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The Young Woman and the Sea: Jacki Shea Takes on Her First Marlin

Pro reeler and model Jacki Shea boated and released her first marlin — a striped — last month while fishing a charter with Blue Sky Cabo out of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Admittedly, the Gainesville, Florida native hadn’t done a lot of fishing for marlin before, but this was her lucky outing.

“I have not had very many chances to fish for marlin, only a couple times trolling in the Bahamas and most recently in Cabo San Lucas for striped marlin,” she explained.

Jacki Shea glides through the water with her new friend.
Photo by: @Keywestphotog

Now that she lives in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, her home fishing turf stretches between Palm Beach Inlet and Jupiter Inlet, which covers some awesome fisheries — both inshore and offshore — but doesn’t see a lot of marlin.

Jacki grew up on the water but really didn’t get serious about fishing until 2011, when she started spending a lot of time with friends who are frequent reelers. She particularly enjoys the challenges — both physical and mental — as well as the rewards that fishing presents.

“I like that its a never-ending learning process. It’s a challenge and a great way to enjoy the water. You never know what you’re going to encounter, and every trip is a surprise. Plus catching tasty fish means good eating.”

Jacki Shea swims with her catch.
Photo by: @Blueskycabo

Jacki also loves that she can bring her own approach to and put her own stamp on a pastime and profession that’s thousands of years old.

“What I find unique — and challenging — about fishing is that everyone has their own way of doing things, and that there are certain ways to target certain fish. I also love learning about seasonal patterns and the eating, spawning, and migrating habits of different types of fish.”

On her home waters, Jacki has her own proven techniques for finding and targeting fish.

“When I’m at home I will try to find spots that look like they could hold fish, such as under a dock or by a seawall.”

But she is always willing to take advice from other reelers about productive locations, techniques, and baits — as she did on her Cabo San Lucas charter.

“I didn’t have any input in the strategy for finding the marlin, I was in a completely foreign place, so I was not familiar with the waters at all. I trusted the captain and the mates, they definitely knew what they were doing.”

To entice the marlin to strike, Jacki says they trolled skirted baits, as well as naked skirts.

“Every once in a while the mates would change out the colors of the skirts from orange/greens to black/purple colors.”

Once her marlin hit,  Jacki was in the proverbial — and literal — hot seat.

“I did not want to lose the fish, and luckily I got to fight the fish from a chair — which was also my first time fighting a fish in a chair.”

Jacki Shea and Vicky Stark pose with the Marlin while Amber Marchant battles for her own.
Photo by: @Keywestphotog

The fish fought hard, at first, but Jacki eventually took control of the battle.

“During my marlin battle I was very focused… my adrenaline was pumping the entire time. It jumped a few times at the beginning but after that it was pretty calm.”

After several minutes of fighting, she got the fish to the boat and quickly prepared for the release.

“Once we got him to the boat I was so happy… The mate grabbed him by the bill so we could snap some pictures. Then I jumped in to get an underwater release with my beautiful fish!”

Releasing fish that you’re not going to eat is extremely important to Jacki, who loves her sushi and ceviche but opposes taking more than you and your friends can use.

“I am very big on fish conservation. I love to keep a fish and cook it for dinner, however I think more people need to understand the concept of only taking what you need and not killing as much as you can,” she says. “I don’t like killing just to kill and to have a giant haul of fish to show off at the dock at the end of the day. Plus, we need to let the fisheries grow and flourish so future generations can catch fish like we do today.”

For folks who want to catch their own dinner or boat a billfish, Jacki has three sage nuggets of wisdom.

“Let the rod fight the fish; always be prepared… and Keep it tight!”

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