As a third-generation Miami native, Victoria Stark sees water as an extremely important part of her life.
Stark began fishing as a young girl when her grandfather – a transportation writer for the Miami Herald – would take her and the rest of her family out on boats that he was reviewing for the paper.
As a teen, Stark let fishing go by the wayside. But when she was 18, Stark “met a boy.”
“Typical,” she laughs.
The boy happened to own a flats boat and had built his own airboat. Getting out on the water, from the Keys to Lake Okeechobee – fishing, hunting alligators, gigging for frogs (“All that redneck stuff”) – rekindled Stark’s love of life on the water. And she hasn’t looked back.
These days, the Coconut Grove resident keeps herself quite busy between flats fishing on Biscayne Bay, traveling to exotic (and not so exotic) reeling locations, and participating in offshore tournaments.
At the moment, Stark is in the midst of the Quest for the Crest Sailfish Series – a four-leg series of
tournaments between December and April – having just completed the Sailfish 400, which is the series’ second leg. Stark’s boat is currently ranked seventh among more than 40 of the best billfish teams on the planet.
“It’s hard work,” she says. “You have to pre-fish the week before the tournament. And then you’re out on the water kite-fishing, staring at corks and adjusting kites for eight hours a day during the tournament. It can get tedious.”
On the other hand, this year’s estimated purse is in the neighborhood of $3 million. So, the work definitely has a potential payoff.
Last year, Stark went hunting for yellowfin beneath the oil rigs off
Venice, Louisiana, chased peacock bass in Florida freshwater, and hooked up on Pacific marlin with her friends Jackie Shea, fellow Pelagic girl Amber Marchant, and photographer Hunter Ledbetter.
It was a particularly exciting trip for Stark because Shea boated her first marlin.
“Jackie hooked up, and not five minutes later, my reel started going
off,” she said. “We were both hooked up at the same time, and we both got our fish to the boat. Jackie was so excited and I was happy to see her get her first marlin, a striped marlin.”
When she’s offshore or traveling the continent, Stark relaxes by hitting Biscayne Bay’s flats. She took up fly fishing a couple years ago.
“I’m getting better at it,” she says. “They say that women are more natural fly anglers than men, which is probably why I caught on so fast.”
Stark enjoys the both the serenity and the challenge of sight casting
for bonefish, permit, and tarpon.
“I got my grand slam [one of each species in the same day] down in the Keys, but I haven’t done it up here, yet,” she says. “It’s one of my goals.”
When I asked her how someone could learn to fish like she does, Stark says you’ve got to get someone to show you the ropes.
“Hire a guide or go out with a friend who knows what they’re doing – I’ve taken many of my friends out fishing,” she says. “You’ll learn much faster and support local fishermen at the same time.”
Being Vicky Stark isn’t always fun. Men in the male-dominated industry are not always welcoming.
“I get a lot of crap from guys because I’m a woman angler, or because I wear a bikini. But hey – it gets hot down here, especially out on the water,” she says. “I usually don’t let it bother me.”
Stark certainly has the right attitude – which is surely one of the reasons she’s been successful.
“I love fishing and support anyone else who wants to do it – both men and women,” she says. “I know it sounds corny, but I just love doing it – a bad day on the water is always better than a good day in the office.”
We couldn’t agree more.
You can follow all of Vicky Stark’s fishing and outdoor adventures on her YouTube channel.