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Jude “Captain J” Schwarze

“Our Community” is a network of Hawaiʻi-based people, keeping and building culinary traditions, whose core values are centered around food as connector, and positively impact the environment and other humans.    

I can tell he doesn’t love the question–I’ve asked Jude “Captain J” Schwarze about the biggest lesson he’s learned since starting Deep Sea Fishing Kauaʻi. 

    “I haven’t learned a thing.” He says, then laughs. But after a beat, he continues,  

“When you’re fishing, it’s all about reaction time. You have to be quick. When you’re dealing with people, you have to slow down and appreciate where they’re coming from. You have to be more thoughtful about the whole, about what’s happening next.” So perhaps, fishing has in fact taught Captain J the secrets of life. But, who knows?

Born on Oʻahu, his family moved to Kauaʻi when he was 3 years old. On Kauaʻi, young Jude’s father got into diving and dove commercially for reef fish for a time. As his father got older, diving got harder, and he naturally transitioned to fishing instead. Captain J has been fishing Hawaiian waters since the age of 8 and says that the only thing that has changed about fishing since those days is that now, you know everything that others have caught, referring to social media. “It used to be that you only knew when they got to the market,” he says. 

And the fishery of Kauaʻi, he says, hasn’t changed much either. “We still have good fishing all of the time, and phenomenal fishing some of the time.”

Captain J, when he was still only known as Jude, went to college on the mainland. He studied chemistry and biology. Moving back to the islands, Maui this time, his first child was born. The Hawaiʻi Department of Health had a huge backlog after Hurricane Iniki and Jude was hired as a health inspector. He found the work unfulfilling and felt he couldn’t do “the 30-year exchange,” leaving the DOH in 2006.

Jude made his way back to Kauaʻi but was met with few opportunities. Then, a boat came up for auction and he did something rash–he bought it. 

“I called up my dad and told him I’d made a huge mistake. I’d gone way into debt. He asked me if I’d gotten the slip yet and I said yes. Then he told me, ‘You bought an expensive slip, you got a boat for free.’” 

The ocean had always been a part of his life. Now, from an outsider’s perspective at least, it’d become most of his life. 

That original boat, a 1976 31’ Bertram, is “the legend all other boats [in his growing fleet] have been built upon,” and has long been christened, “The Big Ta Do.” She’s been rebuilt a few times, witness to a few “nuts things,” and a few miracles. She lives in Port Allen, which Captain J considers “a gem.”

The community there has been good to him; after 20 years of sticking around and consistent hard work, he considers everyone a friend. “I don’t want for anything. I have all the help I need when I need it,” he says, the true definition of having found a community. 

The role Captain J plays within the South West Kauaʻi community is of a sea shepherd of sorts. Often it’s visitors of Hawaiʻi that charter his boats, often for prolonged stretches of up to ten hours, sometimes multiple days in a row. The best case scenario, Captain J says, is that a person has already decided to have a good day regardless of the outcome. No expectations, willing to accept the day, hopefully “it” happens, but the experience matters most, not the catch. 

Of course, that’s not the mindset that always boards his boats. Still, he is able to find common ground. Everybody doesn’t see eye-to-eye on everything, perhaps nor should we, but to find a basis of mutual needs, interests, beliefs, is the beginning of mutual respect and understanding. We can facilitate interpersonal relationships, we can learn each other’s languages. Folks charter Jude’s boats because they have at least an inkling of interest in the thing that he has dedicated this chapter of his life to. As the Deep Sea Fishing Kauaʻi website says: “I enjoy providing opportunities for “friends” to experience…fish.” The roots of finding common ground lies there. 

   

Jude likens people to crayons in a box. “Some are fiery, red hot, some are gold, some mellow, and that’s it,” he says. “How boring would it be if we were all the same? They aren’t bad people, just colorful people.” 

Captain J steers on, giving his anglers a day–or days–on the water, under the sun, wishing for a bite, appreciating the journey. He’s made lifelong friends along the way, perhaps learned some secrets of life, and has a hard time imagining that there is something better to do everyday or a better community to be a part of. 

“You don’t know what life is going to do, but it would be silly to walk away from this.”

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