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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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