As a native of Central Florida — “just south of Ocala National Forest” — Jess Pless (@bikiniwahine on Instagram) grew up reeling in freshwater.
“I think my dad taught me when I was like two years old,” she says. “We’d hit the local ponds and go up into the Ocala Forest to fish.”
Jess got her first taste of saltwater fishing when visiting her grandparents in New Smyrna.
“I just kind of dabbled in it there,” she says. “I didn’t really get into it until 15 years ago or so, and I got really serious about fishing in the last six years when I started fishing on my friend’s flats boat.”
These days, Jess is a diehard inshore and flats reeler.
“I’m too hyperactive to go offshore and troll,” she says.
She takes a monthly fishing trip to the Keys for a long weekend fishing the flats or the mangroves — and even an occasional adventure offshore.
Jess was just coming back from her trip when we caught up with her.
“It was not the greatest,” she says. “We went offshore for mahi and only caught one. Another day, we saw 20 or 30 tarpon rolling in the canal, so we started sight casting. We tried everything, but they were just not hitting. In the hours that we were there, we only got one hit.”
But she was more hopeful about her next destination.
“I’m on my way to Captiva for a family event,” Jess says. “I’m hoping to catch a few reds while I’m there.”
Snook and redfish are her favorite targets.
“I even do a few inshore tournaments where we target snook, reds and trout,” she says.
As much as Jess loves the Keys, her favorite inshore fishery is around Tarpon Springs, Florida.
“Certain times of year there, the water is so clear, you can sight fish,” she says. “We’ll catch pilchards — we call them ‘greenbacks’ — and toss them out. They work for both snook and redfish.”
Jess has been a nurse for 10 years and currently works as a trauma nurse at Tampa General.
“It’s can be really intense, stressful work,” she says.
She looks to fishing as a stress reliever and a way to relax.
“If I didn’t have an escape like fishing, I’d be depressed all the time,” Jess says. “It’s my outlet — I fish instead of taking medication or drinking alcohol.”
But Jess also loves fishing for reasons beyond stress relief.
“I still get an adrenaline rush from catching a fish — any kind of a fish — big, small, it doesn’t matter,” she says. “It’s awesome, and I love it… no matter what kind of a day I’m having.”
Check out @KEYWESTPHOTOG for photos!