Fishing Story

Junior Tyler Dobleske focuses on an accurate cast while fly fishing.

Tampa Bay is regarded as one of the best fishing communities across the globe. Not only is Eckerd College located in Tampa Bay, but it also houses students that come from every corner of the world. The bay has over 200 different species of fish and is one of Florida’s largest open water estuaries. As gathering restrictions begin to lift on campus, there will be a steady increase in events and group fishing outings to look forward to.

Students at Eckerd are often unfamiliar with fishing in Tampa Bay when they arrive as first-year students. It is a vastly different ecosystem than where students are coming from (Eckerd has new students from 47 states and 23 countries this year), and therefore fishing around campus requires a different approach. The tight knit community at Eckerd has upperclassmen fishermen who pass along knowledge they have come across in regard to the best areas and which baits are generally the most effective. 

Eckerd College has had a fishing club since 2017, which hosts local and statewide events. Junior Tyler Dobleske is this year's Co-Vice President of the Eckerd Fishing Club. 

Dobleske is interested in getting students involved in fishing tournaments around campus, the east coast of Florida and the Everglades.

“We have kids who will fly fish, some who will fish normally with some bait like myself, there will be some night fishing occasionally and there are even people with boats who will take groups offshore. So it is really just a little bit of everything,” Dobleske said. 

There are new things to try when fishing in Florida, but there are students with experience who help others to try some of it out. Dobleske has observed that Eckerd is a hotspot for fishing when he compares it to other spots he has visited. Oftentimes when he and other members of the club will fish in popular spots off campus they will all catch a few different things. When they return to campus they catch just about everything like bass in the baseball ponds, tarpon in Fox Pond and gag groupers off the pier.

One thing that cannot be practiced in most landlocked states is spear fishing. This style of fishing can only legally be done in saltwater bodies, and this makes some local spots a perfect place. Jordan Musarra, a first-year from Tennessee, originally discovered this hobby late in his Autumn Term.

Musarra said that he and his friends will go off campus with their gear and find bodies of water with structures in them.

“Diving down in the water is meditative on its own, but being face to face with the fish makes it a whole different experience,” Musarra said.

Fishing also provides an opportunity for forging relationships with others on campus. Tournaments, bait shops, boat excursions and learning techniques from other fishermen all require face to face interactions. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic had its way in making some of these experiences from happening. One of the presidents of the fishing club this year is Kevin Lariviere, who was also the president last year. 

Lariviere has witnessed the immediate effects the pandemic has had on the fishing community, as well as some lingering issues as things begin to return to a normal operation.

“Last year was very difficult for the club once COVID broke out. I tried multiple times to do a kayak tournament but we ended up being limited to fishing on campus,” Lariviere said. “We only had one meeting, but this year is a lot nicer because all of our stuff is outside, and there are not really restrictions there.”

The waterfront offers rental gear for fishing poles, as well as kayaks and paddle boards that can be utilized to venture into better fishing spots. While it can be a different experience to fish with friends, the activity itself allows for easy social distancing. Anyone can take advantage of Eckerd’s location for fishing -- it is as easy as purchasing some bait from the waterfront and spacing out with friends along the sea wall.

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