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Reel Talk: Noodlin’ Around with Allison Hunter Voges

Sometimes you’re the fish, and sometimes you’re the hook. The key is to fight-fight-fight regardless of which role you’re playing. The lines can get blurred, especially in the strange and dangerous world of catfish noodling. Few know this better than Allison Hunter Voges, better known as @amHunter11 on Instagram.

For those not yet among Allison’s 15,000+ followers, there is much more than meets the eye to this Southern Indiana adventurista. She might be best known for her turkey bowhunting exploits, but in the past year she has made a mark with the gritty sport of noodling for catfish.

Predominantly illegal in most states, grappling for catfish is the kind of pastime that most Americans don’t even get to attempt, let alone excel at. It was just about a year ago that Allison was invited by one of the Internet’s foremost noodling experts, @AlyFromAlabama, to try it for the first time. Much like the fish she was finding, she found herself hooked–without any hooks around!

Allison proudly showed off a 50-lb catfish brute last year, and is eager to get back into the action this year! She is a living example of the joys that can come from trying new things, even if they are a bit intimidating. Sometimes you just need a little support to get you out the door.

“I never really thought of myself as a role model, but it was wonderful to receive messages from other women revealing how I helped them try new hobbies,” Allison adds. “The best advice that I can give for someone who feels intimidated by a new outdoor pursuit is to join some online groups of like-minded people. Many of them organize activities and events, and are often incredibly welcoming and receptive of new members. Step out of your comfort zone and meet as many people as you can!”

Noodling is not for the faint of heart. Fans have seen her wrangle snakes, field dress deer, mud wrestle hogs, and even have a veterinarian pull glass out of her arm. She’s clearly as tough as they come, but never would have even received the chance to learn without a little kindness from a former stranger. Allison practices what she preaches: she knows how important it is for women in male-dominated sports to stick together and to support one-another. In fact, she is organizing a trip for the American Daughters of Conservation (@adconserve) in August of this year, and will introduce noodling to them–with all of the mud, sweat, slime, and glory that she has enjoyed!

Whether hunting in the Indiana woods or fishing from hand-lines in Costa Rica, Allison is very aware that conservation is the key to continued outdoor pursuits. It is paramount that new outdoorsmen and women be attracted to fishing and hunting to ensure that money, regulations, and awareness continues to grow for the outdoors. To that end, Allison was disappointed when trying to introduce hunting to youngsters. There were very few materials out there intended for young readers.

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How do we get more kids interested and involved in the outdoors? This is my way of contributing. I’ve searched for children’s books about hunting and there are few options. I wanted a book with illustrations that drew the reader in, as well as content that captured the joy, respect and pride a hunt brings. So I wrote one myself. ⁣ ⁣ So far I’ve sold nearly 100 books and I’m happy to announce my new hardback copies are now available. I’ve put a lot of heart, effort, and money into creating this book. Being an independent author is not easy and finding a printer that did quality work took some time. However, I’m happy to announce that my new hardback copies have arrived! I will be selling them for $12.99 plus shipping. If you’re interested please shoot me a DM on my page or the @raisedtochasethewild page. I’m hoping to find an online retailer to sell and ship them for me soon. The paperback version of my book is still available on Amazon. ⁣ ⁣ I’m hoping this book will open some doors between children and adults for conversations about hunting and the outdoor lifestyle. It’s so important that we try and grow a new generation of hunters, not only for conservation reasons, but because kids learn so many advantageous life lessons in the great outdoors. ⁣ ⁣ I’ve also made this book interactive by hiding deer tracks through some of the illustrations for children to search for and find. I feel it’s a great way to encourage curiosity and exploration in nature. ⁣ ⁣ Please feel free to share this post. Purchase a book for your child, grandchild, niece or nephew. Gift it at a baby shower. Donate a copy to your local library or school. If you have any questions for me I’d be happy to answer them. ⁣ ⁣ Thank you for your support. #chasingthewild #raisedtochasethewild

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“I walked into a Bass Pro and looked for a hunting book for kids,” Allison remembered. “After failing there, I searched Amazon as well. Nothing! That’s when I decided to make one myself.”

And that’s exactly what she did. Having no experience in book publishing or writing, she soon found out that there are considerable hurdles in the process. Writing the book itself went fairly quickly, actually. She then let family members read it and give their input. When it came time for illustration, she turned to college friend Rebecca Mullins, who was not a hunter. The duo worked together to ensure that the content was accurate, fun, and above-all worthwhile to young readers. The final challenge was finding a decent publisher with consistent quality. Her book, Chasing Deer, was released in December 2019, and the reception has blown her away.

You can pick up the softcover on Amazon, but she is selling the hardback versions herself until she can find a reliable producer. Shoot Allison a message on instagram or facebook to inquire about the hardback version. She is hoping to have them available more broadly in the near future.

When not doing everything she can to open the outdoors to new audiences, she is either working hard in her landscaping company or traveling to the next adventure on her list. Her dream hunt is coming up in September: hunting elk in the mountains on Colorado. She also looks forward to continuing her adventures in the water–especially trying to catch the elusive musky that has evaded her so far.

What’s next for Allison? She wants to enjoy life in the here-and-now, and has many adventures planned. Will more books follow? She has been blown away by the reception to her first book, and has ideas for turkey hunting and bass fishing versions, but it’s still a little too early to tell. She loves being “a gateway drug to the outdoors” by sharing her exploits online. It’s clear that we’ll all have to follow her incredible adventures to see what is next on the docket for Allison Hunter Voges.

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Adventures Blog Posts Featured Slider Fly

Adventuring with Maria Prekeges and Jon White

Adventuring outdoors is a year-round activity for Maria and Jon.
(copyright Maria Prekeges and Jon White, 2020)

Save $400. Have fun. Learn at your own pace. Sounds good, right? That’s essentially the mission statement that lures Maria Prekeges and Jon White outdoors. And they mean it!

“Do you need to hire an expensive guide?” asks Jon. “No. Will it help some? Probably. But you can learn many of the same lessons from the comfort of your home and be $400 ahead with us on your side.”

You might recognize Jon if you frequent the Idaho backcountry, and you might find Maria familiar from her many appearances on ESPN, FOX Sports, CBS Sports, and other outlets both in front of and behind the camera. They have a passion for the outdoors, and they want to help countless others feel more comfortable (and entertained!) when heading outside.

These two aren’t always buttoned-up and formal. The outdoors are fun, and so are they! (2020)

With the imminent launch of Idaho Mountain Anglers, this dynamic duo is primed to bring entertaining vlog material, pictures, and hilarious stories to all of your favorite social media channels. We recommend that you follow them today (and put that money you save toward some sweet new gear!).

Jon is a seasoned fly-fisher, while Maria considers herself a novice. (2020)

Jon grew up in Idaho and has logged countless journeys through the hills, mountains, and streams of the American west. Maria was raised along the salmon streams and clamming beds of the Pacific Northwest. While Jon is a quieter, more introspective presence, Maria exudes vitality with every word. This ying-and-yang partnership pays dividends both in front of and behind the cameras they bring into the woods.

“I love catching trout. They offer so much challenge, and so much reward. I have learned to enjoy the acrobatics and strength of bass recently,” says Jon. “They really are my current favorites.”

“I’m still new,” adds Maria. “So any fish I catch is my de-facto favorite!”

Maria considers herself a novice reeler–she loves to be outdoors, but is generally learning the tricks of the trade from Jon, an experience angler. Her vivacious personality and humor come through in every short video, while her learning curve helps the viewer pick up tips at a casual pace. In producing their #MinuteWithMaria shorts, this duo has focused on snappy editing and quick tips to avoid the boredom and lack of focus of most fishing tutorials online.

While flyfishing the hills of Idaho is a great way to spend the year, Maria and Jon venture all around the country looking for angling opportunities. (2020)

While these two hail from Sun Valley in Idaho, their adventures are not limited to the mountaintops and glacial valleys. Maria’s job as a sports journalist (with an emphasis on rodeo work) leads her all around the country, and Jon is always looking out for a new stream, lake, or shore to explore. Along the way, they chronicle the dos-and-don’ts of fishing, hiking, and general adventuring throughout the United States.

Maria learns the tips and tricks of fishing so that you don’t have to spend your hard-earned money on a guide–unless you’d like to! (2020)

Keep your eyes peeled on their media channels as they begin to roll out some long-gestating videos highlighting a variety of topics. If you have never fished from a kayak before, we recommend that you stay tuned to find out the differences between the options out there (hard bottom, inflatable, and where they each shine). Whether you fly-fish or prefer conventional gear, you’ll have plenty to enjoy as you follow along with them.

“Head out your back door and explore!,” Maria finishes. “We want everyone to enjoy the outdoors, and we hope that we can help bring that spark to urge them out the door.”

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Joe Boula: Slayin’ New Jersey

Joe Boula (@bassin_nj on Instagram) has pretty much lived his whole life in New Jersey.

“Technically, I was born out of state,” he says. “But I don’t know anything but New Jersey.”

From his hometown of Edison, Joe runs the New Jersey Trail for Slay Nation Tournament Fishing, a tournament dedicated to people who fish from small, non-motorized vessels, like canoes, kayaks, and jon boats. Slay Nation will be hosting its first full year of tournaments in 2019, and Joe is excited to be a part of it — especially since he’s just rediscovered the joys of fishing, himself.

“I used to fish as a kid a lot,” Joe says. “When I was thirteen, I got hit by a car and ended up sitting around in a cast for three months, playing video games. And I didn’t really get back into fishing.”

But it’s never too late to rekindle a passion.

“I had been talking about getting back into it for years,” he says. “And then my father sent me a picture of me when I was like ten. I was at a car show, and I wasn’t paying attention, I just kind of walked in front of a guy taking pictures for the local newspaper — up in Massachusetts somewhere — and he took a picture of me fishing in front of a car. And they put it in the paper.”

Seeing that picture was the motivation that adult Joe needed.

“When my dad sent me that picture, I was like ‘I’m doing it — I’m going to buy a fishing pole,'” he says. “I’d been talking about it for years, putting it off, putting it off, forgetting about it. Then spring came around, I was like, ‘I still haven’t done anything.'”

Finally, Joe pulled the trigger.

“I picked it up again just this past October,” he says. “Right before the winter hit.”

Initially, he was just doing it for the fun and nostalgia. But an off-handed joke turned it into a challenge.

“I said to my son and wife, ‘Wouldn’t it be real cool if I could get paid to fish and just quit work?’ And my son laughed at me,” Joe says. “I asked him, ‘What’s so funny?’ and he said, ‘You can’t do that!'”

Joe rose to the challenge.

“I said, ‘Watch this!’” he says. “I got serious. I started a dedicated fishing page and started trying to get some sponsors. But then the guys from Slay Nation approached me and asked if I wanted to run the tournament in New Jersey. And I said, ‘Yeah, sure, why not?’”

He’s already got it planned for the year.

“We’ve got six or seven events total planned,” Joe says. “April may be a little tough, but that lake specifically should be good for the first event.”

A busy realtor, Joe manages to balance time between his work, fishing and his family.

“My son is interested in fishing, now, but I’m not sure if he’ll do tournaments with me,” he says.

As for what it feels like to be fishing again?

“It’s just like riding a bike, you know?” Joe says.

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Duayne Foust: Losing and Finding Himself in Fishing

Duayne Foust (@duaynefoust on Instagram) was born and raised in northeastern Pennsylvania, where he’s been fishing since he was ten years old.

“My father took me the first time, but then I started going with my grandpa,” he says. “But I didn’t really get serious about fishing until six years ago.”

Duayne never took a break from fishing, but rather had an epiphany about its effects on him.

“I was always fishing,” he says. “But it wasn’t until I realized what fishing did for me as a person that I started putting actual work into it. I started taking it more serious because I realized the potential that was there.”

Duayne found that, for him, fishing was not about catching his quarry.

“It’s not about the fish,” he says. “It’s much deeper than that. I would say it’s a form of meditation, almost, for me. It’s an escape where I can lose myself but also find myself, if that makes sense.”

Duayne lives just minutes from the Susquehanna River, which is where he finds his peace in fishing. He discovered the therapeutic nature of fishing the Susquehanna — and fishing in general — while he was making his journey through recovery.

“I was in a bad place with some worse things,” he says. “My path was wanting to get back into fishing, and it literally saved my life.”

He’s definitely found better things in the river.

“We’re usually going after smallmouth,” he says. “But we’ll also go after muskie and walleye, but mainly smallmouth. They’re all there in the Susquehanna.”

Duayne usually varies his lures and presentations based on the time of year.

“I’ll use a spinnerbait in spring,” he says. “If I had to pick a go-to set up that I would use year-round, it would be a green pumpkin tube. But, obviously, spring or fall, I’m going to throw a topwater, mostly.”

River fishing has its own set of challenges that differ from chasing smallmouth — or any other species — in a lake.

“I’m usually out looking for deep pockets and eddies,” Duayne says. “Anywhere there’s a current change is what I’m looking for.”

Duayne is a dedicated bank fisherman, so he’s adept at finding the water and structure he wants without the benefit of a boat.

“Usually, there are a couple spots that we’ll always go to if we’re just trying to catch a fish,” he says. “I try to broaden my horizons and go to new water and stuff like that. But if I’m land based and I’m stuck in town, there’s the same walk I’ll do every time. There are a couple islands I always walk out to that hold fish.”

Although he works hard to be a successful angler, the act of fishing and what it brings has always been important to Duayne — even before he got serious about it.

“There’s always been a connection… with everything: Other people, other fishermen, the connection with nature, itself,” Duayne says. “It humbles you. It can humble you really quick.”

 

 

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Adventures Blog Posts Charters, Guides and Outfitters Salt

So You Want to Be a Fishing Guide? Chandler Williams Offers Some Tips

When we last connected with Chandler Williams (@chandler_williams_fishing on Instagram), we told you about his grit: Working for a neighbor to earn his first fly rod; teaching himself how to fly cast; sleeping all night on a dock as a young teenager in order to hitch his first ride with a sport fisher. You get the idea.

In light of the way Chandler went from mulching lawns to get a fly rod to guiding 250 days a year at such a young age, we thought he might have some tips to offer reelers who might be interested in becoming guides.

It starts with a passion for fishing.

“Ever since I was at a young age, I’ve been super passionate about it,” he says. “I always used to watch Jose Wejebe, even when I was a little kid, and some of these other big names, like Chris Owens, Brian Jill, and Carter Andrews. Seeing what their lifestyles were [traveling and fishing], I thought, ‘I want my lifestyle to be that way.’ There’s just something about watching the sun on the water, that fish kick his tail, and the drag screaming. That’s something I just can’t get enough of. It’s like I’m hungry for it.”

Sustainability is also a big part of being a steward of the sport for Chandler.

“I hate killing fish so they can be mounted on the wall,” he says. “We need to practice better conservation now so that more young people will practice it, and get the message out across the world. That will make a big difference for future generations who want to work in this industry.”

“There’s so many young people these days who want to become a guide or live this lifestyle on the water,” Chandler says. “And if we don’t protect the fisheries, they won’t be able to do that.”

And you have to be willing to put in the work and pay your dues along the way.

“You’ve got to step on some toes,” Chandler says. “And go where the anglers go. I went to iCast the first time when I was fourteen. No one really showed or taught me anything up until now. I’ve learned a lot from others, but I basically taught myself. Do your research and study a lot — figure it out. Figure out how to be a good fisherman at the level you want to be at. Get on the Internet before you go on these boats and show them what you’ve already figured out and learned on your own.”

Even after doing all that research, though, you’re not likely to find an e-vite onto a boat in your inbox.

“Step on toes. Aggravate the shit out of people, you know?” Chandler says. “Demonstrate that you have the drive for it, and show them that you’re going to be at the dock at 5:30 in the morning and ready to go. If no one hires you, go to the dock every day at 6:00 in the morning when they go out, and be there when they get back, if you can. Over time, somebody’s going to eventually pick you up because they see you’re dedicated. There’s a lot of people who go out and drink at night and don’t show up for the boat the next day. So, your opportunity will surely come.”

Hitting the docks and industry shows is a great way to network, which is key to breaking into the industry.

“Make as many connections as you can,” Chandler says. “And if you burn bridges, mend them as quick as you can.”

For most folks who want to get into guiding, there are no short cuts.

“It’s not about the sponsorships or getting free stuff,” Chandler says. “It’s about having a dedication for it. Work hard and build your name, and over time, those things will come.

And if you want it, you have to go for it.

“For the younger kids coming up,” Chandler says. “This isn’t the easiest path in life, but it’s the most rewarding. And one thing I can say is never give up — no matter what.”

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Chandler Williams: Reel Salty

These days, Chandler Williams (@chandler_williams_fishing on Instagram) splits his time between South Carolina and Key West. But the Columbia, South Carolina native has fished all over the Western Hemisphere. It took a lot of grit and gumption for him to get there, though.

“I think I went fishing for the first time when I was three,” he says. “My dad took me fishing, got me a fishing rod for my third birthday and took me bream fishing. I caught one. But when I didn’t get one on the second go-round, I threw my rod in the water.  We had to fish the rod out.”

Clearly, Chandler  was serious about fishing from the very beginning.

“Yeah, I fish more than 250 days a year, now.”

But it took a lot of determination for him to get to where he is today.

“When I was ten or eleven, I was helping a neighbor mulch his yard,” Chandler says. “And he wanted to pay me. And I told him that I wanted to get a fly rod. So, I got a fly rod from Wal Mart and taught myself how to fly cast.”

At that time, he was still fishing freshwater.

“Around the time I was fourteen, though, I was down at Edisto Beach,” Chandler says. “I went on the docks and walked onto this sports fisher and begged the guy to take me fishing or let me do a ride-along with him the next day. He said, ‘Yeah.’”

But Chandler didn’t have a way to get to the dock that early the next morning.

“So, I packed a bag for the next day, and went back to the dock,” he says. “And I slept on the dock. The captain kicked me in the foot at 5 a.m. the next day to wake me up and tell me it was time to go.”

After he graduated high school, Chandler got a job offer at a fly fishing lodge in Montana.

“I went out there and paid my dues,” he says. “It didn’t work out. But I was eager to get back into it. That was when I got a job guiding in Argentina. It was my first international guiding job.”

While in Patagonia, he was guiding for sea-run brown trout.

“After that, I went to Bolivia and did exploratory fishing for golden dorados,” Chandler says. “For four months, I lived with indigenous Amazon people, in a tent, going up and down in dugout canoes.”

Apart from the guiding he does in South Carolina and Key West, Chandler’s next plan is guiding in the Seychelles.

“I’ll be working as a head guide for Blue Safari,” he says. “We’ll be doing blue water and guiding fly fishing on the flats.”

For him, a little fly fishing and a blue water fishing is the perfect combination.

“Blue marlin are my favorite offshore target species,” he says. “But I love bonefish on the flats.”

Does he prefer offshore or flats fishing?

“It would be hard to make a choice,” Chandler says. “I love it all! I can’t separate the two. I’m addicted to both.”

Check out the second part of our interview with Chandler Williams for some tips and advice about getting into the guiding business – Coming soon. 

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Blog Posts Fin-Telligence Fly

Fin-Telligence: Brown Trout

Left to their own devices, brown trout (salmo trutta) would own the world’s freshwater. They’re aggressive, voracious predators that start young, picking off insects and invertebrates that inhabit the same streams, rivers, and lakes. Bigger specimens (and they DO get big: more than 40 lbs.) make life miserable for their smaller neighbors, snacking happily on fish, frogs, and pretty much anything else that annoys them.

 

The reason brown trout haven’t emptied the waters of all their rivals is that they are delicious — and fun to catch — themselves. Between people and predators, very few brownies make it beyond a 16″-20″ slot.

 

And that’s why there’s a whole subculture of reelers that chase not only brown trout, but the big, gold, spotted monsters that’ve eluded capture and predation for years. Trophy browns are an addiction that nobody’s found a cure for.

Brown trout surfacing in a crystal clear creek.

If you want to see for yourself, here are a few things you should probably know before you go.

Where are they?

Once limited to their original Central European range, brown trout have now spread across the globe. They inhabit streams, rivers, and lakes and can tolerate water temperatures to the mid-80s if there’s enough oxygen (i.e., fast-moving streams). Water that’s below 68° F. is ideal, which means higher latitudes and altitudes result in the best fisheries.

the U.S., brown trout eggs were brought over from Germany and Scotland. After the German and Scottish eggs were hybridized and hatched, what’s commonly called the “generic American brown trout” was introduced into Michigan’s Baldwin River in the late 19th Century. Since then, they’ve spread to the mountainous areas of the country, as well as the Upper Midwest thanks to management plans and angling enthusiasm.

Whether you’re fishing the Sierra Nevadas, Ozarks, InterMountain Range, Appalachians, or Northeast Iowa, you’ll find brown trout.

Brown trout who are resident in lakes and reservoirs will migrate up rivers to spawn and return to their homewaters afterward. Each season the trip makes these brood trout bigger and stronger — and smarter. They’re essentially the brown trout equivalent of a steelhead.

What do they eat?

Brown trout are opportunistic predators. But they’re also wily and wary. If a presentation doesn’t look natural, a brownie’s likely to give it a look and turn away in disdain.

What you throw out should be dictated by where you’re fishing,

what time of year it is, and the size of the trout you’re targeting. I’ve caught 12 to 16-inchers in the midwest on waxworms and salmon eggs. Chelsea Baum, a fly reeler in Northern California has had luck with nymphing patterns on the Truckee River.

Monster-hunter Andrew Engel has reeled in beefy browns with baitfish and even mouse presentations to pre-spawn trout on his fly rig.

 

Think about what’s natural on the water you’re fishing. Using a spinning reel and see a grasshopper on the bank? Put it on a hook and try your luck. What’s hatching in the water? Pick the fly of the season. Looking for bigger trout? Figure out the baitfish patterns for your chosen fishing spot.

Location, season, size

Andrew Engel takes a photo before the release. @TheFlyDudes

How Big Do They Get?

In spite of their difficulty to catch, brown trout get exceedingly more rare and harder to land as they get bigger. So, if you’re regularly catching 24″, 4-pounders, you’re already in a small minority. But they get bigger. Much bigger. And that drives many reelers absolutely bonkers. They make thousands of casts, ignoring smaller specimens, just to hook a hulking brown. And hopefully put it back after the battle.

Thanks in part to catch-and-release fishing, the world brown trout record has been set and set again several times in the past 25 years. To-wit:

  • 1992: 40 lbs., 4 oz., Howard “Rip” Collins, Little Red River, Arkansas
  • 2009: 41 lbs., 7 oz., Tom Healy, Big Manistee River, Michigan
  • 2010: 41 lbs, 8 oz., Roger Hellen, Lake Michigan, Wisconsin (still the U.S. record)
  • 2013: 42 lbs., 1 oz., Otwin Kandolf, Ohau Canal, New Zealand

The big ones are out there. Go get ’em! Check out our Brown Trout Tips and Hacks this Friday for some suggestions on just how to go about it.

How Do They Taste?

Like any trout, browns are delicious. And given how hard it can be to land one, a brown on the grill may taste just little bit better than the rainbow next to it.

Try a simple preparation. Gut and dehead the fish. Squeeze fresh lemon juice into the body cavity, spread salt and olive oil on the skin. Wrap the fish in foil and toss it on the grill until the flesh is flaky. Eat smugly.

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For Kim Hurt, Saltwater Reeling Was a Gamechanger

Kim Hurt (@kimhurtay on Instagram) was born and raised in the great state of Texas, where she has been fishing since she was a little girl.

“I’m from South Texas, but I live in Boerne now,” she says. “But I was living on the coast, out of Corpus Christi, on North Padre Island, where I got to fish all the time! But I was raised on a ranch just south of San Antonio.”

She started on freshwater, and it was her parents who sparked Kim’s interest in fishing.

“I started fishing with my daddy,” she says. “I grew up going to Colorado for several weeks every summer, and we’d fish up there in the mountains. We’d catch rainbow trout and fish like that.”

But Kim also fished closer to home.

“Obviously, we’d fish the rivers and lakes around where we lived, too,” she says. “I have a river that goes through my ranch, and we’d go, like, noodling for catfish and all sorts of stuff.”

Saltwater came later for Kim.

“I’ve been fishing my whole life,” she says. “But it wasn’t until I moved down to Corpus that I got into the saltwater fishing — and it was a game changer! Once you go salt, you can’t go back.”

Kim didn’t really think about fishing when she made the move.

“I lived on the water, when I was on North Padre,” she says. “I moved there in 2015, and my backyard was literally the water. I started fishing when my friends would go out. They would come by in their boats, and I’d just hop on with them and go! ”

Kim was immediately taken with reeling on the Gulf.

“Once I started doing saltwater fishing — the adrenaline I’d get was just a whole other level,” she says.

Kim loves both inshore and offshore fishing.

“We’d do lots and lots of bay fishing, we’d get monster trout and big schools of reds,” she says. “But I started going offshore, too, out of Port Aransas.”

Offshore fishing was just as big a rush for Kim.

“That was so much fun!” she says. “The biggest fish I ever caught in my life was offshore out of Port A. It was a giant mahi — 42 inches. I guess it wasn’t huge, but it was huge for me — I’m pretty little!”

Redfish are still Kim’s favorite, though.

“It’s just so fun!” she says. “They’re not always easy to catch, and they put up a big fight. It’s fun to chase them, standing up on top of the boat and trying to find them. There’s no better feeling than that — it’s so much fun. It’s just addicting.”

The challenges posed by saltwater fishing are what differentiates it from freshawater reeling for Kim.

“The fights — and the size of the fish. I’ve seen this whole ‘River Monsters’ thing, but I’ve never caught a monster unless it was a big ol’ catfish,” she says. “But in saltwater, you can catch a monster everytime.”

Kim relies on Waterloo Rods to ensure that whatever she hooks makes it to the boat.

“Saltwater fish are a lot harder to catch. You can’t always see through the water, unless you’re in Florida,” she says. “When you’re saltwater fishing, it’s just an adrenaline rush like no other, something you don’t get when you’re just sitting on the side of a riverbank. On saltwater, you’r in their territory!”

Besides the fish, Kim sees other benefits to being out on the water.

“There’s something about just being out on saltwater, whether you’re catching them or not,” she says. “That’s my kind of church. It’s just the most wonderful thing for your soul, as cheesy as that sounds.”

It’s important to Kim that the opportunities that she’s had are there for future generations.

“Coastal conservation and doing our part to keep beaches and water clean is so important,” she says. “Keep taking your kids fishing. It was a big part of my childhood, and I just think that it’s so important that kids get out there and do that, whether it’s with grandparents, parents, or whoever. It’s one of life’s most basic joys, and I want the younger generations to be part of that, too.”

 

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Reelin’ Strong with Kimmi Stark

Melbourne, Florida native Kimmi Stark (@kimmistark_ on Instagram) has only been fishing for about two and a half years. But she’s coming on strong!

“I just won my first fishing tournament up in the Mosquito Lagoon,” she says. This was not just her first tournament win — it was the first tournament she’d ever fished.

Although she’s always been a water girl, Kimmi didn’t get started fishing until she met her boyfriend.

“I’ve always loved being outdoors and in the water,” she says. “I’ve always surfed, and fishing is my boyfriend’s hobby, so I thought fishing was something we could on the water together. After I caught my first fish, I was hooked. I was like, ‘Alright — here we go!’ And I’ve been all-in ever since.”

“We do mostly inshore fishing,” Kimmi says. “On the Indian River Lagoon.”

Although Kimmi is happy to chase any inshore species, one, in particular, has captured her heart.

“My favorite fish are tarpon,” she says. “My personal best, right now, is about two and a half feet.”

Kimmi tries to get out at least every weekend to chase those silver kings.

“I use spinning gear,” she says. “And a combination of live and artificial bait.”

Although Kimmi is new to artificials, she’s taken a liking to them.

“I just got into artificial baits, and I actually like them a lot better,” she says. “It’s more fun and requires more skill and more precision. So, when you catch a fish, it feels like you had to work harder for it.”

Parts of the Indian River Lagoon are ideal for sight casting.

“We are mostly sight casting when we fish,” Kimmi says. “We have a flats boat, so we’re able to pole and see the fish before we cast. But when it’s tarpon, it’s often blind casting — you have to wait and see them roll. And then you go for it.”

As much as she loves chasing them, Kimmi doesn’t limit herself to tarpon.

“We’ll also go after trout and redfish,” she says. “The Indian River Lagoon is a really diverse ecosystem, so you can catch a little bit of everything.”

Remember that tournament Kimmi won?

“I had the biggest redfish at that Mosquito Lagoon tournament,” she says. “It was 32 inches. There wasn’t a just-girls category, so I outfished all the guys and the girls that day.”

Kimmi is hoping to step up her tarpon game in April with a trip to the Florida Keys.

“We want to do some wading and go after the monster tarpon they have down there,” she says. “Eventually, I want to try fly fishing, but first I want to perfect my spinning gear and artificals game before I move on to the next skill. I just want to practice and practice, learn new skills, and get better every day.”

Angling skills are not the only skills that Kimmi was motivated to learn because of fishing.

“I got into fitness because of fishing,” she says. “The first thing I ever caught was a jack, and it, like, ripped my arm off. So, I started working on getting stronger and healthier, and eventually got my personal training certificate.”

Now a personal trainer, Kimmi owns her own business, Tarpon Fitness. The business focuses on “fishing and Florida style,” she says.

As much as she gets out of exercise, it’s still the water that Kimmi goes back to.

“It’s relaxing, like therapy,” she says. “You can just go be in or on the water and feel connected with yourself, and all your worries just go away. You know how they call it salt water therapy? It’s the best thing for the mind.”

 

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Larissa Marchsteiner: This Gator Girl Loves H2O

Larissa Marchsteiner (@gatorgirl1183 on Instagram; @GatorGirl on Facebook) was born and raised — and still lives — in South Florida. And reeling has almost always been a big part of her life.

“I’ve been fishing since before I remember,” she says. “There are pictures of me when I was about five years old holding fish. I started by fishing off the back dock of my grandparents’ house on Lake Okeechobee.”

It was her dad that introduced Larissa to fishing. And clearly, she started out as a freshwater angler.

“For the longest time, I didn’t I liked to eat fish,” she says. “Because it would always be bass or other things we caught out of Lake Okeechobee. I always though it was disgusting.”

But she had an epiphany when she started fishing Florida’s coastal waters.

“I was introduced to saltwater fish,” Larissa says. “And I was like, ‘Oh! This is really good!’ It was a different thing altogether.!”

These days, Larissa spends most of her fishing time offshore.

“These days I’m usually out on the water trying to get my wahoo,” she says. “I have yet to get one. That’s next on my bucket list.”

Apart from her wahoo, though, Larissa has a pretty solid offshore track record.

“I caught my first swordfish,” she says. “It weighed in at about 400 pounds, so I’m probably pretty spoiled. I can hold off catching another one for a little bit so that I’m not disappointed.”

But Larissa’s heart belongs to mahi.


“Mahi are probably my favorite,” she says. “I love the colors — watching them in the water and seeing them when they come out. And they’re delicious.”

She’s still chasing a big bull, though.

“I still want to get a big one,” she says. “I’ve caught decent-sized ones, but I still want to catch a good sixty-pounder.

Although, most of her reeling is offshore, Larissa still finds time to do some occasional inshore fishing.

“I go down to to Islamorada and fish with some charters down there,” she says. “We go after mangrove snapper and trout mainly.”

With all the time she spends on the water, Larissa needs to make sure she’s outfitted with the right gear and apparel. Recently, she tryed some pieces from TH20 Gear — who make apparel to reflect the mahi colors that Larissa loves so much.

“I love it,” she says. “It’s bright and vibrant. It really gets people’s attention — which is always good.”

She even modeled some of the apparel for a shoot with renowned marine photographer, Tony Ludovico.

When she’s not fishing herself, she’s an insurance agent (“I sell AFLAC — I sell the duck.”) and she’s teaching her 10-year-old son to fish, as well.

“He loves it,” Larissa says. “He likes bottom fishing because he feel it — there’s more action to bottom and ishore fishing, as opposed to trolling for mahi.”

To a certain extent, it doesn’t matter to Larissa whether she catches whatever species she is targeting.

“My favorite part about fishing is always seeing what is going to come up,” she says. “Because, obviously, even if you’re fishing for a specific species, you still don’t know what’s going to be on the end of the rod. I love looking for the color, whether I’m the one holding the rod or I have the gaff — what is it going to be? That excitement… that’s the adrenaline rush I love so much.”

But regardless of why she’s on the water, H20 is a big part of Larissa’s life.

“Fishing clears my mind,” she says. “It makes me at peace. Out on the water, I’m away from everything — usually, I don’t even have cell phone service — I can not think about everything else that’s going on. It’s my get-away place, whether I’m catching fish or not, just being out on the water makes me happy. It’s how I deal with life when it’s rough.”