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Fishin Chick – Hayden Staley


Q:Tell us where you live and work?

A:I live in Windermere, Florida and I work at Discovery Cove as an Aquarist, which basically means I take care of the animals that live in our reef. I am both feeding and training our tropical fish, stingrays and sharks; or I am SCUBA diving all day guiding underwater tours at our Seaventure program.

Q:Sounds like a great job. What do you do for fun?

A:I love to do anything outdoors! As long as I am outside in nature, it’s a good day. I love to run, surf, paddleboard, snorkel, drink beer, and of course fish!

Q:How did you get hooked on fishing?

A:My Grandfather was a huge reason I really found a passion for fishing. He is an avid fly fisherman, still to this day chasing tarpon, bonefish, and permit. Growing up on the Chain of Lakes in Windermere we would always catch little sunfish with our rolled up bread balls as bait. As I got older I became envious of all his pictures on the wall of peacock bass from the Amazon and bonefish from Belize, I figured it was time to start learning. I became very inquisitive whenever we would go out on the boat. I’m always trying to become an expert like him. He is also my fly fishing instructor, taught me everything I know!

Q:How long have you been fishing?

A:Since I was very young I would always mess around with my little fishing pole reeling in sunfish after sunfish. I got more serious about it about 6 years ago.

Q:What types of fishing have you done and where?

A:I’ve mainly done flats fishing, typically over in Anna Maria Island. I mostly catch reds, trout, snook and tarpon. I’ve been fishing in the Bahamas a few times; chasing bonefish in Eleuthera and spear fishing along with a little trolling in Guana Cay. I’ve been offshore in New Smyrna where I caught my first barracuda, and went after some grouper out of Weeki Wachee.

Fishing Chick Hayden Staley

Q:Have you picked a favorite type of fishing yet?

A:Any fishing is my favorite. Any day I am out on the water is a good day of fishing. I love the patience and peacefulness of fly fishing, the intense reel of pulling a grouper out from the rocks, almost running out of breath free-diving but not giving up because there’s a big hogfish in front of you, and even catching a little sunfish. It’s all good.

Q:How do you see your future related to fishing?

A:I’m always looking to become more knowledgeable about what gear to use, ideal ocean conditions, and where the fish are moving. With my marine biology background, my goal would be to eventually end up in research studying fish migration patterns. I’ve always wanted to be a deckhand on someone’s boat to help out and learn by experience.

Fishing Chick Hayden Staley

Q:What part of fishing do you like the most?

A:There are so many aspects of fishing that I love! I love the early morning sunrise on the water. The network of fishermen always communicating trying to stay one step ahead of the fish, figuring out where they are and what they are eating. Being out on a boat surrounded by nothing but water is truly the most majestic, tranquil feeling. Then a rush of adrenaline suddenly interrupts the peace as your line gets tight and it’s time to get to work.

Q:Do you have any highlights in your memories of fishing.

A:I recently just caught my first tarpon! I was out off of Longboat Key with Captain Mac Gregory in the late afternoon. We were getting tons of bites but couldn’t hook up the silver king. Then finally it happened, the line went tight and my heart rate skyrocketed! Loved every second of that fight! I got him to the boat and was about to get a picture when he came to life, panicked and broke the leader. I’m assuming a shark got a little too close. Now I’m itching to catch another one so I can have a picture to prove it!

Another proud moment with Captain Mac was catching my first redfish on the fly rod! He set me up perfect in a little cove, I took my time to make my casts and got my first fish on fly! Another highlight was spearfishing in the Bahamas. It was my first time spearfishing so I was trying to get used to everything. Free diving wasn’t an issue for me, I just had trouble with my aim. With the end of our trip near, I wasn’t getting out of the water until I speared a fish. The reef was pretty barren of hogfish, but there were a few schoolmaster snappers, but they are pretty smart fish! I dove down to this little cave and saw two snapper that seemed oblivious to my presence. Trying to be stealthy, I swam down a little farther to get a shot. Finally as I was looking the snapper right in the eye, I pulled back my pole spear and nailed him! I was so happy to finally get my first speared fish, a beautiful schoolmaster snapper.

Fishing Chick Hayden Staley

Q:What other “aspects of you” would you like to portray if any?

A:I would love to portray my respect for the ocean and the animals that live there. We can get caught up in fishing sometimes, but I think it’s important to follow regulations and strive to make the ocean a better place, so we can continue to fish for years to come! It’s important to think about our impact and how we do things because I don’t know what I would do if there were no more fish to catch! I also love all the new upcoming fishing Captains. It’s neat to see people go after their passion and follow their dreams. A good friend of mine Captain Jordan Todd with Saltwater Obsessions up in Port Saint Joe is absolutely killing it there. It’s amazing to see people who respect the water being so successful!

Fishing Chick Hayden Staley

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