Amber Marchant (@islandbaby4life on Instagram) grew up on Marathon Key, Florida. As a girl, she would grow up fishing from local docks or lobstering with her dad. Her mom would regale Amber with stories of the fish she’d caught herself.
Since she was four years old, however, one fish, in particular, has been Amber’s “dream fish”: Dorado, also known as dolphin or mahi mahi.
“I even got a dive set that was all in mahi print when I was a girl,” she says. “The mask, the fins, everything mahi.”
Today, she thinks of dorado not only as beautiful but also appreciates them from the perspective of a reeler.
“Once you hook a dorado, it’s not too hard to bring in,” Amber says. “You won’t break your back. But they’re acrobatic and they fight hard — and they’re a gorgeous fish.”
Last weekend, Amber was chasing dorado in the Tom Thumb Marathon Bull and Cow Dolphin Offshore Tournament. She no longer lives in Marathon — she makes her home near Boca Grande, these days — but she makes her way down to the keys for the annual tournament.
Even though she fished as a child, all this angling is not something Amber has done seriously all her life.
“I only started getting really serious about it a year and a half ago,” she says. “I went out fishing with my boyfriend and hooked up on a permit. The adrenaline rush was incredible!”
The permit experience stoked Amber’s interest, but “I wasn’t tying my own knots or rigging my own gear yet.”
“Then I went tarpon fishing and fell in love,” she says. The inshore fishing experience, especially for redfish made Amber “want to learn everything on my own.”
As much as she adores her beloved dorado, “Redfish are hands-down my soul fish.”
Amber is fortunate that her home waters are renowned for their inshore fishing. Leaving from Pine Island Sound, she has a wide range of inshore opportunities to choose from.
It’s not that she doesn’t also enjoy offshore fishing.
“I love the adrenaline rush of offshore fishing. But it can be challenging, especially trolling and waiting for a hit,” Amber says. “I love the engagement of inshore fishing, instead of just sitting there and waiting for something to happen.”
For Amber, figuring out what the redfish are thinking is like solving a puzzle.
“Sometimes I may sight cast, other times it may not work,” she says. “I just make adjustments until I figure out what’s working that day.”
She remembers running across “a pod of 30 redfish up in the mangroves” one day.
“We just kept casting into them,” Amber says. “I bet we hooked up on 25 fish that day. Other days I may not get any at all.”
On another redfish excursion off Venice, Louisiana, Amber and her fishing companions were using shrimp but getting no bites. She decided to switch up from shrimp to crab and got a hit.
“I hooked this monster bull red,” she says. “I didn’t realize just how big it was until I got it up and it flashed.”
Once in the boat, the fish had a “girth almost as big as my torso,” Amber says. “It was Jurassic to me!”
Amber is as hooked on the excitement of fishing as she is on the education she receives with each outing.
“Even if I’m not catching anything,” she says, “It’s a learning experience every time I’m out on the water. And the adrenaline of the hook-up. I’m always looking for the next best thing.”