Charlie Zahn says fish fry is his main focus
It turned out that Zahn, a regular on the Port Aransas north jetty and a renowned slayer of trout and redfish, is really proud of how he organizes the meals for each year's Deep Sea Roundup.
He calls himself the "head chef for the fish fry."
A shrimp boil has been a fixture of the Deep Sea Roundup for more than 10 years, Zahn explained.
"A shrimp boil isn't that expensive, and it can be used as finger food," he said.
But Zahn said he had been in tournaments where the topic of discussion among contestants was the food served to anglers.
He volunteered to organize a post-tournament fish fry "if you'll give me a crew to cook and leave us alone."
"People immediately recognized there had been a change," he said.
But there have been more changes than that.
In 2006, the tournament was hit by rain. The fish fry, traditionally held at Fred Rhodes Memorial Pavilion in Roberts Point Park, was moved to the Civic Center.
"Ah," Zahn grinned. "Air conditioning." (Also, a fully-equipped kitchen.)
On top of that, the Civic Center is where the awards are presented.
Last year, Zahn said, "We decided to go to the Civic Center anyway, rain or not."
A crew of 20 does the cooking. "Many of them have been doing this for the Deep Sea Roundup for years," Zahn said.
"I really believe we've updated the food," he said.
A longtime member of Port Aransas Boatmen Inc. (he was elected Boatman of the Year in 2006), Zahn praised the group's community involvement as well as its conservation ethic.
Tag and release has been a large factor in that, he believes. He also praised the awards organization, where "everybody gets a chance to win."
Zahn thinks the Deep Sea Roundup had gradually lost credibility with the tournament competition community, but he said he feels the introduction last year of polygraph testing, where there's little if any contention about results, will go a long way toward restoring that credibility.
Last year, he said, was the best the Deep Sea Roundup has had. The fish fry crew fed 825 people, Zahn said.
"And," he pointed out again, "the last day of the tournament is in air conditioning."