Catching Up With Mad Fisherman Charlie Moore
A day on Lake Winnipesaukee with Charlie Moore of NESN’s “Charlie Moore Outdoors"
On my second day with the Mad Fisherman Charlie Moore, we’re sitting in modern but comfortable armchairs on either side of his stone fireplace. I’m interviewing him while his crew runs a three-camera shoot for his show and a New Hampshire Magazine photographer snaps pictures. He’s in a black T- shirt, black jeans and wingtips with his hair spiked up and a glass of Italian red wine in hand, which he describes as part of his regimen for staying youthful. I’ve just asked him about turning 50, which provokes an outpouring of faux misery, mock tears and a burst of annoyance.
“I got people telling me to act my age,” Charlie says, indignantly. “Are you kidding me?” His voice rises. “How old are you? And who are you? And more importantly, get a life.” It’s just Charlie Moore playing Charlie Moore and he’s on a hot roll. “This is the same guy whose wife is saying to him, ‘I wish you were more like this guy Charlie Moore on TV, because he looks like a lot of fun. Unlike you, Fred. You’re just a boring lump on a log.’ But Fred’s gotta critique me, because he’s never gonna be me.” The room breaks up laughing. Poor Fred.
There’s a danger with a personality and a persona as big as Charlie Moore’s that the subtlety of the human being could be lost amidst the bombast of the character he plays, both on television and in life. Not that there’s anything inauthentic about that character. The Mad Fisherman Charlie Moore seems to be Charlie Moore, through and through; he’s simply not the extent of Charlie Moore.
Charlie stars in the Emmy-award-winning NESN show “Charlie Moore Outdoors.” And in the worldwide-syndicated show “Charlie Moore: No Offense” (I suspect he hopes you’re offended from time to time, or at the very least, he’s not bothered by the fact). And in NESN’s “Bruins Academy.” He’s the executive producer of NESN’s “Behind The B.” He has his own line of fishing tackle. He travels the world, eating, drinking, fishing and exploring with a host of fascinating and often (but not always, he points out) famous people, from Boston sports legends such as Doug Flutie and Ray Bourque to actors like Adam West to rock stars including Ted Nugent. Charlie speaks in a rapid-fire monologue, interjected with comic asides to the camera and occasional storms of pique or frustration. When things slow down, he quotes ’80s movie lines. He’s funny, impatient and implacable.
These traits have served Charlie well, both in shaping an on-screen persona and when knocking the “1,000 times on the front door of NESN” it took to get him his first interview there.
He has an elegant home in the woods of Chester, New Hampshire, with a stone-sculpted backyard retreat anchored by a massive outdoor fireplace encircling a pool and sprouting a well-appointed outdoor kitchen, a driveway full of sleek, fast boats and a garage with a yellow Lamborghini and a Charlie Moore custom Ducati motorcycle, among other similarly envy-inducing vehicles.
If these were the only things you knew about him, if you knew him just from the Charlie Moore who comes through the screen at you, you’d be impressed and amused or, depending on your temperament, maybe annoyed or offended. But you’d be missing something essential. You wouldn’t know about the spare little space between the wall of the finished basement and the foundation of Charlie’s house, where he keeps his desk and his computer next to the furnace. So he can work just like he worked when he was young and broke and living in his mother-in-law’s house. And what he keeps in a frame on that desk. And … I’ll get to all that. But first, let’s spend a few hours with Charlie Moore.
At some point last year during the pandemic, New Hampshire Magazine got hooked up with Charlie through the auspices of one of our photographers, P.T. Sullivan, and we started talking about a story. Charlie thought it would be cool to spend a few days together fishing and talking, and for him to turn it into an episode of his show that talked about magazines and for us to turn it into a magazine story (a cover story, of course). We agreed.
Months later, shortly into our first day together as we stood casting from the deck of one of his boats in the “Football Field” (one of his go-to spots on Lake Winnipesaukee), cameras rolling on our boat and a support boat, fish being landed apace — more frequently by Charlie than me (though I wasn’t getting skunked) — I noted how “meta” that concept was.
For which he made fun of me for using a lot of big words in conversation and made fun of himself for not knowing a lot of big words. At 50, he quips, “I feel like I could actually pass 12th grade right now without any help from anyone else.”
We met at 10 a.m. (he’s not an early riser, contrary to fishing tradition) on a sunny, already hot morning in Wolfeboro. At the launch on Railroad Avenue he and his crew loaded two fast, sleek boats into the water from which we’d fish, his crew would shoot, and our photographer P.T. would capture stills for the magazine. Charlie’s a lean (“people are always saying I’m skinnier than I look on TV,” he tells me), frenetic presence in black T-shirt and white shorts, hair spiked. Random strangers tell him he’s too old to wear his hair like that. He wonders where the hell those people get off. He’s barking orders at is team, which includes both his son and son-in-law, in a tone that would set alarm bells ringing in human resources. “Put a little pep in your step,” he demands. Then expletives. Then threats of termination. “Make sure your motor’s up through the cut!” His crew seems to genuinely like him. This is part of the schtick. But it’s not. But it is.
He gives a quick handshake and then he’s just business and orders until the boats are in the water. This is a smaller-than-normal crew for the show on his home water. He reminisces as we get under way, passing under the low stone bridge into the lake. He’s seen the lake come of age, been a part of its development. It’s all personal. It’s all family.
As we pass the little ice cream stand just before entering the main body of the lake there’s an older couple standing looking over the railing. Charlie calls out to them. They recognize him. Everyone here seems to recognize him. He’s got the gift of gab, and people respond to it. He tells me he’s had it since he was 6.
The sky is overwhelmingly blue, hard-to-believe-once-there-was-no-word-for-this-color blue, and the heat is building like it’s high summer, not late May, but there’s a breeze coming across the water that makes things feel cooler than they are. It’s going to be almost 90. A sunburn kind of day. Charlie eschews sunscreen. We tell fishing sunburn horror stories. But New Hampshire sun is not as strong as Florida sun or California sun. Melanin-gifted as I am, as unused to burning as I am, I put sunscreen on my face. I skip my arms. Charlie’s confidence is infectious. My arms, despite being nut-brown when we start, are still peeling two weeks later.
We’re doing about 40 miles an hour across the lake and the boat is bouncing and spray is flying and everyone’s laughing. Charlie says with no crew, he could get it up to 72
or 74. It’s hard to imagine. We’re hauling. It’s wonderful.
“Don’t plane off so close to me,” he screams at the support boat as we drop into the Football Field. “The boat doesn’t have brakes; you could run me over.”
He’s always yelling at the second boat. His son Anthony is running the walkie over there, checking in to keep count on the number of fish caught. Charlie gets annoyed. Charlie turns off his walkie. Anthony at some points drops his in the water. Charlie tells him he’s fired. Or that it’s coming out of his check. Anthony continues doing his thing. Charlie mugs and delivers asides to the camera.
We fish and talk in that order of priority until about noon, working our way from the Football Field over to a spot he calls Chuck Woolery Cove. Woolery is an actor and game show host, famous for stints on “Wheel of Fortune” and the original “Love Connection.” They fished together and got along so well, and Woolery fished so successfully in that spot, that Charlie’s kept the name.
“Chuck Woolery called me a BB in a tin can,” Charlie recalls. We’d been catching rock bass steadily all morning, and now Charlie is into good-size smallmouth and is landing them one after the other. I get a good one on and lose it when it slacks the line right next to the boat. Charlie’s sympathetic. When I lose a second one, I ask him what he thinks I’m doing wrong. He opines it’s a hook set issue. I’m most used to fishing for trout with flies. Maybe I have too a light touch. He’s kind about it.
At around noon, Charlie orders the boats brought up close to each other and sandwiches and cigars are doled out. Charlie’s energy level doesn’t drop, and he smokes and paces the deck, gesticulating broadly as he holds forth, but his mood changes. The cameras have been stowed while the crew eats and things get reflective. We talk about his past. It wasn’t an easy ride. We talk about loss. He lost his mother Helen to Alzheimer’s last year, just before the pandemic hit, and they were very close. We talk about turning 50 last year. Both of us were surprised, it seemed, by how much harder it was than we’d expected.
Most of this talk, as emotional and revealing as it was, is stuff that stays between the guys in the boats and the waves, stretched out into vanishing thinness by the wind across the lake.
That in itself a part of the allure of fishing. It’s a sport that promotes reflection. And it creates moments of privacy and intimacy disconnected from the anxieties and pressures of the rest of the world. This is at odds with the notion of a high-energy, cameras-always-rolling television show. Maybe that sense of paradox is what strikes me most about the whole experience with the Mad Fisherman.
Charlie had three brothers and a little sister and grew up in Lynnfield, Massachusetts. He caught his first fish when he was about 7 years old at the Crystal Cove Marina on Boston Harbor. He’s been married to his high school sweetheart, Angela, for 30 years. He talks about her as much as he talks about fishing. They went to her senior prom together.
They were together when he was unemployed and broke and talked his way into a spot on NESN’s “Front Row” sports show in 1996. That first year, he says, he spent more money keeping his boat repaired than he made on the show. But that net loss led eventually to “Charlie Moore Outdoors” in 1999, and to the big business that Charlie Moore has become.
Somewhere during that period he developed specific, serious ideas about what he wanted to do as a performer. “Making people laugh, entertaining people, is what I do,” he says. That, he adds, comes naturally. “I definitely hone my skill as an artist, but from the minute I was plopped down on this earth, my goal was to entertain people,” he says.
“I think that people think there’s someone behind the scenes saying, ‘Hey, Charlie, I think you should do something crazy and funny right now for the audience at home.’
I don’t think they realize that this is who I am. I do feel like I am a walking, talking series. I create content because that’s my personality.”
Which, despite the exuberance with which he approaches a day of fishing and shooting, is also work. In some ways, he’s writing the show as he goes along, and directing as well. He deploys his crew like a general as ideas for shots occur to him. He commands a drone deployment. We shoot B-roll and material for cutaways. As a guest on the show, I have the sense of a massive volume of material being captured, the cameras are almost always rolling. Then, over the course of about four weeks, he and his team will edit down those days of footage into a tight 30 minutes, a huge amount of curation that at its conclusion will give viewers “a look inside my mind,” Charlie says.
“The real issue comes with the editing,” he says. His humor hinges on spontaneity and timing. The camera crew needs to have a sense of his rhythms, ensure that they don’t stop rolling too soon. Then he works closely with the editors, making sure they don’t mistake the punchline for the whole joke. “They might think I’ve said my piece, but the long dramatic pause [after] is the joke.”
As funny and wild as it all is when it’s done, and as much as it grows out of improv and playfulness, this is his art.
He could have brought that art to Los Angeles — there was a sitcom deal. Offers abound, he says. But he wouldn’t have had the kind of control he has over his name, his image, his shows and his time as he does here in New Hampshire. Or the kind of freedom he has to pursue the things that matter to him, including and especially his relationship with his wife and family.
Which brings me back to the little room between the finished basement and the foundation wall, where Charlie keeps his desk and his computer for recording voiceovers for the show.
At the end of day two of the shoot at Charlie’s house, the mics were off and the video cameras and lights were stowed. We’d just spent an hour doing a formal interview. Our New Hampshire Magazine photographer Kendal J. Bush was getting set up to shoot some portraits of Charlie for the cover photo, and I was on my way out the door, when one of the guys on Charlie’s crew reminded me I ought to see the downstairs. I found Charlie and he brought me to his man cave with a big television, couch, classic arcade games, fishing gear, walls covered with memorabilia from past shows, events, appearances, and pictures of Charlie fishing with his celebrity guests. There’s a row of autographed guitars (he doesn’t play, they’re gifts from rockstar guests). We’re strolling around and looking at the pictures, and he’s reminiscing and then he opens a door at the far end of the room.
Inside up against the bare concrete of the foundation and next to the furnace is his desk. He picks up a small, simple black frame with a note in it, and an old photo of Charlie and Angela when they were just kids, taped to the note. He says Angela gave it to him before the NESN gig came through. When they were living with her mother Bonnie in Beverly, Massachusetts, and the only space for him to work was in the basement next to the furnace, and nobody in the world was betting on Charlie Moore being much of anything. Except Angela. He hands me the frame. The note says, “You can do anything you put your mind to. Just keep on reaching and someday, sooner than you think, you will obtain your dream of a lifetime. If you believe it will happen, then it will happen. I know you can do it, babe. Hang in there. I love you!” I get a little misty-eyed reading that. And I suddenly feel like I know how the story I want to tell about Charlie begins.