After retiring from the Navy in 2017, I started fishing as a hobby, only to realize that it is amazingly therapeutic. I noticed my time on the water was not only educational, but it also helped relieve symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD), depression and anxiety. I started volunteering with several non-profit organizations specializing in outdoor activities for veterans, but quickly realized the lack of women participating. I then decided to make it my mission to get more women on the water to enjoy the same benefits I have.
Recently, I organized a group of ladies for a day of tarpon fishing in Boca Grande Pass. While this trip started out to just be a “girl’s trip,” it turned into so much more. Because it was Memorial Day weekend, we decided to do something to remember and honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice fighting for our freedoms. It just so happened that one of the ladies, Emily Feeks, is the Gold Star Wife of SO1 (SEAL) Patrick Feeks. Patrick made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan on August 16, 2012. We all agreed this fishing trip would be dedicated to Emily and to the memory of Patrick.
After eating lunch, we and our captains, Mike Manning and Jeff Hagaman, set off to have an adventure of a lifetime. After a couple of hours and only one bite, Emily’s rod bent over with a force that just about pulled her off the boat! She put on an impressive fight for about 10 minutes before the fish surfaced, and we got a glance at how beautiful the Silver King really is. After dehooking and picture taking, the King was released to greet another angler on another day.
At the end of our day, Emily told me it was one of the most exciting things she’s done and while she was hot, sore, and sweating she wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. Thanks to the support of the ladies on the trip, she felt loved and supported. She also knew that Patrick was watching over her, smiling, and was proud of everything she’s accomplished.
I would like to give Captains Mike and Jeff a special thank you for taking care of us! They are two of the best tarpon fishermen out there. If you would like to book them, you can find them on Facebook or Instagram. Jason, with Overslot Outdoors, was also amazing with the rush order of shirts for everyone. They turned out amazing! I plan to continue organizing events, specifically for women, so they have a place to meet other like-minded women and have fun in the outdoors!