Becoming a Fishing Guide: Captain Tommy Buskirk
Growing up in the low country, good times were generally found around the water. I was fortunate enough to have a father that was an avid angler who provided me with many opportunities to learn about a low country lifestyle. As working class folks, we looked forward to the weekends, where the family would load up the boat and hit the sandbar. Some days were glorious; Crispy chicken, sunshine, happy dogs, and blue skies made for picturesque memories. Other days I recollect dead boat batteries, finicky two stroke outboards, and broke down trailers on the side of the road. All in all, Lots of great memories, blood, sweat, sunburns, and smiles have paved this path of becoming a fishing guide.
I’m not sure if I’ve ever had optimal sleep in my life, but definitely not in my youth, the night before a fishing trip with my dad. I can remember going to sleep in my clothes, so I could hop right out of bed, ready to go. I recall early mornings, moving quietly, so as not to wake the ladies in the house. Gathering the fishing rods, gas station coffee, and checking the minnow trap left me full of excitement and anticipation. Pluff mud boat launching, cast netting for shrimp and off we’d go, no guarantee what we might see.
As I got older, many of my fishing adventures became solo endeavors. I enjoyed the solitude and spontaneity of nature. We lived behind the marina, so before I was able to drive I’d walk down to the docks with my fishing rod and a jig, or some chicken and a string. I envied the captains and their boats, dreaming of the day I’d have my own.
College was a challenge for me. I was truly a fish attempting to climb a tree. I found peace down by the river. Learning to fish for striped bass and smallmouth I met one of my best friends, George.
I also became great friends with another present day captain and fishing guide, Captain Hunter Griffith. Back then Hunter and I tossed pizzas at The Upper Crust, a local pizza joint. Originally from Greenville, Hunter had bought a boat and had the tenacity to learn. Together we shared many fishing adventures, always on Hunter’s boat, and he never asked me for a dime. Through Hunter, I met Jon and Jonathan Halker, from the other side of the Broad, from whom we both learned many different tactics and strategies for targeting our favorite fish, redfish or spot-tail bass.
From an elementary school teacher during the week, to serving plates at night, I was able to make enough money to finance a flats boat and fund my fishing adventures. I adopted a dog and bought a house on Saint Helena Island, a mile from a boat ramp. Together, we spent every moment we could on the water. Sea Island Adventures was born.
A few years and several boats later, it became time to take the next step. Obtain a USCG captain’s license. Well, after several months of studying, a physical, drug test, TWIC card, and lots of coffee, I was finally there, a licensed captain. It was not long after when I was approached by a fishing charter company and an old friend, Captain Tim of Cast Away Fishing Charters. Hesitant to abandon my brand, but eager for the opportunity to learn I joined their team of guides.
Through Cast Away, I got to know some other great guides, Captain Kevin Mears and Captain Nations Finley. I enjoyed fishing as a team and learning tricks of the trade from these veteran anglers. As great as it was and as thankful as I am for the experience, I knew I wanted to do things differently. I wanted to form my own relationships with anglers and tailor trips to their wants and needs to the best of my ability. Ultimately, I made the decision to wade into murky water and leave the charter company. I’m so thankful for the overwhelming support we have received thus far and I strive to continue to become a better angler, better guide, and provide a better experience for those that come to enjoy their Sea Island Adventure.