Jr.
“We had to go to Georgia to get him from my sister-in-law’s dad, who is a breeder,” he said. “We had promised Aubrey a dog for her birthday so we went up to get him a few weeks after my son was born.”
Like the rest of the family, Max also enjoys spending time on the boat, so they usually bring him along, too.
To book a future fishing trip with Capt. Paul Wagenseil, give him a call him at 941-468-7516.