Melissa Stevens: 'THE Gal 'Everybody Wants To Fish With
Release Date: 08/09/2023
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Melissa Stevens Dad finally agreed to go fishing with her so she could finally show him what she does for a living. Her Dad happened to show me some photos when he returned, and I was blown away.
OMG! I’ve never seen any woman reel in fish this big! I had to meet her.
Melissa will tell you herself she’s not the only woman out there fishing at this level, she's just the only one I know about. I am aware that more women than ever are taking up fishing and that's a good thing. Research shows women who fish are happier and healthier. If that’s the case Melissa must be freakin ecstatic.
The fish she caught when her Dad went along was a Swordfish weighing about 90 to 110 pounds and was about 6 ½ feet tall from the tip of his tail to the end of the bill.
Yes, this woman catches fish much bigger than she is. The fish in the shot of her leaning back on the boat, the photo with blood all over the bottom of the boat (gag me) is a large tuna.
Then there’s that a 302-pound swordfish she’s posed with.
And a shot with her posing with what looks to me like a giant goldfish. Those are American Red Snappers.
Melissa said the biggest fish she ever caught on a rod and reel personally, was roughly a 900 pound bluefin tuna out of a fishery in Nova Scotia where they were not permitted to remove them from.
And the largest fish she ever caught commercial fishing, working on a commercial boat, was... a 940 pound swordfish!
I asked her. “How the heck do you even pull these fish with your arms? "I mean, what kind of unusual strength do you have?”
“Most of my strength” , said Melisa, “comes from pure stubbornness.”
I'm was left speechless seeing what Melissa has been doing for a living for the past 14 years, and I had to wonder, what would inspire a young woman to go in this direction?
Melissa said, “Mom and I grew up watching a lot of this sport fishing on television, most specifically a show called Walker's Kay Chronicles. It's the show that really started off sport fishing in the public eye. And I always wanted to be on the boat my whole life and instead of taking the traditional route after high school, I dug my heels in and I went fishing.”
So yes, Melissa’s gone fishing and living her dream!
I too loved watching sport fishing shows as little girl, and I too am living my dream, telling other peoples fish tales. LOL
Oh and Melissa's 'quite the catch herself', but dating her means you'll have to understand she smells like a fish a lot. LOL We laughed about that.
Melissa is from CT, lives in Fla. and fishes often in Venice, Louisiana.
If you want to go fishing with her, which many people do, you can book a fishing trip with her at Southern Catch Outfitters in Venice, Louisiana.
Melissa says, "People come from all over the world come to fish in Venice." Most of their customer basis is from the Gulf Coast area, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Northern Florida, just because it is a very easy drive. But she said, they’re only an hour and 15 minutes from New Orleans airport and there is a direct flight from LaGuardia Airport in NY right there. So they do have quite a few customers from the tri-state area that join them.
Enjoy this podcast of our live radio conversation on The Debbie Nigro Show.
If you'd rather read than listen - the audio treanscript is below.
In case you want to know more about Melissa Stevens check out:
Melissa Stevens Facebook Page: Southbound Tackle
I like to follow her 'catches' on Instagram: @SouthboundTackle
It's time for the Debbie Nigro Show with Debbie Nigro, who says she's still a babe, or at least she thinks she still is. That's right, attitude is everything, and Debbie's delusionally young. No one sees the glass of Cabernet half full like Debbie. She's fresh air with a magnetic flair, but some day has arrived, and as far as she's It's time to roll.
They say when you cast off, you never know what you'll reel in. Research shows the real catch isn't something you can hold or see, but something you can feel. Yes, it's about happiness and grit and learning patience and it's very good for your health.
Fishing it is, and women who fish have all these things going on. They're being encouraged to get out there, fish more. I don't know if you guys know any women who fish. I don't know many. I love the idea of it. I don't bait and I don't like getting in the way of a big fish coming on board. But, you know, I like the idea of it. I saw a photo of a girl. I'll call her a woman because she is a young beautiful woman, that blew my head. I was like, what am I looking at here? She was holding a catch of a day that was bigger than any fish I've ever seen. I was like, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. And then it just kept going on, picture after picture after picture of this woman, young woman, catching gigundo fish. Like she is the girl that all the guys want to fish with. And I happened to see the picture because I know her dad. And he had just returned from the first time he ever went fishing with her. He said, she said, Dad, why don't you come fishing? So Melissa Stevens is supposed to be joining me today. I don't know if she's still in the water, on the sea, wherever she is. She's definitely checking in. Bob, you stay alert. Hopefully she's supposed to be on the air. Staying alert. Okay. I mean, you just don't mess with a girl who can lift a fish this big. If you want to go on my social media and see what I'm talking about, I highly encourage you to go over to the Debbie Nigro Show Facebook page and you can go over to my Instagram at The Real Debbie Nigro and you will just not believe your eyes. I just can't believe your eyes. I used to watch Wide World of Fishing when I was a young girl. It was on Sunday mornings after like, I don't know, there was nothing on Sunday mornings. It was just like a wide world of fishing. It was always that opened up with an icon and a brand image of a giant swordfish. A big swordfish. I thought that I should do that. I thought I should catch a giant swordfish. Maybe it was a marlin. I don't know. It looked the same to me. I know they're not the same, but that's what I started my day with on Sunday, as a little chubby little girl, like, oh, this is cool. And I imagined myself sitting there trying to do it. One time I did get a chance to go on a boat in Florida and sit in what they call kind of like a, almost like a shark catching sulky, if you will. You know, a big fish sulky that's on the back of a boat and facing out, you get strapped in.
It's like, wow!
Caught nothing, but I felt like it. Like I felt I had the experience. But what this woman does is beyond. So hopefully she'll be coming up shortly. It led me to do some homework really about fishing and the psychology of it and in particular the research has shown that women should really look into this. It has a very profound impact on a woman's life, fishing and boating. The senior director of marketing for an organization that I just found out about today is really out there. It's called Take Me Fishing. What they're trying to do is confront the barriers and inspire women everywhere to challenge themselves, to try something new, to help them find their best self while supporting a more inclusive fishing and boating environment. Despite record levels of female participation in fishing, almost half of the female anglers do not feel respected by the broader angling community, with more than one in three feeling stereotyped, right?
Hey, Deb, how about we let Melissa tell us about it herself?
She's right here now. Oh, thank. She got off the boat to call me? Thank goodness. Melissa Stevens, you, you, you unbelievable girl, you. I am like bowing down. Hi, welcome. Hello, thank you. Thank you for having me on. I appreciate it. Honestly, I've been a champion of women doing everything since I was born. I was always like, what can't we do? Why can't we do it? But I was just starting to talk about how there's a campaign to get more women fishing and that there's sort of been a stereotype, I guess, about women not having the presence in the fishing industry. So when I saw this picture that your father showed me, he goes, I just got back from seeing my daughter. We went out fishing. I was like, what am I looking at? And there you were with a giant how big was that swordfish? The one we caught the other day with my dad was about a between we never weighted it but about 90 to 110 pounds. And how tall was it you know I saw it over your head over your father's head. Yeah. How high did it get?
Probably about 6 1⁄2 foot on that fish. I couldn't believe it.
That's from the tip of his tail to the end of the bill. Melissa, you brave girl. The second picture I put up is you leaning back on the boat with a fish bigger than you, kind of blood all over the bottom of the boat. I'm assuming it's that large. What kind of fish?
I haven't looked at it, but I'm assuming it's that large tuna.
Yeah, that looks like a large tuna. And then you sent me a picture, you told me I had permission to use, of another fish that, I don't know, I never saw anything this big, is that another swordfish?
Oh, that's a 302-pound swordfish.
And then those big, looks like giant goldfish, what are those?
Those are American red snappers.
It's just, I'm speechless seeing what you do. Is this what you do for a living every day It's been about 14 years of me doing this is my daily job What would inspire a young woman like yourself to go in this direction? What was it in your life that led you to doing this very fortunately I live my childhood dream.
Mom I grew up watching a lot of this sport fishing on television most specifically a show called Walker's Kay Chronicles. It's really, it was the show that really started off sport fishing in the public eye. Wow. And I always wanted to be on the boat my whole life and instead of taking the traditional route after high school, I dug my heels in and I went fishing. I just think it's incredible. You missed the park.
Yeah, I used to watch fishing shows too. That's why I really was attracted to what you're doing. I mean, I used to fantasize about doing what you're doing. I don't know where that came from. It was the only show on Sunday morning, Wild World of Fishing. But you're doing it. Are you one of the few women catching fish this big? At this point in my career, I am not.
In the beginning, there was probably about overall four of us in the entire community that were fishing at this level. In the last five years, it has really become more available for women. Yeah, maybe more, more than a month. I've never really, I've never been in it to be a martyr for women. I've never been in it to pound the way and pave the road. So, there's always been space for women in this career if you've been willing to put your head down and work hard. That is really the only way to get, the only way to get far in this career is to dedicate your life to it and show everybody around you how good you are.
There's no... no pictures do the justice. The people need to see the hard work.
Yeah. I'm just jealous you get all that fresh air every day. Now I know you're from Greenwich but you moved to Florida but you fished a lot in Venice, Louisiana. Is that where the big action is?
My current home port of fishing is Venice. I have been very fortunate that my career has taken me around most of the globe and I have done some of the best fishing on earth. But as far as consistency and truly just incredible nature, Venice, Louisiana is one of the most impressive fishing destinations that I have ever been to in my life. Which is why I chose to stay there for a while.
And the water is of the Gulf of Mexico. I can see that just from the way you're catching, who would even know that it existed? Is there something you want to... you came in a little late on the segment. Do you have any more time to hang out and talk a little bit more or you got to go?
I have plenty of time, absolutely.
Okay, cool. We have to take a little break and when you guys come back I'm talking to Melissa Stevens she is a world-class fisher woman am I saying it right angler what do you what do you an angler I am a fisherman much like a fireman a postman a mailman I'm a fisherman it is a the ocean doesn't know if you're a man or a woman it just wants to work hard that's great so stay with me because I have a lot more that I want to share about you to the audience where they can find you and follow you because it just made my day to see what you're doing. Okay, everybody, you're listening to the Debbie Nigro Show and I guess Melissa Stevens and we'll be back in just a moment.
And now, back to the Debbie Nigro Show.
Hi guys, I'm Debbie Nigro. You know, I love fascinating personalities, right? People who are unique, doing unique things. And I happen to come across a photo of this guest right now that I'm enjoying meeting, Melissa Stevens, when her dad showed me a picture of him going fishing with her for the first time. And she's like next to these gigantic, like world record size fish. And I wanted to invite her on the show, introduce her to you guys, tell you where you can find her because they, she and her cohorts actually take people out on charters to go fish with them in Venice, Louisiana. You're going to want to know about this if you're into this sort of thing. So, Melissa, are you breaking world records with what I'm seeing you catch this year?
Oh man, Debbie, I wish that I was, but I am not. I am not. The hope is that we can get close and try to push the limits of what we can catch where we are, but that's the cool thing about being on the water it could happen anywhere at any time so every day we're hunting for them but I have yet to put a legitimate world record. I mean what what's the heaviest fish you ever pulled up? The heaviest fish that I've ever caught on a rod and reel personally myself is about a 900 pound bluefin tuna out of a fishery in Nova Scotia where we were not permitted to remove them from
So that's an approximation of about 900 pounds. And the largest fish I've ever caught commercial fishing, working on a commercial boat, was a 940 pound swordfish. How do you even pull this with your arms? I mean, what kind of strength do you have? Most of my strength comes from pure stubbornness.
Wow, you are stubborn!
Incredible, incredible, incredible. I was reading this morning that...
Handling fish of that size is heavily technique-driven, not so much a strength thing as far as it is understanding how to handle it.
Yeah, so say you catch a 900 pound fish, how many people do you need on the boat with you to help you pull it up into the boat?
With the right equipment it could be two of us, but if we don't have that it could take quite a few, five, six people.
Wow. And then you know, tuna is in high demand obviously as is swordfish and when you catch giant tuna and we'll talk about tuna let's stick with that what is the market for that like are people
clamoring to get their hands on it? So as of right now my current job is solely charter fishing the fish that we catch during the day goes home with the
customer and usually they slide a piece of the water. I've never tasted anything. Swordfish, you know, that's not on as many menus as it used to be.
What's going on with the swordfish out there? The sword fishery is as good as it's ever been. There has been a lot of restrictions placed on some of the commercial boats, specifically the longliners, on where they can fish. So the frequency in which they've been sword fishing and catching them for the commercial longline boats because of where they're allowed to fish has kind of hampered the amount of swordfish that they've been catching. But also, swordfish do contain a very high level of mercury. And that will scare some people away. But that 90 to 120 pound range fish that my father and I caught, you could eat that all
day with not the worry of the mercury. So interesting. What about seasickness? What you guys do all day long? How do you do that? I fortunately in the last almost 15 years have never been seasick.
But I have been graced with the opportunity to watch thousands of people to get seasick.
Gosh, that's the worst.
Depending on the customer, we don't really, there's nothing you can really do. Seasickness, you can kind of tell usually before we leave the dock even who's going
to get seasick.
It's very mentally driven. Now there are a group of people who just cannot handle any kind of motion. My brother is one of those people specifically where we could be in the car and the car could swerve funny and he could get sick. But most people the seasickness comes from hyping it up in their head that they're going to get seasick. Wow. Okay. There is some things you can do in order to, you know, stave it off, but once it happens, it's very hard to shake it until we get to
land. Okay, let's not talk about that anymore, because even the thought of people getting nauseous makes me nauseous, Melissa. I can't even talk about it. Yes, but that, but I'm
trying to say is that that thought in your mind is what will drive it in the first place.
Okay, we're done with that topic. Let's talk about the blood that comes out of the fish. I can't look at blood. How do you look at all that blood?
Oh, I tell our customers that my Captain John has a duty to fulfill my daily bloodlust and that we gotta go catch some fish. So for me, it is a byproduct of the joy of fishing and I could not possibly care less about it.
How many days a week do you eat fish after doing all this fishing? I eat little fish pieces with tuna blood every day. Oh gosh. Did you hear what my question? I'm sorry. I didn't mean to cut you off. How many days do you eat fish after all this fishing? How many days a week do I eat fish?
Yeah. Oh, probably one or two days because you have to mix it up a little bit. It would be too much if I ate fish every single day.
Right. But there's people who do that. And I know that it's obviously one of the healthier things to do.
My captain's mother is a pescatarian. All she eats is fish. So every few months we ship her a box. Pescatarian.
Nice and new where we brought into this century. I don't think they had pescatarians. Maybe they did. They just didn't call it that. So who's coming to rent these charters? Where are people coming from?
If you have any knowledge of great fishing and you know Venice, we have people coming from all over the world. Most of our customer basis is from the Gulf Coast area, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Northern Florida, just because it is a very easy drive. But that being said we are only an hour and 15 minutes from New Orleans airport and there is a direct flight from LaGuardia right there. So we do have quite a few customers from the tri-state area that join us.
Wow, you have full day offshore fishing and overnights that I guess you start out and you're there surprising the fish when they wake up?
We leave the dock about noon, we get back about noon the next day.
Yeah. Are there some fish that are easier to catch at night?
Not particularly, but sometimes the bite at night can get really fired up. And a lot of people like the overnight experience. We bring the grill, you know, we make burgers on the boat.
It's really more of an experience than specifically for the fishing. Yes. I have friends and people I know who are avid fisher people and travel all over the world. They seek out the next great fishing adventure. So when I saw what you were catching, I was like, wow, if anybody sees what I'm going to post who likes this, they're going to be calling you ASAP. So I wanted to just promote who you are associated with because it's called Southern Catch Outfitters and they're in Venice, Louisiana. And I never heard of Venice, Louisiana as the fishing location, but after seeing what you caught, I'm like, okay, obviously this is the place, right? And of course-
It is truly remarkable. Not a very beautiful place to stay in actual Venice. That is for sure. A lot of oil industry, very commercialized, not a lot of people. No supermarket. There's one dollar general and that's about it. But we can help people find places to stay. There's houseboats. We pick you right up in the marina from the deck of the houseboat. And we have two boats, 40 foot center console catamaran style boats that can hold up to six passengers each and It's about a 10 to 12 hour day and in total But the great part about Venice as opposed to fishing in other places in the Gulf Coast is that it's a peninsula And you're already 60 miles in the correct direction
Awesome, so Melissa a couple last questions. When somebody comes in with a giant tuna, 600 pounds, 700 pounds, whatever, do you cut it up right there on the boat? Do you fillet it?
We take care of all of the processing up to the point of we don't vacuum seal it or we'll put it in ziplocks, but we take care of all that breaking down of the fish for you. We do it in the marina. We have to bring the fish in whole. If unfortunately we got pulled over by wildlife on the way in, you have to have the fish in one piece in order for them to measure them. So once we get in, we load it up in a cart, bring it down to the cleaning station, we cut the fillets off, we chunk it up and send you home with it in a cooler.
You are the coolest girl I've met, I swear, in a long time. What about that swordfish-like sword beak? What's that used for? So, while the fish is alive or after the fact? I don't know, I'm just scared of it. What do you do with it? You should be scared of it.
That's why it's called the swordfish because they are sharp on the side and they use that and when the swordfish is at the bottom, it lives in the bottom in the dark. They use that bill to basically kill their prey and then come back up to it and then eat it. So they whack at the fish, they can even cut one up, they can cut up a fish with their bill. Now after this is back once we've taken the fish apart, um, I do a process of cleaning the bill where macerate it, get all the meat and fat out of it and then cleanse it and whiten it and I hang them on the wall.
Why did I know you were going to say something creative like that? I kind of knew that was coming. And by the way, I can't believe I called it a beak. It's a bill. No, it's a bill or a beak. It's a bill. It's a bill. You know a little bit more than me. I think the last thing I want to ask you, or one of the last things is do you always smell like fish? If you're working around fish this much? I would say from about 4.30 in the morning to about 8 o'clock at night, yes. I smell like fish. And I tend to go like that on a date if I go on a first date because you either take
it or leave it that way.
You know, I didn't want to get personal, but since you volunteered, that is pretty darn funny that you said that. Are people intimidated who, you know, you're interested in maybe dating, that this is what you do, that you can catch 900 pound fish on a regular basis?
They think it's cool until I spend my time offshore with another man, and then they wonder
what I'm doing. You've got a whole other set of things going on down there. This is quite priceless
You know what the fish don't care whether I'm single dating smell like fish smell like roses That's um I've dedicated my life to it, and if somebody wants to join the ride go right ahead But I'm not going to stop doing it for anything Okay, what is the one thing that a woman?
Fishing big big fish like this has to be careful of versus guys. Is there anything?
I will just put it this way. I traveled the world with a 95-pound woman. She's in her early 60s. I saw her catch more large fish than most men. The only thing that she had was the willpower to do it and nobody could tell her nothing. So this is a mental fortitude game, not a strength game.
You have to be... Interesting, yeah. Interesting, interesting, because I was reading about...
People ask me, I have 300 pound, 6 foot 10 grown men on the boat who give up, and then I step in and they are just like, how do you do that? It's because you dig your heels in and you get it done.
Wow. I wouldn't mess with you.
That is my advice to women is to don't take no for an answer and you don't need to tell them what you can do you need to show them what you can do.
It's so interesting that you're saying these exact words because from what I read about the research done on women who fish and a study they did actually, the folks who researched this at the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation, they said among women who fish, they have greater perseverance and they're more likely to say that setbacks do not discourage them. They learn patience, they develop confidence, higher self-esteem, clear mind, and they say it improves their mood and they're quite happy. It took me years to get paid to have enough of a space in my career to get paid real money. And now I get paid just as much as the guys who have been doing it as long as I have to. You go girl, Melissa Stevens. And by the way, you're not the only woman who took years to ask for what she's worth. So, good for you. SouthernCatchOutfitters.com is where you're going to find more information and book a charter to fish with Melissa and her crew or anybody else you want to hook up with in Venice, Louisiana. Check out my social media photos of her that she was kind enough to share on the Debbie Check out my social media photos of her that she was kind enough to share on the Debbie Nigro Show Facebook page and at The Real Debbie Nigro on Instagram.