Milton C. Shedd

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1922 - 2002
2006 Inductee

In a life that spanned almost 80 years, Milt Shedd spent more than 3,500 days on the water, redefining game fishing and creating a legacy that embraced the seas. By the age of four, Milt had begun his love affair with the ocean which grew into a passion for sport fishing. Considered one of California’s top anglers, he was known for his inquisitive mind and natural instincts. In the early 1950s, aboard the Five Bells, he helped pioneer billfishing in Cabo San Lucas. When Milt discovered mackerel in a striped marlin’s stomach, he decided it made perfect sense to fish for billfish using the fish they fed on. This was radical thinking: every West Coast angler knew you trolled for marlin with rigged flying fish. Shedd was the first to cast to marlin using live bait and the results confirmed his theory: he showed up at the dock with five marlin, half a day’ s catch for the entire Long Beach fleet. Milt Shedd had legendary eyes: when the water was calm he could spot a finning billfish three miles away in the binoculars. Just a few anglers have caught a marlin and swordfish in California waters in the same day and Milt was one of them. He fished with long rods that gave him that extra distance, rods that by 1960 were known as “Miltie Sticks”. In 1964, Shedd and three friend s came up with an idea for an underwater restaurant. Before long, however, that was replaced by a new idea: a marine park. Milt had the vision and the integrity, and it was he who sold this new concept to investors. San Diego’s SeaWorld opened in 1964 and drew more than 400,000 visitors that year. A public offering and more parks followed. Milt served as Board Chairman until 1985, firmly establishing SeaWorld as an entertainment and environmental mecca. Shedd was also responsible for funding the Hubbs/SeaWorld Research Institute. Its groundbreaking work with marine mammals and sport fishes has made it one of the country’s premier research centers. In 1973 when Milt Shedd bought the 16-year-old AFTCO Manufacturing Company the product line consisted of four items. But after a lifetime on the water Milt had lots of ideas. One of the best was the Unibutt. Florida’s Frank Johnson, Jim Easton’s aluminum company, and AFTCO worked together on what is now the industry standard aluminum rod butt. With its innovation, uncompromising quality, and strong conservation ethic, AFTCO has been an industry leader for almost 50 years, one of the most recognized and highly- regarded tackle manufacturers in the world. Milt relished scientific adventures. He didn’t just donate money -- he was hands-on. In the early 1960s he organized one of the first tagging programs on the West Coast, which resulted in the tag-and-release of several thousand tuna and marlin. In 1977, he and Dr. Frank Carey of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution spent two months in Baja California aboard Shedd’s 67’ Sea World. During this expedition Shedd became the first to implant sonic tags in swordfish. Shedd was the visionary behind California’s white seabass hatchery, which continues to help restore this once-depleted fishery. In October 2004 the one-millionth tagged seabass was released in what has become the U.S.’s largest marine fish enhancement program. Milt Shedd’s contributions are immeasurable. A reconnaissance officer during World War II, he was awarded Silver and Bronze Stars and the Purple Heart. In 1995 he received the Billfish Foundation’s first annual John Rybovich Award for Lifetime Achievement. Additional commendations and awards have come from NOAA, UCLA, United Anglers of Southern California, San Diego Oceans Foundation, and the California Outdoor Writers Association. Often referred to as the “Walt Disney of the Sea,” Milt will no doubt be remembered for founding SeaWorld and the Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute, developing early tagging programs, and fathering the white seabass program. He was a great innovator, a successful businessman, and he was responsible for fishing techniques and tackle used by anglers today. But most of all, Milt Shedd was passionate about the oceans. The goal he set forth for Hubbs characterized his own life’s mission as well: “To return to the sea some measure of the benefits derived from it.” He lived his life doing just that. And for this, IGFA pays tribute to Milt Shedd.