Will White, 28, is the social one, chatting it up or telling stories with clients aboard his Easton-based, Tilghman-bred Kinnamon, Shore Feels Right. Will is the one who will remember the expression of the toothless seven-year-old from Baltimore who caught a fish, before he will remember the fish.
While Will entertains, one of his brothers, Adam, 22, or Matt, 25, pilots. Owning a fishing charter seems like a dream, but with earthly rewards of an honest living and cooler full of rockfish. But this dream was hard won, and Will relied on ingenuity and family to win it.
His parents, JoAnn and Darryl, were both born and raised on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. JoAnn grew up on her father’s farm, Eason’s, on the Oxford Road. She met Darryl, who is from Federalsburg, when she was 12.
“He was the ugliest boy I had ever seen,” JoAnn said. “And he was a townie.” Still, she told her mother she would marry him some day.
“He was just so sweet,” she said. They married after JoAnn graduated from Easton High School.
The couple raised Will, his brothers, and his sister, Sonya, 21, to appreciate the heritage of their ancestry. They could hunt by age seven. They worked at Eason’s. They set trot-lines and woke in the wee hours before work or school to hunt and fish. They tinkered on their own boats when they weren’t working on someone else’s. They tailgated together at Buffet concerts (JoAnn is a Parrot-Head) and made Sunday pilgrimages across the bridge to watch the Redskins. (Darryl’s sweetness is tempered by the mention of a Baltimore-based bird made famous in a Poe poem.)
Most of all, JoAnn and Darryl emphasized fun and encouraged their children to spend their hours in ways that made them happy.
Will, like his father, enjoyed art. Darryl kept his artistic talent a secret for a long time. In the early years of their marriage, JoAnn would discover him drawing or working on small-scale creative projects. When they bought a piece of land, Darryl ripped down and repurposed an old barn on the property. From the copper roof he made sculptures. From the aged wooden siding, he made picture frames, furniture, fishing boxes and cabinets.
But Darryl made it clear that he wanted no one to know he was an artist. One day, JoAnn defiantly framed and hung a pencil drawing he had done of a Labrador retriever.
“He was really shy about it,” JoAnn said.
Will remembers sneaking up on his father to watch him draw or paint.
In school, Will took every art class offered. Even so, he knew his years of studying art were limited. He had no desire to attend a four-year college.
“I just knew that wasn’t for me. I like trade. I’m hands on,” he said.
He prepared to enter the family business, farming. He studied agriculture in school and participated in FFA. But JoAnn’s father scaled back work at Eason’s during Will’s final high school years. The farm became a flower and vegetable stand. The family supported Will’s decision to take a year off to consider other career options. He soon realized that “there was only one other thing that I liked besides art and farming: water.”
In 2009, he enrolled in a 13-month program at the Marine Mechanics Institute in Orlando, Fla. One month shy of completing the program, he saw a doctor for a routine physical. He had lost weight during his year in Orlando, separated from the family table and JoAnn’s Maryland specialties. The weight loss revealed a lump on his neck. Will told the doctor that the lump had “always been there.” Within days, he was back in Maryland, being treated at Hopkins for thyroid cancer.
Soon after finishing cancer treatment, White was hired at Judge Yacht in Denton. From there, he took a mechanic’s position at Campbell’s Boatyard. Even though he was working with his hands, on boats, around water, near family, White was still restless. His only creative outlet was to determine where he would attach gauge panels on a boat.
So, he started making fishing lures.
At first, he liked the challenge of crafting the lures. But that challenge soon became a fascination. Will spent all of his free time in his workshop. He loved the creative process: from smelting and molding iron, to powder coating and baking, to painting lips and eyes, to hand-tying hair from a bucktail of a deer he had hunted on the family property. He finished them with a bake in a toaster oven. He gave them to family and close friends only. Like his father, Will wanted to keep his talent under wraps.
In 2013, Will earned his captain’s license. The three brothers purchased and refurbished the Kinnamon and started running charter trips. On the trips, they used the lures, and customers wanted to buy them. Other captains wanted to know what they were using because they caught fish when others weren’t catching any. But the lures weren’t for sale until now. After eight years of developing the product, Will has decided to put the lures on the market and has shipped them from Massachusetts to Florida. Recently, he sent a shipment to Australia. So far there has only been one drawback to creating the lures: everyone loves them.
“I need negative feedback, so that I can make changes,” Will said.
Will now runs Tred Avon Charters (which includes the lure sales and a deer processing butchery during hunting season) full-time. Adam continues to work at Campbell’s in Oxford, and Matt is a reservist in the Air Force. Together the brothers are equal partners in Tred Avon Charters. Sonya has left the Shore to pursue her own dream. She is completing a degree in nursing at Stevenson University.
Darryl and JoAnn’s family hope, that their children might find something to love for a living (and have a good time doing it) has come true. Two of the boys have found someone to love as well. Will is newly married, and Adam is engaged. The siblings continue to reel –new dreams to scheme and conquer into the family fold. Meanwhile, JoAnn and Darryl keep dreams of their own: regular trips to Florida, where the Redskins play on the radio, and every town reminds them of Margaritaville.