Note: In the next couple months, Gig Harbor Now will be on the water and covering the local fishing scene as anglers head out in search of the addictive strikes and heart-pounding battles that only sport fishing provides.
Gig Harbor is filled with anglers who are very passionate, proven and persistent in their love for all things fishing. It’s virtually impossible to know who is the best, who knows the most or who consistently catches the biggest fish. But Gig Harbor resident Rob Endsley is certainly in the discussion.
Endsley, 51, has been the co-host of the popular Outdoor Line radio show on Seattle’s 710 AM ESPN for the past 11 years. Every Saturday from 6 to 9 a.m., fishermen from across the region tune in and call in to hear him and co-host Tom Nelson give expert insights and advice on how and where to catch the big one.
Most discussions center on the methods, locations and equipment that will help fisherman find success on the water. Excited anglers who just caught one call the show. Exaggerated fish stories about the size of one that just got away are shared. It can be a very entertaining show.
Captain Rob Endsley out on his boat, guiding near the Prince of Wales Island in Southeast Alaska.
Callers — who are often in boats or knee-deep in a river somewhere — provide interactive, real-time reports. Their success or failure in a particular area while using certain techniques are helpful to others fishing in the same bay or river, as well as to the guy listening at home who could use some help fooling the fish the next morning.
“I really enjoy the Outdoor Line, it’s been great,” Endsley said. “We play the hits … whatever fish are biting at the time is what we’re talking about. If there’s a hot topic involving fishing or equipment, we’re on it, so the show stays fresh and there’s always something different to discuss.”
Endsley’s love for fishing started when he was 6 years old. He vividly remembers family fishing trips around Port Orchard, where Endsley was raised.
His father, John, and grandfather, Russell, took him out often, solidifying their bonds while spending time on the water. They would rise early to fish the Puget Sound from Blake Island to Sunrise Beach.
Endsley remembers going with his brother to Burley Creek in Purdy and Curley Creek near Harper. It required a walk through heavy sticker bushes. It was worthwhile because the fish and game department planted those narrow but deep creeks with steelhead.
“The first time I felt the power and energy of a steelhead and was able to bring it to the bank, I was hooked,” he said.
It began a love affair with the outdoors that has not only been a constant source of happiness but has provided many business opportunities as well.
Endsley grew up as an athlete. He used his 6-foot-6 frame on the basketball court as a hard-rebounding power forward at South Kitsap High and then Yakima Valley Community College. He traded his hoop shoes for an oar and rowed for the Western Washington University crew team. After graduating from Western with a degree in environmental science, Endsley took a desk job for the city of Bellingham for 10 years.
Rob Endsley pulling in another big one from the rich Alaskan waters.
During that time he started a fishing guide business on the Skagit River, attacking the early morning steelhead bite three days a week.
What drove him to wake at 4 a.m. in often wet, rainy conditions?
“It’s really the competition with the fish that gets me, that and being in nature,” Endsley said. “It’s a grind sometimes and you have to be tenacious but I just can’t let it go, I love to be out there.”
As his business became more consistent, he was able to ditch the desk job and guide full-time.
“The job was fine and the people were great, but all I could think about was getting outdoors.” he said.
Endsley later guided in Panama. The famed coastal waters there hold blue marlin, yellowfin and swordfish and more International Game Fishing Association records than anywhere else on earth.
On one of those trips he guided for Robbie Tobeck, an avid fisherman who played center for Washington State and during the Seahawks’ 2006 Super Bowl run.
The two struck up a friendship. Tobeck, who had been around a lot of media types, quickly realized Endsley would make a great fishing-show host.
It took awhile, but the persistent Tobeck convinced Endsley and Nelson to join him and audition for the new show. Endsley and Nelson had no radio experience, but they had fishing experience, a sense of humor and the gift of gab.
Two months later the radio execs called back to say yes to the show. And “oh by the way, the first show starts this Saturday.”
The Outdoor Line quickly caught fire with Northwest fisherman. Tobeck did the show with them for a couple years before deciding to spend more time with his family. Endsley and Nelson were flourishing in their roles.
Endsley also began writing and has been featured in numerous fishing magazines, including the Salmon & Steelhead Journal, Sports Fishing Magazine, Northwest Sportsman, the Cabellas Field Guide and ESPN Outdoors.
The future was as bright as a chrome salmon for Endsley. It became brighter when he met the love of his life, his wife Nicole. She is a native of Alaska and shared many of Rob’s interests, especially his love for fishing and the outdoors. “She’s been right there with me, every step of the way,” Endsley said.
Rob Endsley’s Prince of Wales Sport Fishing operates four boats that charter guests from all over the globe who come for serenity and a chance to catch the big one.
The two now own and operate Prince of Wales Sport Fishing, based in the town of Craig, on Prince of Wales Island in Southeast Alaska. Some of the richest fishing waters in North America surround the island.
Their location allows for fishing in both the open water or the shelter that the local islands provide during rough weather. The topography of the ocean floor and the waters that are teaming with baitfish attract the Kings. Many think that these waters offer the finest combination of salmon and halibut fishing on the entire West Coast.
The Endsleys operate four boats at a time with 16 customers a week. Clients arrive by float plane and stay at two lodges in Craig. Their charters consistently fill up each season.
Their business competes against charter services that run as many as 26 boats. But Endsley is content with his fleet and has a business that is turning continual profits. He, Nicole and their two young daughters, Ava and Emma, all help take care of clients.
Rob says he typically works 100 15-hour days in a row in-season. That’s a tough schedule to maintain, but Endsley has been up to the task.
“I love to share the passion I have for this kind of life, he said. “I can give as much fishing info as a person can soak in. My hope is that especially for the youth, that they learn and retain what they’ve been taught so they can fish successfully when they get home.”
Endsley’s Prince of Wales Sports Fishing business offers the chance to reel in beauties like this healthy salmon.
Endsley goes boat-to-table by participating in an entertaining cooking show on YouTube. The show is called, “Cook your Catch” and demonstrates ways to prepare everything from halibut to cod, salmon to trout.
His culinary skills are surprising. He shares recipe after recipe and lays down tasty dishes in a simple, straight forward manner that would even make Bobby Flay a little nervous.
But of all the aspects that he’s involved in its the variety of people that Endsley enjoys most. He is a natural people person and teacher who enjoys the interactions that fishing allows.
His needed rest comes in the offseason. He could just about live anywhere. But he always looks forward to his family’s return home to Gig Harbor, not far from the waters where his father and grandfather first taught him how to fish.
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