Marissa Williams

What brings you back to the water? Where did your passion start? My dad tells this story of when I was camping as a kid and was begging to join him trout fishing. “Please,” I’d insist, only to hear a quick, “No, you’d complain that you’re cold”. To get around this I did what any kid would do; I promised not to complain that I was cold. And I did exactly that. My dad set out to fish for trout and I followed a short distance behind.  At some point into our adventure my father turned around to see me shivering and blue, but silent. “What happened?!” He exclaimed. “I promised I wouldn’t say I was cold,” I responded. And that is the beginning of my love/hate relationship with fishing.

Hindsight being 20/20, I would advise people to start working on their cast from shore instead of atop a precarious paddle board that is designed to challenge your balance rather than support it. My lures spent more time in the mangroves than they did in the water. I’d finish my days with zero fish caught, six mangroves hooked, and all lures retrieved. A depressing stat, but one that can certainly be improved.

Now that I’m no longer catching mangroves, I’ve graduated to small redfish. These are by far my favorite. The bright rose gold with the sapphire blue tails are colors that can only be found here. Plus, these are also the only fish I can manage to catch. Then one typical morning something new happens. Just as I’m getting ready to turn a corner, my line takes off screaming. This isn’t a small red, they don’t run like this. What could this fish possibly be and what am I going to do about crashing into these rapidly approaching mangroves? As I continue to reel in this mystery fish, I abandon my board and paddle in the shallows and know they will still be floating when I go to find them later. Then it happens – I get my first glimpse. A flash of silver with a long black line. “A snook!” I scream out to absolutely no one. The thought of catching my first snook races through my mind as I attempt to keep her away from mangrove roots and adjust the play in the line. After several minutes of battle, she tires out and I’m able to see what has brought me crashing to shore. A perfect beauty, over 30” in length, with not a single scale misplaced. Then I realize it. I don’t know how to hold a snook. The only thing I’ve heard about this fish is they are thumb suckers, but I’m unaware of any spines or barbs, so I opt to hold the fish at the mouth and the tail. I take a few quick photos of this impressive fighter before removing the hook and returning her to the water. This is it; I think, this is the ultimate morning! But this is just where things are getting started.

A few days after my first snook, I find myself in my same quarantine routine. Floating along the flats I see a redfish tailing. In the back of my mind I know that every attempt I’ve made to sight cast has scared off every living creature in a 50-mile radius, but I’m still going to attempt it. The board is lined up just right and I take my shot. The lure lands gently in the water, just past the red, as I start slowly reeling in. It’s happening, the red sees my bait and starts to take aim when BAM! The red is now on the end of my line pulling me out into the San Carlos Bay. I start to wonder what I’m going to do, but I’m too excited to care. The red pulls my board farther out and I reel back in, fighting to stay upright. I keep the line tight and wait until she tires out. Ten minutes later and yards from where I started, she starts to weaken. I sit down on my board and realize this is not one of those small reds I’m used to. I’m fairly sure that if I attempt to pick her up out of the water the counterweight will be all I need to flip me and my board. But what’s the harm in trying? I reach into the water and with a one-two heave-ho attempt, all 33” are on the board. This is too proud of a moment not to share, after all, what’s a story without pictures? I remove the hook and place her back in the water. I look at the blue in the tail as I’m waiting for her to regain strength and just like that, she’s gone.

I’m starting to think that maybe I’m more than lucky, maybe I’m actually getting good at this fishing thing. So, the best way to keep my ego in check would obviously be to swap out my spinning reel for a fly. Back to looking like a kid taking a whack at a piñata.