If you weren’t catching fish, John Oatman kept you laughing. Usually you were doing both. | Obituaries


Whether catching fish , there always was a constant when John Oatman was on the boat.


“No matter what, he was always smiling, laughing and joking,” said longtime friend Capt. Randy Butler. “Had to be the happiest guy in the world.”

That bright light went out Sunday when Oatman, one of the best-known faces in the Virginia Beach fishing scene, died of complications from a Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infection. He was 66.

A celebration of his life will be held 3 p.m. Oct. 19 at Chick’s Oyster Bar off of Shore Drive.

“Heck of a fisherman and one of the nicest people I’ve ever met,” said Butler, who was friends with Oatman for the better part of 30 years. 

Oatman worked several years on Butler’s boat,  Rebel,  and was the mate when a team won more than  $1 million by capturing the title in the 2007 White Marlin Open.

“Sure hate that he’s not going to be around anymore.”

At the Virginia Beach Fishing Center, where Oatman was a fixture, anglers and friends said Oatman’s humor and expertise would  be missed.

“That was his world,” said Jenny Oatman Nolan, his only daughter. “There are all kinds of things people are going to remember about him. But the main thing is how he kept everybody laughing.”

While he took it upon himself to keep cast and crew upbeat at all times, the white-haired, salt-and-pepper goateed Oatman was quick to share his vast angling knowledge

“A lot of guys on fishing teams are so serious and excitable,” said Julie Ball. “I know everybody talks about his humor  … but it was his patience – especially when he was working on my boat during the women’s tournaments. I’d ask him to show the girls how to hook the fish and how to fight them, and…

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