Fishing For Health

By Chris Flannagan

I grew up fishing for bass and bream in Alabama ponds. Saltwater fishing intimidated me when I moved to Florida 11 years ago.

I got a little boat, a 17’ 1993 Angler, and I couldn’t go out on the water here in the Sarasota area without a rod and reel. So I picked up a few lures and started fishing again.

I caught my first snook ever on my third voyage. Anchored on some small flats, I threw out a plastic shrimp with a popper.  Pop, pop, pop… strike! All the feelings from my youth came rushing back. It was straight downhill from there. I bought some nicer gear, started doing research, went through loads of trial and error, and before I knew it had become a pretty good inshore fisherman.

My wife and I had a son in 2016. We also have my 9-year-old daughter from a previous marriage. The last few years have been fast-paced. I was working 60 hours a week; we were raising young children; there wasn’t a lot of time for hobbies.

The stress was building, my waist was growing, and my blood pressure was ticking up. I woke up around 5 a.m. one morning, saw my fishing rods and decided to go waste a couple hours fishing from shore before work.

I hadn’t done any shore fishing since getting the boat, but I only live a couple miles from Siesta Key. So I hopped in the truck and headed to Point of Rocks. What do you know? I caught some fish! I got my first redfish, and as if prescribed by Dr. Seuss himself, I also caught a couple of bluefish. This fired me up like I hadn’t felt in years. Next thing you know, I’m purposely getting to bed early just to sneak in some fishing before work.

An old Sarasota native told me if I hiked down the rocky shore a quarter mile, there’s a cove loaded with big fish. A few weeks later, I landed a 40-inch snook!

It’s been a few months now, and I go out there nearly every day. I go either super early in the morning or after my kids go to bed. I’ve caught dozens of snook in the 30- to 40-inch range and countless smaller ones. I’ve caught big sheepshead, trout, snapper and so on. I put my best fishing buddy on his first 40-incher, and my wife too!

But the cherry on top is my health. The hike out and back is about 2 miles round-trip. I run regularly, but with the way I like to eat, I’ve stayed a good 30 pounds overweight since my son was born.

As of this week, I’m down just over 20 pounds. My blood pressure is in the normal range, and I think some of my hair is even growing back… LOL!

Never in my life did I think fishing would be so physically healthy for me. I knew it was helping my mental health almost instantly, yet here I am, leaner than I’ve been since college.

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