Meet Dr. Pop Pop

Gene Silberhorn really knows water.

Gene (also called Pop Pop by those who know him best) is an accomplished professor of marine botany and prominent figure at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. He also happens to be the father of Marker Nine co-founder Mike Silberhorn (and a doppelgänger for Ernest Hemingway).

And while we can’t say for certain, we’re convinced that he has explored every single nook, creek, cranny and offshoot of the York River region.

In the truest sense, he is a man of the water and every bit of his love for nature comes through in his love for the sea.

But we still wanted to put him through the Marker Nine Questionnaire, our version of the Proust Questionnaire.

What are your top three yacht rock songs that must be on your beach or boat playlist?

I don’t really listen to music when I’m on the boat. I really just like to listen to the slap of the water on the bow, any birds that are making a racket, and that’s about it.

What is your favorite seafood?

Oh wow. Favorite seafood… do you want something from the Chesapeake Bay?

(No, it can be from anywhere.)

My favorite seafood is any kind of snapper. Or grouper. Close third would be flounder. I love blue crabs and I’m actually a claw man. Most people reject the claws, but I like the sweeter, wilder taste than the backfin itself.

There’s so much seafood that I really do like, though.

You can’t beat a good fried oyster. Steamed clams are also hard to beat. Scallops and lobster, too.

What is your drink of choice on the beach or boat?

Probably a Mexican beer or Presidente, which is a Caribbean beer. Or a rum and Coke.

Has to be good rum! I like Mount Gay or Myers, either one with Coke.

If you could only bring one person out on your boat with you (or to spend the day on the beach), who would it be? Living or dead. Celebrity or not. You pick.

Oh, wow.

(You can take a minute to think about it.)

Hmm…just one person?

(Just one person for the day.)

Jacques Cousteau would be cool. Probably, my grandsons and granddaughter.

I always enjoy fishing with one of my friends, Tom Luckam. I still enjoy fishing with him. Probably the author of the book Beautiful Swimmers.

Blow boat or power boat?

I’ve been on both.

I enjoy both of them. From a practical point of view, when I want to get back when there’s no wind, have to go with a power boat.

I (also) love to troll (on a power boat). I call it the poor man’s deep-sea fishing and (to do that) you have to have power. 

Creek crawl or full throttle?

I’m definitely not a fan of full throttle. I’d say hull speed. Do you know what that is? That’s the speed that the hull itself goes on a plane and just cuts through the water straight and level. Hull speed is my favorite speed.

Snack attack. What are the must have snacks for a day on the boat or beach?

Chips would have to be one of them. A good ham sandwich. A Virginia ham sandwich with some mayonnaise and a nice bun. You have to have a cold beer with it, too!

What is your earliest water memory?

With my father. Up on the Great Lakes. Lake Huron in Michigan catching perch and running along with his old Sea King outboard engine. It was a low power engine on a flat-bottom, wooden boat.

Describe your perfect day (preferably on the water).

A day with Memaw (Sue Silberhorn), even though she isn’t a boat person. A day that doesn’t get rough and she enjoys it.

What's the biggest fish tale that you told?

I’ve got pictures of both of them on the same day down in the Keys.

I caught an African pompano on very light line and light tackle and the Captain said that I might have a Florida record for that kind of fish. It was light tackle, only twelve-pound line. Everybody else said to take it in, but I asked if I had to kill it. The captain said of course as I had to bring it in for verification. It had a long dorsal fin that came down real pretty. I said I couldn’t do it. It was such a beautiful fish.

Right after that, I caught a Goliath grouper, which is a rare fish. It’s not huge, but it’s an endangered species so we threw it back, of course. I said this is my reward! We later caught our limit on mangrove snapper and afterwards we had a feast of snapper in the Keys.


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