OCEANSIDE — Whoever said, “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach” never met Jon Schwartz.
When he’s not teaching third grade at Santa Margarita Elementary School on Camp Pendleton, chances are he’s catching a giant Hawaiian amberjack in a kayak off the Kona coast or being featured by Marlin, Sport Fishing, Forbes or Field & Stream magazines.
Schwartz has made quite a second career for himself as an adventurer and freelance journalist. Over the past year, his work has taken him to the Amazon, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Guatemala and Cabo San Lucas.
He got his start quite accidentally after a shoulder injury a few years ago forced him to give up surfing.
“I went to the beach one night and met a guy who was catching sharks,” he said. “Then I started going down and meeting him at 1 a.m., even on school nights, when the fish are out and about.”
When Schwartz learned that the best fishing was actually on the water, he used his surfboard until someone suggested a kayak. His first ventures off the coast of Cardiff yielded bass and yellow tail.
The experience ignited a passion.
“My quest was to design a fishing pole to catch tuna,” he said. “I had a custom rod made. Then I had to think how I was going to kill it. You can’t pull a 100-pound tuna into your kayak and have it laying in your lap.”
Schwartz traveled to Hawaii where tuna are close to shore. He caught his first one with his new fishing pole, subduing it in the kayak with a spear.
He started writing about his experiences online and met the editor of Sport Fishing magazine who suggested he pen a story about big game kayak fishing.
His career took off.
When Schwartz heard about marlin concentrated in an area off the coast of Baja, he hired a professional videographer to film the action.
“Luckily I caught eight marlin in two days, hooking them by trolling small mackerel behind my kayak, fighting them, and then landing and releasing them by hand,” he said.
Last fall the video was featured on National Geographic TV’s “Hooked: Monster Fish II.” It continues to air in reruns.
Schwartz offers a word of caution.
“I had to scratch that itch and see if I personally could do it, but I do not recommend others try it,” he said. “It’s dangerous.”
Schwartz’s adventures have generated an income, underwritten travel costs and enabled him to get comps from resorts.
In summer 2008 he used his contacts to surprise Sgt. Nick Amato and his family when the Camp Pendleton Marine returned from Iraq. During the school year Schwartz taught his student, Gabe Amato, how to fish as a way of coping with the sadness of his dad’s absence. He subsequently arranged a five-day trip to Cabo San Lucas paid for by the Villa Group Resorts. This included two days of sports fishing photographed by Schwartz.
“Nick was ecstatic,” said his wife, Amber Mota. “He felt it was the greatest summer ever. He didn’t understand why anyone would want to do that for our family.”
Since November 2008, Schwartz prefers to work behind the camera, jumping into the water to capture an underwater shot of a flailing marlin being brought in by another angler.
His business has expanded to include private photography for wealthy yacht owners and upscale resorts. He recently donated a photo valued at $450 to the Billfish Foundation, which works to preserve the future of marlin and sailfish.
Schwartz brings his experiences into the classroom, teaching kids about responsible ocean management such as “catch and release” and destructive practices like pollution, shark finning and cyanide and dynamite fishing.
A musician, he has been known to lead a New Orleans-style funeral for a fish before dissecting it in the classroom.
“The world is their oyster,” he said. “I share some of my approaches to business with students so they know what it’s like to cold call people and get jobs or donations.”
Schwartz also teaches students the skills of his trade such as Photoshop, video editing and using the Internet to pitch ideas to prospective editors.
“Most importantly, I show them why writing is important,” he said. “It’s not to please me, and editing isn’t something I want them to learn for some abstract reason. It’s so they can communicate with others effectively, be persuasive, and get ahead.”
Schwartz’s latest goal is to make “Bluewater Jon Productions, LLC” a family business, incorporating his wife and three daughters.
To learn more about Schwartz and view his work, visit bluewaterjon.com.