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Aug 14, 2019 4:30 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Tred Barta, 67, Renowned Outdoorsman And Role Model For Those With Disabilities

Tred Barta Courtesy of TheBartaWay.com
Aug 20, 2019 3:10 PM

Tred Barta, a renowned outdoorsman who broke multiple International Game Fish Association world records while fishing from Montauk and Shinnecock, and was almost equally well-known for his brash manner, died last week in a car accident in the Yukon Territories, Canada.Mr. Barta was an accomplished hunter, fisherman and skier who roamed over the horizon in search of tuna and marlin and spent weeks on end in the wilderness stalking big-game animals.

For several years, he hosted a popular cable television show, “The Best and Worst of Tred Barta,” that followed his adventures.

When he was left paralyzed below the chest after suffering a stroke caused by a rare form of blood cancer, the show shifted its focus to Mr. Barta continuing to pursue the physically demanding sporting activities he always had — and the host became a celebrated role model demonstrating the abilities of people with physical handicaps.

He was 67 when he died on Sunday, August 11, in a single-car accident on the Pan-American Highway near the remote town of Watson Lake near the border of the Yukon Territories and British Columbia. He was returning at the time from a solo trip to Alaska in his specially outfitted pickup truck, which made it possible for him to drive from his wheelchair.

He was with his dog, Pepper, who survived the crash, when the accident happened. Canadian police have not said what the suspected cause of the accident was, a spokesperson for his family said.

Mr. Barta was born Thomas Tred Barta on March 28, 1952, in Bronxville, New York, to Joseph T. and Judith (Lachenbruch) Barta. His father was a World War II veteran and airplane broker. His mother was a tennis professional who founded the acclaimed Leighton-Barta National Tennis School, a training academy for tennis professionals, and founded the Ball-Boy Co., a company that produced one of the first automated tennis ball serving machines.

Mr. Barta grew up in Bronxville and summered with his family in Maine, where he found his love of the outdoors. He attended the former Hinkley School, now the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences, and the University of Colorado, where he was an accomplished member of the school’s ski team and biathlon team. He competed in a U.S. Junior Biathlon championship and trained with the U.S. Biathlon Junior Team.

“Tred was a fierce competitor in every arena,” said his sister, Susan Hadley. “He had an unlimited amount of patience when it came to fishing and hunting. When he was faced with emotional and physical challenges later in life, that helped him become a role model for all those who were in the same position.”

Mr. Barta settled on the South Fork in the late 1970s. He took over his father’s airplane brokerage and moved its offices to Hampton Bays, renaming it Barta-Iso Aviation after partnering with John Isokangas.

It was from here that Mr. Barta launched his hunting and fishing adventures. Roaming out to sea far past the horizon, at first in a boat just 20 feet long and without the modern electronic navigation equipment of today, he decked renowned hauls of tuna, swordfish, marlin and sharks at marinas on the Shinnecock Canal.

He was among the first fishermen to steam from South Fork ports out to the edges of the continental shelf, 100 miles from shore or more, in search of large pelagic fish, on multi-day voyages.

He broke five of the International Game Fish Association’s world records for different fish species, three of which still stand in the record books today.

“I met him on the docks when he had that little boat — he did some crazy stuff,” said Jim Hummell, who owned four boats with Mr. Barta — all called Humbart — over the decades they fished together. “He was an experience, I’ll say that. He was an adventurer and we did a lot of stuff we never would have done if we hadn’t met him.”

He also ranged into the wilds of Alaska and Canada, hiking and horseback riding into wildernesses dozens of miles from civilization and camping for weeks at a time to hunt big game like bear, elk and moose, usually with only a bow and arrow.

Later in life, he advocated for an approach to fishing and hunting that emphasized traditional methods, like wooden-shafted arrows and a bow without aiming aides. He always sought to catch fish on tackle that was less powerful than others might use for fish of similar size and required more skill to successfully bring a fish to the boat.

His television show began chronicling his trips afield in 2004, mostly focusing on hunting and fishing around the East End in the first episodes and ultimately following him around the world, with the motto “The Barta way, the hard way” as its theme.

The show, which still airs in syndication, later focused on his Herculean struggle with paralysis, starting with scenes filmed from his hospital bed within days of the onset of his symptoms.

His unabashed and frank discussions of his paralysis and physical handicaps in general, and his immediate resolve to continue his outdoor pursuits — from a wheelchair that had rubber tank treads rather than wheels — became the centerpiece of the show and brought praise from advocates of those with physical limitations.

He also authored two books about his life, “The Best & Worst of Tred Barta” and “Driven,” which he only recently completed with co-author Donna de Weil and is currently for sale on Amazon.

Throughout his life, Mr. Barta was as renowned for his cocksure and chauvinistic personality as he was for his accomplishments. He wore his knack for offending others on his sleeve and boasted of the long list of enemies that he had made nearly as much as he did of his sporting successes.

He was famous for saying he had just six friends in the world. Many of them would no doubt hark as much to his faults as they would his strengths.

“Tred is not someone you liked all the time,” said Dean Travis Clarke, the longtime editor of Sport Fishing Magazine, for which Mr. Barta wrote an often controversial monthly column for 21 years.

“No one was apathetic about Tred Barta,” he added. “He got people going. Some of them loved his ‘caveman’ attitude. But he also had some unusual philosophies that not everyone appreciated. But even his detractors admitted that he made you think, and that when it came to fishing and hunting, he was very good at it.”

Mr. Barta and Mr. Clarke started a fishing tournament series on the basis of his column, called the Barta Blue Marlin Classic, which raised money for the IGFA’s youth fishing program and later for the Boys & Girls Club. The tournament series raised more than $1 million for its charities.

He is survived by his son Hunter, daughter-in-law Nikki, and grandson, Skyler, all of Beaufort, North Carolina; a daughter, Lauren, of Ashville, North Carolina; a sister, Ms. Hadley, of Park City, Utah; and his beloved dog, Pepper.

The family has not yet made plans for services or a memorial. Mr. Barta’s stated wishes were that his ashes be scattered in the ocean above an area of the continental shelf about 90 miles south of Montauk known among fishermen as Bigeye Mountain.

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Thank you for the inspiring video . . . condolences to the family.

Rest In Peace
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Aug 15, 19 2:42 PM
Tred was certainly one in a billion. A very strong and energetic personality. He accomplished so much.
By Lets go mets (377), Southampton on Aug 15, 19 6:36 PM
Met Tred many years ago when he moved to SHV. Many years of hunting and fishing. Tred could not sit still, if he couldn't fish because of weather, he wanted to shoot a bow or gun. He was generous to people around him.
Some days he was hard to tolerate for long periods
He will be missed by all. I know I will miss him...

RIP, God Bless
By knitter (1941), Southampton on Aug 15, 19 8:46 PM
Happy to see a kinder more gentleman article about our friend.
By Frythea (8), Southampton on Aug 16, 19 3:29 PM
How old was he when he became paralyzed?
By Phyllisann (18), Lebanon on Aug 24, 19 2:23 PM
It was in 2009, so he was in his late 50s.
By Joseph Shaw, Executive Editor (206), Hampton Bays on Aug 26, 19 11:07 AM