Jeff “The Fish” Aaron has signed off.
Best known for his sports-talk program on the Everett radio station KRKO 1380 AM, Aaron left the station following its recent format change, switching away from sports talk to music. As the station’s afternoon radio host, Aaron interviewed famous athletes, featured local sports and shared his opinions on the teams.
After 16 years on the radio here, Aaron plans to move to the Phoenix area where he’ll pursue his broadcast career and continue to expand his pub trivia company, Fame Trivia USA, to Arizona restaurants and bars.
Here, Aaron, 57, of Lake Stevens, reflects on his love for radio, his fishy nickname and what he’ll miss about the show.
When did you realize your passion for radio?
I honestly fell in love with radio at an early age. I was always the kid in front of the TV yelling out the plays, likely driving my father crazy. A friend of mine in high school got a job spinning records at a local station and we used to hang out and watch him work. I was mesmerized instantly. For the most part I didn’t care if it was sports talk or spinning records — either way was fine with me.
What’s the story behind your radio nickname?
I was asked to fill in for Mitch Levy’s “Mitch in Midday” show on Seattle radio station KJR AM 950. The main topic of the day was very somber: the death of Boston Celtics star Reggie Lewis. I later talked about athletes who died while still active in their careers. When Mitch returned, he asked his audience how the “fill in” did. One caller responded by saying it sounded like a “fishing show.” Mitch likes to poke and prod and I was teased for hosting a “fishing show.” Everyone started calling me “Fisherman” and the nickname stuck. Now you know why I rarely tell this story.
How did you end up working for KRKO?
I was the victim of what KJR termed “budget cuts.” At first it was very depressing and frustrating because we were such a close-knit group of guys. KRKO had recently switched to talk radio, and the Everett Silvertips were coming to town in 2001. They pitched the idea of a local show, and I was thrilled at the possibility. Timing is everything and it quickly fell into place.
What were your goals as a radio personality?
When I came to Everett in 2002, I wanted to be memorable and make an impact. Getting let go by KJR was the toughest break ever, but it made me stronger, more driven and a better broadcaster.
How did you build a fan base?
I definitely went old school in my approach to building a radio audience. In the early days of the show, we gave every listener a radio station T-shirt if they signed up to my website to be a “Fish Head.” The real key was broadcasting live from almost every great community event — the Everett Sausage Fest, Taste of Edmonds, Marysville Strawberry Festival, Lake Stevens Aquafest, etc. Plus, I was on the ice for every Silvertips games for the first eight years of the team’s history, so I had a real bonding experience with listeners. I also did other things like jump in a pool of jello, play goalie against a women’s hockey team and race cars at Evergreen Speedway.
What separated your show from others?
I was always trying to be a little different, looking at things in a different way and offering an opinion that you had to agree or disagree with. I pushed for fan loyalty, common sense and stressed always having an opinion. “Get off the fence” was a common phrase as no one wants to listen to someone who doesn’t have passion or a strong feeling about the topics of discussion. The best shows are unscripted, unplanned and something happens to send it in a completely unpredictable direction.
How alike or different are Jeff Aaron and “The Fish”?
We’re alike in that we’re willing to chat about sports, life, etc. But as “The Fish,” I think there’s a bit more showmanship, ego and effort to promote my radio career. It is funny that I didn’t embrace the nickname at first — who wants to be “The Fish”? But, after a while I learned that it was best to embrace it. It changed my career quite a bit in a good way.
What did you enjoy covering?
I consider myself a very lucky person to have witnessed so many epic moments. I have been to many Super Bowls, the Indy 500, Kentucky Derby, the Masters Tournament at Augusta, and big UFC and boxing fights. I also enjoyed talking about real-life issues, mixed with personal observations. I loved interviewing people and trying to get them to relax and really understand what drives them.
Do you have any funny stories involving players or coaches?
Seattle Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander took my advice on a new touchdown celebration — reeling in a fish — after a record-setting touchdown against the St. Louis Rams in 2005. I remain forever grateful and proud. In a live interview with Terry Francona, former manager of the Boston Red Sox, I told him he was the most attractive man in sports. It was really awkward until I told how him much we resemble each other in looks, then he relaxed a bit. To be honest, there are so many memories and unscripted moments that I cherish.
What will you miss?
I will miss the daily interaction with my co-host, Tom Lafferty, telling stories and meeting interesting people. I really miss the creative energy we created each day. It was a lot of work. People think it is easy — it surely is not. I worked very hard for this station to create a unique brand. It may not have been as highly rated or successful as desired, but it was 100 percent effort and fun along the way. We dared to be different.
Evan Thompson: 360-544-2999, firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @evanthompson_1.