“I am thirty years old and I’ve lived in the same county my whole life,” says Michelle Dalton (@bombchelle_fishing on Instagram). “I think I might be one of the only Florida natives left here.”
Michelle still lives in the same Southeast Florida area where she grew up and learned to fish in the canals and man-made lakes near her home.
“I’ve been fishing pretty much my whole life,” she says. “I was probably about six years old when my dad started taking me fishing around our house in Margate and even in Coral Springs.”
They weren’t targeting a particular species — Michelle and her dad would just see what they could pull out of the water.
“We used to wait for the rain to stop, then we’d pick through the grass and find worms to use as bait. Where we fished, we mostly caught largemouth bass and catfish,” Michelle says. “I think that a catfish was the first thing I ever caught. Throwing worms on my hook and catching some catfish was my idea of fun back then.”
Michelle didn’t try saltwater fishing until several years later.
“I didn’t get into saltwater fishing until I was a teenager,” she says. “I figured out you could actually catch fish in the ocean — I don’t know why I never thought of that before — and you could actually eat what you catch.”
She hasn’t done a whole lot of canal fishing since getting her first taste of saltwater reeling.
“It was a whole other world for me,” Michelle says. “I fell in love with saltwater fishing after that.”
While she tries to do a little inshore fishing when she can, Michelle is generally an offshore angler.
“The location where I live is not great for inshore fishing,” she says. “We don’t have a lot of the mangroves or other kinds of structure that hold the inshore fish like West Palm Beach or even Miami do.”
Although she is typically an offshore angler, the ride is not a long one to get to the fishing grounds.
“We don’t have to go out very far to catch wahoo, mahi or sailfish,” she says. “You can find them pretty much right outside of our inlet.”
In the summer they may head out to the Gulf Stream hunt for bigger fish, in particular, mahi.
“It’s not too far from here, either,” Michelle says. “It’s about thirteen miles out, although it changes throughout the year. Mahi are one of my favorite fish to catch.”
She enjoys the challenge of fishing for mahi mahi — and, as an enthusiastic seafood chef, the rewards.
“It’s fun. It’s kind of like a hunt,” Michelle says. “Find the frigate — find the bird — find the debris, find the bait, find the mahi.”
Michelle also loves chasing sailfish.
“Pacific sailfish,” she emphasizes. “Our second home is Costa Rica, outside of Quepos. We’re there a good amount and the sails are huge over there. Their Pacific sailfish are like twice the size of our Atlantic sails. It definitely makes for a fun fight. And your body feels like a noodle the next day, so it’s a great workout.”
Costa Rica is also where Michelle had one of her most memorable catches.
“The first time I caught a roosterfish was one of my favorite catches,” she says. “It’s a catch-and-release fish — pretty much the mascot of Costa Rica — and it was a tough fight. I wasn’t expecting it. At the same time, I was on this little panga and the sun’s beating down: It makes it more of an experience when I’m fighting this fish that weighs pretty much half as much as me.”
She managed to get it to the boat and get a photo op before releasing it. But Michelle only has time to fish for pleasure when she’s not fishing a tournament or heading to a destination with her Pelagic Fishing Team.
At the same time, enjoys being an ambassador for the sport, especially when it comes to encouraging more women to pick up a rod and reel.
“I love seeing more lady anglers in the sport,” Michelle says. “A lot of people see fishing as a man’s sport. So, I take the opportunities to keep learning and pick up new techniques. And influence other women to get out on the water. I also love to fish with kids and teach young girls how to do it.”
“I guess it’s just in my blood,” she says. “I can’t think of a reason why I wouldn’t be fishing.”