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For Professional Bass Fisherman Mike Iaconelli, Perseverance is the Name of the Game

It’s hard for the average kid hitting the local fishing hole to imagine his or her weekend passion would ever amount to a lucrative fishing career. But for Mike Iaconelli, that’s exactly how his professional bass fishing career began.

“I’ve been fishing since I could hold a fishing rod,” says the 2003 Bassmaster Classic Champion. “I got into the bass fishing side of things in my early teens; [that’s when] I first started gravitating toward bass fishing, but I’ve fished since I could walk.”

Like many recreational fishermen and women, Mike’s career started as a family pastime before morphing into the competitive sport Iaconelli would grow to embrace in his late teens. “From a competitive standpoint,” Mike says, “I really didn’t get into [tournament fishing] until after high school. The year after I graduated I joined a small local boat club, and I competed at a very basic level.”

Photo courtesy of Berkley.

Mike’s competitive drive took off during the early 90s as he began competing as an amateur while simultaneously working to complete his degree. After graduating from college, Iaconelli fished in tournaments at a semi-pro level for several years before finally qualifying for the Bassmaster Tour in 1999.

Although the prospect of becoming a full-time professional bass fisherman become more of a possibility once Mike took home his first win during the second tour event he ever fished, it would be a long four-year haul before Mike felt comfortably established in the sport.


“I think when I won the Bassmaster Classic in 2003 it was a turning point in my career, because literally up to that point it was year to year [regarding] whether or not I could keep fishing professionally, [both] from a financial standpoint and from a personal standpoint. Winning that really does change your life, and it kind of cements a place for you in the sport.”

Photo courtesy of YouTube channel 1Rod1ReelFishing.


In the years following the 2003 Bassmaster Classic, Mike enjoyed some of the best tournament fishing performances of his career. “Once I won in 2003, it kind of freed me up a little bit, maybe even boosted my confidence. The next couple of years I had some of the best years of my career leading up to 2006.” In 2006, Mike won the Bass Angler of the Year, further solidifying his position as a bona fide tour pro.


Mike attributes so much of his professional success to the self-described “Magic Year of 2003,” a year when the stars aligned and everything fell into place for him leading up to his 2003 victory.

“It was one of those years where I didn’t lose the fish,” Mike recalls. “The fish came right into the boat (laughs). You make the right decision, like instead of going left when you want to you had a feeling about going right, and you went right and caught a big one. It was one of those years where things really lined up. You know the two marks in the sport are the Classic and the Angler of the Year, so that was a big one for me because that was another one of my goals since I was a kid, and I got to achieve that very early in my career.”

Photo courtesy of Bassmaster.

Iaconelli’s drive and persistence has paid off in more ways than one, with Mike’s professional success taking him around the world on some incredible fishing adventures he simply would not have had access to otherwise.

“When I was a kid, if you had asked me, ‘Will you get to go to South American and peacock fish?’ or, ‘Will you get to go to Spain and compete for Team USA in international competitions?’ I mean some of these things I got to do because of fishing, I would have told you that you were crazy. I’m just a Philly guy, I’m gonna be here for the rest of my life!”

Mike’s favorite fishing adventures would be a dream come true for any angler, but they weren’t just about snagging lips and wetting hooks, either. The South American trip, according to Mike, was about connecting with his surroundings on a deeper level. “[It was] one of the best fishing experiences I’ve ever had in my life,” Mike says. “Not just from the fishing, but from the culture, just being so far removed from everything else. It’s just you and the fish, and everything else is removed out of it.”

Iaconelli’s bass-fishing success has also led him overseas to compete for Team USA. “I just did it two years in a row, and the second year I was captain of the team. Going over there and winning while representing your country in international competition would definitely rank as one of the best experiences I’ve ever had fishing.”

Throughout all of his professional success, Mike Iaconelli still hasn’t forgotten his “80s kid” roots. Iaconelli worked as a DJ through high school and into college, and his love for the early hip-hop movement has never subsided – even though it occasionally drives his wife Becky a little crazy when they’re on the road. “When we’re on these long drives, Becky wants to kill me. There’s an XM channel called Backspin and I play that a lot. They play the older stuff from the 80s to the mid-90s, and I love that iconic hip hop; it’s some of my favorite stuff.”

Life on the road tends to lead tour pros far away from their favorite eating joints, but at least Iaconelli has found a suitable replacement for the Philly diners he grew up frequenting back home: The Waffle House. “Growing up in Philly, your breakfast places are diners, and once you get below Maryland the diners go away . . . so the Waffle House became my diner.”

And like any true Waffle House aficionado, Mike doesn’t need a menu when he orders. “Smothered, covered and diced; that’s my staple when I go in.”

Although the road from a fishing Philly kid to a BASS Elite Series Angler has been a long and arduous one, Mike Iaconelli’s perseverance has certainly paid off.

To find out more about Mike Iaconelli, visit his website at Don’t forget to check out his Facebook page, and follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

Featured Image courtesy of Berkley.

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Freediving and Hypoxia: A Deadly Combination

Freediving without a dive partner could wind up being the last dive trip you ever take – just take Valentine Thomas’s word for it.


The globetrotting freediver and spearfishing fanatic recently had a run-in with cerebral hypoxia during a deep dive in the Caribbean. Cerebral hypoxia happens when the brain is completely deprived of oxygen, and leads to something freedivers call a shallow-water blackout.


Thomas’s harrowing experience was a textbook case of the dangers that occur when freedivers run out of air. According to, a shallow-water blackout can happen to anyone participating in the sport, and without the right support group and fellow divers watching your back, it doesn’t take long for things to turn deadly.


So what causes freedivers to lose oxygen levels in the brain so quickly they run the risk of passing out underwater?


The risk for hypoxia while freediving is real


Losing consciousness underwater is an inherent risk for every freediver competing today. It doesn’t matter if you’re new to the sport or surpassing the thousand-dive mark: no one is impervious to hypoxia.


Just take the case of Natalia Molchanova, a freediving veteran who was regarded by many as the world’s greatest freediver. Her mysterious disappearance followed by her presumed death while on a solo dive off the coast of Spain last year shocked the freediving world. It also served as a somber reminder of just how dangerous underwater blackouts can be.


So what causes a freediver to blackout in the first place? More often than not, three factors contribute to shallow-water blackouts: a lack of oxygen in the blood, rapid depressurization on ascent, and hyperventilation (also known as self-induced hypocapnia).


We asked Thomas to describe how all this plays out during a freedive. “When [you’re ascending] and you’re out of air, the pressure gets lower and lower the closer you get to the surface,” Thomas told us. “Your lungs are going to expand back to their normal size, so when you’re between zero and 10 meters your lungs are back to normal . . . but you still don’t have air.”


The space between 10 meters and the surface is when Thomas says freedivers are most at risk for blacking out. The sudden drop in pressure on the lungs paired with oxygen depletion is the perfect combination for losing consciousness.


Were Thomas diving alone, she may not be alive today.


“As soon as I reached the surface I blacked out,” she said. “My buddy grabbed me and took my mask off and woke me up. I was out for probably two, three seconds tops.”


She also went on to describe the lack of motion control that frequently accompanies a shallow-water blackout. This symptom is known in the freediving community as the samba for its resemblance to a loose-limbed form of dancing.


“People say it looks like you’re dancing, kind of losing control of your limbs and things like that. You start kicking around [and acting] funny. In my case, my right arm started twitching and making weird movements. That’s when I realized I’m really out of air right now.”


How can freedivers prevent cerebral hypoxia?


For Valentine Thomas, diving safely is all about learning and adhering to freediving best practices.


“Always dive with buddies,” she said, “because no matter what happens, if he’s there to watch your back then you should be all right.”


Thomas said training with a professional freediver and attending a freediving class covers the basics while teaching freediving enthusiasts the best methods for avoiding disaster below the surface.


“When you do that type of training they cover how to act [while] putting you in uneasy situations so you don’t panic. It’s all about safety. Of course, you learn to go a little deeper because you’re [calm] in the water after learning the techniques, but most importantly you learn about safety. Safety boosts your confidence and confidence helps you go a little deeper.”


What’s Valentine Thomas’s freediving advice for newbies?


While freediving is one of the riskiest aquatic activities, it’s no reason to give up on the sport altogether. Freediving can be incredibly rewarding – as long as newcomers understand the risks involved.


“If you dive within your limits then you should be fine,” she said. Still, even after extensive training and countless dives, Thomas suffered from the inevitable shallow-water blackout during a recent spearfishing expedition.


“I did a dive to about 85 feet – instead of breathing up,” she said. “I came back up from a dive and I was breathing up when I saw a fish down. Instead of taking an extra two minutes to breath up I decided to take a dive straight away.”


The lesson? Don’t let the promise of a big fish lure you into deeper waters without taking the necessary precautions and breathing up first.


After all, there are plenty of other fish in the sea.


Catch Valentine’s firsthand account of her blackout here.


To follow Valentine Thomas on her spearfishing adventures, be sure to check her out on Instagram.

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Fishing With Dynamite: Ben Buchan’s Simplified Approach to Marine Conservation

Ben Buchan proves that when it comes to protecting our ocean’s fisheries and reefs, a little education can go a long way.


The 23-year-old scuba instructor, marine biologist, and recent recipient of the 2015 Rolex Our World-Underwater Scholarship has already accomplished so much in the world of aquatic conservation; no doubt a result of his fascination with the ocean from a very early age.


“I grew up at a place called the central coast, which is just a little north of Sydney, Australia,” Buchan says. “I learned to dive when I was about 12 years old, and ever since then I’ve been hooked. I had a really cool mentor I grew up with on the coast [who] showed me a lot, and by the time I finished high school, I jumped straight into university to study marine biology.”


As a part of his degree coursework, Ben traveled to Cambodia for eight months to work on a coral reef regeneration program for a small fishing village there. That village is where, Ben says, his interest in aquatic conservation first took hold.


It wouldn’t be his last trip to Cambodia, either. Ben’s work post-university with Manly Sea Life Sanctuary took him to the island of Koh Rong, an atoll reliant on harvesting fish to maintain the indigenous population of coastal-dwelling villagers.


“I was part of an initial team that went over to an island called Koh Rong in Cambodia; there’s a small fishing village there and we went there to try and set up a non-profit organization,” Ben says. “It’s a small fishing village and they had almost completely devastated their reef from the use of dynamite fishing and pretty terrible, destructive nets, and so when we went there the reef was almost completely destroyed, so we removed the nets and stopped the villagers from dynamite fishing. We started up education programs to show them more sustainable ways of fishing, and then we also started to develop reef pods, so there’s an artificial reef there as well.”


While the mission of Manly Sea Life Sanctuary included working with villages to provide English lessons for local children, constructing water reservoirs, and setting up playgrounds and schools to improve conditions on land, the group’s main offshore objective was to abolish the local practice of fishing with dynamite to collect fish for consumption – by far the most devastating exercise being carried out in the waters off the coast of Koh Rong. Dynamite fishing (also known as blast fishing) works by creating an underwater explosion that can either stun or kill entire schools of fish with a single detonation.


Fishing with dynamite isn’t unique to the waters of Southeast Asia alone, and is actually quite common in many parts of the unindustrialized world. “It’s common in a lot of developing communities where they can’t catch fish often, so they start to resort to methods like [dynamite fishing] where they’ll literally throw sticks of dynamite in the water, blow up a reef, then go around and collect the dead floating fish,” Ben says. “It happens not just through Southeast Asia, but also in a lot of developing communities that rely on fishing as their primary source of income.”


Fishing with dynamite is an easy way to kill entire schools of fish in a flash while destroying reefs in the process, making it one of the most devastating tactics used to harvest our ocean’s limited natural resources. It is encouraging to know, however, that with a little education the practice can be eradicated and replaced with more sustainable ways for villagers to bring in their required harvests – without destroying the environment in the process.


“When we first went to Cambodia, I didn’t think that reef was going to recover at all,” Ben recalled. “There were almost no schooling fish there, there was very little live coral, and the reef overall was almost completely dead. It’s taken a couple of years now, but the reef has come back pretty well; we’ve got some live coral, we have new corals recruiting on the reef pods, we have schooling fish coming through, and the kids are going out on their little foam boats and catching fish [every] afternoon.”


Villagers resorting to dynamite fishing may seem indifferent to environmental causes, but Ben is clear to point out that’s simply not the case. “It’s not that these villagers are purposefully disrespectful of reefs; rather, many of them have tables to fill with little knowledge of a more efficient and environmentally friendly way to do so. You see a real difference when you try and set up a project and you start education, because the reason [the villagers] were dynamite fishing wasn’t because they didn’t respect the reef, it was just simply because they didn’t know the native effects that kind of thing would have.”


That’s one of the reasons Ben’s primary conservationist focus includes a heavy dose of local aquatic education.


“I’ve had the chance to work on a bunch of projects, but there’s probably a couple that stand out, mostly from an education perspective; I like to go and work in developing communities and set up and help marine education programs. There’s this really cool [education center] in Papua New Guinea called Mahonia Na Dari. They put kids in school from as young as five or six up to 17 and 18 years old because they live in this area of the world that’s in the center of the coral triangle, has abundant fish life, amazing coral, and [the students] have never put their face in the water, so they simply don’t know what they’ve got.”


Ben cites the Mahonia Na Dari project as one of his favorites. He says teaching kids how important their marine resources are is one of the most effective ways to protect our ocean’s reefs and fisheries from destructive fishing practices that can lead to devastated aquatic environments.


He also can’t reiterate enough how a little education goes a long way. For Ben Buchan, teaching the youth occupying Southeast Asia’s Coral Triangle environmentally friendly ways of reeling in all the fish they need while maintaining fish populations for future generations is a simple first step toward protecting our ocean’s resources.


One might say it’s as easy as fishing with dynamite.


To learn more about Ben Buchan’s aquatic adventures, check out his blog by clicking here.  

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Zack Birge Is Living The FLW Tour Dream

Just two short years ago, Zack Birge’s day job consisted of working full time as a wind turbine technician in his home state of Oklahoma, troubleshooting and fixing enormous windmills during the week while entering qualifying fishing tournaments in what little spare time he had on the weekends.


Fast-forward to present day, and Zack “The Iceberg” Birge is kicking off his second year on the Fishing League Worldwide (FLW) Tour, effectively trading his toolbox for a tackle box and building a promising professional fishing career in the process. In the little time Birge has been a part of the FLW Tour, he’s racked up two tournament wins, earned the title of 2015 Rookie of the Year, and taken home over $178,000 in career earnings.


Life on a professional fishing tour may sound like easy living to some, but according to Birge, it’s a demanding season of traveling the country and competing in tour events. “[Traveling] is an everyday thing,” says Birge. “We’re always on the road going somewhere.


[The event] we’re heading to right now is in South Carolina at Lake Hartwell – I’m pretty excited about that. It’s the same time of year as the [Lewis] Smith Lake event was last year, and I almost won that. [Hartwell] is the same type of lake, same setup, so I’m really looking forward to it and hoping I can do well there.”


Given the remarkable success Birge has had on tour in a relatively short period of time, we had to know what his favorite rod and reel setup was when competing in bass fishing tournament events. “I use Falcon rods. My favorite all-around rod is a 7’4” heavy action rod and I can pretty much put anything on there I want and fish anywhere I want with that. This year [I’m using] a smaller reel, and anywhere from 14 to 16-pound fluorocarbon line, and that’ll basically do about anything you wanna do with it.”


There’s no doubt Birge has a passion for bass fishing, but the relentless tour season can take a lot out of any pro fisherman, which is why Zack makes sure to take time during the offseason to recharge his batteries by focusing on airborne game. “When it’s fishing season I’m off at tournaments and in 100-percent game mode, but when we’re finally done for the season, I’ve had about all I can handle for a year anyway, so I try to get as much hunting in as I can all through the fall and winter. That way when January comes around I’m fired up and raring to go again.”


A little bit of dove hunting early season before moving on to ducks and geese to wrap things up is enough to get Zack ready to kick off the next FLW Tour year. There must be something to his method, too, considering his rapid rise to the top in the world of tournament bass fishing.


If you’re following the FLW Tour in 2016, be sure to keep a steady eye on Zack Birge, because unlike the inspiration for the nickname his hometown friends gave him long ago, this iceberg moves pretty fast.


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Darcie Arahill: Winter in South Florida is a Saltwater Fishing Fanatic’s Dream

If Jack Frost is starting to put a damper on your weekend fishing trips close to home, then perhaps it’s time to throw the winter coat back in the closet and plan a trip to sunny South Florida for a little offshore fishing.


With average highs in the mid 70s through the month of December, coupled with large weather fronts putting many saltwater fish on the move, conditions are perfect for any fisher venturing to South Florida this winter.


Recently we had the chance to speak with Darcie Arahill, an offshore angler hailing from Boynton Beach, Florida, about offshore fishing in the coming months now that things are cooling off a bit in Palm Beach County. What is the best part about fishing in southeast Florida?


Darcie Arahill: Number one is the weather. I get to fish year round when it’s actually nice out and I don’t have to worry about snow or anything like that.


R: What types of saltwater fish will you be targeting in the coming months?


DA: With winter coming up [the cooler weather] is actually going to make the fishing better for our area. With the north winds coming through, the cold fronts will be pushing a lot of sailfish to Boynton Beach. Another reason why our area is called Sailfish Alley is because the Gulf Stream comes so close to us here, and hundreds upon thousands of sailfish funnel through our area. A lot of great sailfish tournaments will be coming up soon!


Also, the bigger mahi-mahi will be moving through our area over the next couple of months. I will be doing a lot of kite fishing, which is just one of the things we do over here on our coast. Kite fishing is specifically for sailfish, but you can catch mahi, kingfish, sharks . . . pretty much anything [when you are] doing the kite fishing. Way different type of fishing, but it’s awesome!


R: Do you have a dream catch?


DA: I have a few, but I would definitely love to land a 100-pound tarpon. I have landed a small one before, but I really, really want to catch one of those monster six-foot-plus tarpons that do those crazy jumps, and see one of those beasts up close. They’re like dinosaurs, they are really cool looking fish, and very elusive. I’ve actually hooked quite a few of them, but every single time they spit the hook on me. I would really love the opportunity to bring one to the boat and actually see it up close and then go ahead and release him and see him swim away fine.


Want to follow Darcie Arahill’s offshore adventures? Check out her YouTube channel “Darcizzle Offshore,” featuring weekly videos, fishing reports and news from south Florida’s fishing scene. You can also follow Darcie on Twitter and Instagram, and like her on Facebook.

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Saltwater Spearfishing Gives Darcie Arahill A New Perspective

For many adventurers, the idea of spearfishing may evoke images of Bear Grylls diving head first into a tidal pool somewhere in the South Pacific, armed with little more than a keen eye and a sharp stick.


But the truth is the sport of spearfishing has morphed from its South Pacific origins into a popular modern-day activity that many top-water anglers are beginning to embrace as a way to gain perspective of the mysterious underwater world previously seen only by anglers’ circle hooks, cast nets and bait fish.


Recently we had the chance to speak with Darcie Arahill to talk about her new adventures into the exciting world of saltwater spearfishing. One thing that really peaked our interest was your journey into the world of spearfishing. Are you pretty new to the sport?


Darcie Arahill: Growing up, I’ve always done snorkeling for lobsters and whatnot, so I’m pretty [comfortable] in the ocean. I’m a great swimmer, and I can dive down right now to twenty feet deep.


Spearfishing gives you a whole different outlook on what you’re looking for in the water. Usually when you’re [topside] fishing, you’re up on a boat and not really sure of what’s going on down there, but when you get in the water and you’re with the fish and can see the environment they’re in, it really gives you the upper advantage.


[This advantage] not only helps while you’re spearfishing underwater to catch fish, but also in general so you have a better idea of what fish are doing down there, like, “okay, they’re actually over here right now when the tide is moving.” I think it gives me a huge advantage just being down there and seeing what’s going on versus just fishing from a boat.


It’s also a really cool experience to be in the water with them in their own environment. It’s a good learning process; each fish behaves differently when you’re trying to shoot one. I’m definitely looking forward to learning more. I’ve only shot a couple of fish, I’ve shot my first lionfish and a couple of mangrove snapper, but I’m looking forward to getting better at it!


Want to follow Darcie Arahill’s offshore adventures? Check out her YouTube channel “Darcizzle Offshore,” featuring weekly videos, fishing reports and news from south Florida’s fishing scene. You can also follow Darcie on Twitter and Instagram, and like her on Facebook.


All photos by Darcie and her team.

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Into The Shark Tank With Free Diving Photographer Jose Debasa

For most gainfully employed Americans, a bad day at work means a stolen lunch out of the break-room fridge or the boss asking you to stay late on a Friday.


But for underwater action photographer Jose Debasa, a bad day at the office has the potential to turn deadly.


Debasa has combined his love of free diving with his passion for photography for the last nine years. As with many adventurous career choices, the slightest mistake could mean a permanent end to his days as a free-diving cameraman.



We caught up with the 31-year-old professional photographer to get his take on some of the dangers underwater photographers face the moment they take the plunge. What are the biggest challenges that arise during your underwater photography sessions that you don’t have to consider on land?



Jose Debasa: Underwater photography is full of challenges; you have to deal with a lot of factors when you’re in the water. Blackout is the big thing that worries me. I don’t use scuba gear –it’s all free diving on one breath. I consider myself a pretty avid free diver, but [blacking out] is always in the back of my mind.


It’s more of a challenge to me than anything in the ocean. I can deal with sharks, I can deal with alligators, but what worries me more is blacking out. I’ve never blacked out, but I’ve been very close. I’ve had tunnel vision . . . but I’ve never blacked out. When I do a shoot, I’m pretty much the diver’s shadow. Some of the divers have a pretty extensive breath hold, so I try to hang with them as much as I can. One of the challenges is being able to stay down there safely without blacking out.


Another challenge [occurs] when diving in sharky waters. I know how to read the body language of sharks, and I know when to get out. When I go down and I’m photographing sharks, my head is on a swivel. I’m looking all over at every angle, because sharks will sneak up behind you. Those are some really sneaky bastards, man. [Laughs] I love sharks to death, and I’m a huge shark conservationist, but you’ve just got to watch your back.


photo by Nolan Sadorf2
Jose briefly surfaces to allow fellow photographer Nolan Sadorf to snap his profile.


Thankfully I’ve had some of my dive buddies right behind me to scoop sharks away from me. It doesn’t mean [the sharks] are coming to eat me or anything, but they are coming to check me out. They might come behind me to see what I am. The way they check you out is they bump into you, or may even take a bite out of you to see if you’re edible.


I haven’t been bitten yet – thank God. But I don’t let them get close to me. If they’re going to touch something, let them touch the [camera] dome. I usually bump the dome into them and let them know I can be dangerous as well. Sharks are incredible, man. You may not see them, but they definitely see you.


Want to take a deeper look into the exciting world of underwater photography? Then visit Jose’s website at You can also check out his Instagram, and be sure to follow him on Twitter.

Feature Photo: Jose Debasa Diver: Michael Dornellas


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Offshore Fishing with Darcie Arahill is The Reel Deal

For fishing enthusiasts preferring a little peace and quiet, heading out to a tranquil lakeshore or a secluded pond to wet a hook is as good as it gets.

Darcie Arahill is not that kind of angler.


A Miami native born and raised just minutes from some of the best offshore fishing in the world, Darcie Arahill–known to her YouTube fans as Darcizzle–puts an adrenaline-charged spin on saltwater fishing that has reeled in over 100,000 social media fans, followers and likes, with no sign of slowing down anytime soon.


Arahill has been a self-described “water baby” from the start. “I’ve been fishing since the age of three years old,” Arahill told “I started fishing with my dad [on his] 18-foot Gheenoe, and every summer we would go snapper fishing and lobstering together.” According to Darcie, she’s been hooked ever since.


With her proximity to some of the best offshore fishing in the world, it’s easy to see why Arahill is still having fun on the water. “Over the last four years, I’ve been offshore fishing out of Boynton Beach, Florida. The Gulf Stream comes closest to our coast here than any other part of the US, bringing with it an abundance of fish funneling between the Bahamas and Florida. The sailfish that come through here make Boynton Beach an offshore angler’s paradise!”


Arahill’s love of sport fishing is rivaled only by her dedication to it: between a full-time job during the day and college courses at night, she still finds time to hit the high seas. “Sometimes we will get out there before work for a couple of hours and go wahoo fishing, and then we’ll come back in and I’ll get to work by nine, and then I’ll go [back out] after work.”


Living the salt life while making zero excuses. When it comes to offshore fishing, Darcie Arahill is the reel deal.

Photo: The photo above is a screen grab from one of Darcie’s videos. You can see the entire video here.


Want to follow Darcie Arahill’s offshore adventures? Check out her YouTube channel “Darcizzle Offshore,” featuring weekly videos, fishing reports and news from south Florida’s fishing scene. You can also follow Darcie on Twitter and Instagram, and like her on Facebook.

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Shark Attacks On The Rise: Are Fishing Regulations To Blame?

American beachgoers and saltwater anglers have long had a wary relationship with sharks. Last summer’s tragedy involving two children playing in waste-deep water just of North Carolina’s shores has further fueled recent assertions that shark attacks are getting worse, leaving some shark anglers calling for a culling of the aquatic herd.

The uncanny circumstances surrounding the June 15th shark attacks just outside of Oak Island, North Carolina has drawn international attention and speculation from scientists and laymen alike as to the nature of the attacks, and what we should be doing to prevent them in the future. It was on this day that not one, but two shark attacks occurred off North Carolina’s beaches, some two miles and 90 minutes apart from one another.

The attacks left two children seriously injured, a town scarred, and a world wondering what was going on just below the surface. What was causing the recent spike in shark attacks? Were sharks becoming more aggressive? And is there anything the fishing community can do about it?

Our photographer, Ben, was not harmed while getting up close and friendly with this guy.

Why Do Sharks Attack People?

Whenever news breaks of a shark attack, the most common first question is probably, “Why did this happen?” To answer this question, it’s important to acknowledge several known facts about shark attacks. The majority of unprovoked shark attacks result in a single bite, and while some of these bites lead to devastating injuries, amputations, and–on rare occasions–loss of life, the simple fact that most shark encounters follow a bite-and-flight pattern offers some insight into the motives behind these maulings.

Sharks are oceanic predators, and while many predatory species have undergone countless evolutionary changes over the millennia to become better hunters, sharks have changed very little. They are the ocean’s most efficient killing machines, sitting at the top of the food chain while deploying the tried-and-true methods that have kept them fed for millions of years.

The way sharks are forced to hunt can be harmful to unsuspecting ocean dwellers. Whereas a Yellowstone grizzly bear might use its hands to inspect a potential meal such as a honeycomb, picnic basket or the trashcan du jour, sharks don’t have that luxury. Instead, sharks use their mouths to determine whether or not an object is meal worthy–an inspection process that puts a bit of a strain on shark/human relations.

The simple truth, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is that shark attacks are generally a case of mistaken identity, part of a combination of unfortunate coincidences such as bad timing and oceanic conditions that result in sharks coming in contact with humans on a higher-than-normal level.

Because sharks are also migratory animals, it can be difficult to predict when and where the highest risks for shark attacks may occur. By the time local officials have time to react to an attack via beach closures, flyovers and extensive patrols, sharks have, in many cases, moved on to another location.

Still, preventive measures can be taken. Officials in Orange County, California decided to take an innovative approach to summer shark attacks last year by deploying drones to patrol the Seal Beach coastline in search of predatory threats in the water. But because the typical drone battery life allows for just 10 to 15 minutes of airtime before returning to shore, constant shoreline surveying has yet to become a practical solution.

Seriously, Ben does this all the time. He still has all his limbs.

Shark Attack Numbers, Explained

There’s simply no denying that shark attacks are on the rise, and have been for quite some time. According to the International Shark Attack File, 2014 logged 72 unprovoked shark attacks worldwide for the year. While this number was lower than the number logged for 2013 (75 unprovoked attacks), unprovoked shark attacks have been steadily on the rise when evaluated decade-over-decade since 1900.

While some experts point to climate change or a shift in ecology as reasons for increasing shark interactions with humans, there doesn’t seem to be any single factor leading to more shark attacks. Instead, each attack appears to be a mixture of several elements coming together in a series of unfortunate events.

Take the summer of 2015 in North Carolina, for example. Unusually high summer temps breaking triple digits most likely led to more time being spent in the water by saltwater patrons, which in turn increases the probability of an interaction when compared to, say, a breezy 75-degree afternoon that sees fewer beachgoers dipping their toes in the surf.

There has also been chatter throughout the fishing community that federal protections against sharks are finally starting to kick in, and we’re seeing the results via an increase in interactions. The 2015 coastal shark survey conducted by the NOAA revealed that shark populations are improving on the U.S. East Coast, kicking off a conversation amongst anglers as to whether or not certain shark fishing regulations should be eased.

For example, two of the deadliest sharks to humans–White Sharks (or Great Whites) and Tiger sharks–are prohibited from harvest in Florida, the state holding the record for the most unprovoked shark attacks on humans for the last 15 years. (It’s important to note that of the 176 shark attacks to occur in Volusia County, Florida since the year 2000, none have been fatal.)

Bull sharks complete the trifecta of the three most dangerous sharks to humans, but unlike their close cousins, it is legal to land a Bull off the coast of Florida, so long as the animal meets the 54-inch minimum. So is it time to ease fishing restrictions on these apex predators and let saltwater anglers cull the herd?

Not quite. State and federal protections such as the Shark Conservation Act were put in place not only to protect these cartilaginous creatures off U.S. coastal waters, but also to safeguard the overall marine habitats lining our shores. Without healthy populations of sharks in oceanic ecosystems, the overpopulation of their prey would result in catastrophic damage to fisheries, coral reefs, and an overabundance of potentially harmful aquatic wildlife.

The truth is shark attacks can be greatly reduced by following a few guidelines–without the need to permanently retire more sharks to the mainland. Never enter the water close to fishing peers and heavily chummed areas, avoid getting your feet wet when schools of baitfish are swimming nearby, and don’t get caught out during early morning or late evening hours (sharks love breakfast and dinner just as much as we do). By following a few simple precautions while abiding by state and federal fishing guidelines, we can all work toward a healthier relationship between the ocean’s shark population and our fellow man.

All photos by Ben Buchan. Follow his Instagram bensunderwater.

Blog Posts Yak

Who Needs A Bigger Boat? Kayak Fishing With Robert Field

For adventurous angler Robert Field, the last three years have been nothing short of exhilarating.


The avid kayak fisherman, owner of YakFishTV and winner of the 2015 Kayak Angler’s Choice Award for Online Video of the Year has proven it’s never too late to get into competitive fishing through his popular YouTube channel featuring his up-close-and-personal approach to the sport.


“My story isn’t as glamorous as some of my counterparts in our sport,” Field revealed to Reelerz. “I haven’t been fishing since I was a toddler. I had never paddled a kayak until three years ago. I found myself at a crossroads one day and decided to stop living my life on the couch and start looking for a little adventure.”


Robert went on to tell us just how addictive kayak fishing can be. “I stumbled upon kayak fishing through a friend and decided to give it a try. I was hooked from the moment I caught my first fish from a plastic boat. I went out and bought a kayak, [a] fishing rod, and a GoPro on the same day and never looked back.


“Since then I’ve been fortunate to go on some wild trips to chase after a variety of species. I’ve produced episodes all over the United States, and have trips planned abroad in 2016 to New Zealand, Mexico, and Panama.”


Many of the fish Robert Field has landed from his 12-foot Hobie kayak would leave some anglers echoing Police Chief Brody’s sage advice from the 1975 movie “Jaws” when Brody tells Captain Quint, “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.” But the suspense of the unknown is what has driven Field to pursue some of the most formidable aquatic animals in the world.

“Honestly, my favorite thing in the world is to chase a new species in waters unfamiliar to me,” Field says. “I enjoy the challenge of learning a new technique and figuring out a new fish. So far, the three coolest fish I’ve landed from the kayak would have to be a six-foot sailfish, 100-pound alligator gar, and an 80-pound paddlefish. All of my videos detail the techniques I’m using to catch these fish, so that would be the best place to start for some insight on how to get one in the kayak.”


Want to follow Robert on his kayak-fishing adventures? Be sure to check out his YouTube channel, like his Facebook page, and follow him on Twitter and Instagram.