Tanya Michelle Arendes, who goes by Tanya Michelle, can barely remember a time when she didn’t have a fishing pole in her hand.
The Land O’ Lakes woman, who grew up on Deer Lake in Lutz, said her parents and grandparents nurtured her love for the sport.
“I started fishing when I was probably 3 or 4 years old,” said the angler, who is a third-generation Floridian. “My kids are fourth generation. We love this area.”
During her growing-up years, she said, “we would fish all of the time. My dad was big into boating, so we always had the boat out in the lake, every weekend.
“Our house was the house — everybody came over to hang out on the lake.
“Every summer, my family would go to Ramble River Springs campground, in Dunnellon. We camped the whole trip. I didn’t leave the dock,” she said.
She is passing that love along to her children, 19-year-old Kelsey Albritton and 8-year-old Kason Meehan, who recently were out fishing with her at their neighbor Kurt Conover’s dock at Twin Lakes.
Over the years, Tanya Michelle’s fishing expertise has grown.
During this past summer, she and her teammate Terrie Huffmaster earned some impressive bragging rights by becoming the first females to win the ICAST fishing tournament.
They were joined on their team by Jackson Williams, a boat captain.
Team Lucky Go Fishing/Fish Bites broke the tournament’s record with a bag that weighed 25 pounds, 10 ounces, according to the tournament’s web page.
The acronym ICAST stands for International Convention of Allied Sportsfishing Trades. It was the first time in the tournament’s history that women were on the winning team.
Tanya Michelle explained how the international fishing tournament works.
“You have a five-fish limit. You can only keep five fish to weigh. In four hours, we caught about 40 fish,” she said.
The team knew it was in good shape before the weigh-in.
“We did our research. We knew that morning going into it that the biggest bag ever weighed for ICAST was only like 22 pounds.
Tanya Michelle credits the boat captain for taking them to a great fishing spot.
While winning the tournament was a thrill, the female angler said that for her, the joy of fishing lies in the pursuit.
“I don’t care if I come in last, I just love being out there and being involved in the sport, the camaraderie. I just love it. I love talking to people about all of their fish stories.
“Of course, some of them aren’t true. But that’s part of it,” Tanya Michelle said.
While fishing can be a soothing pastime, that’s not the case in competitive fishing.
“Tournament fishing is pretty intense. A lot of people will have 10 or 15 rods already rigged,” she said.
Whether competing for a trophy or out fishing on her own, Tanya Michelle simply adores being on or near water.
She has her own business that has flexible hours, so she can go fishing three or four times a week.
“If it’s not bass fishing, then I’m in the salt and I’m catching snook, redfish, trout. I actually have a hashtag online. My hashtag is TheCrazySnookLady. You click on that, you see nothing but me and fish.
“For salt (saltwater fishing), we go to St. Pete, Clearwater, (and the) Tierra Verde area. I hit all of the bridges,” she said.
Her biggest freshwater catch came in 2009, when she landed a 10-pound, 1-ounce freshwater bass, in Odessa.
“That’s still my biggest fish.
“My biggest saltwater catch — that’s a different story. It was an 8-foot nurse shark. It was like a 2 ½-hour fight,” she said.
Over the years, she’s become knowledgeable about rods, reels, bait and tackle, and how to maintain her gear. She’s also picked up the ins and outs of when and where to fish.
“Dawn or dusk are usually the best, first light or last light, because that’s when they’re hungry,” she said. The weather, the sun, the moon and tides all are important, she added.
“If I’m saltwater fishing, if it’s high tide, there will be more fish up in there,” she explained.
Besides being a great sport for women, fishing also is a great activity for families, she said.
“We’ll do dinner and go fishing.
“After work, I’ll come over to Kurt’s dock to fish. Or, I’ll run over to Bexley. Or, even up to Ballantrae. I have friends over there. They’ll come meet me at the lake with their golf cart and their kids,” she said.
Mostly, she fishes for sport.
“I’m strictly catch and release, when it comes to freshwater. I don’t eat freshwater fish. I throw them all back. And, most saltwater (fish), I throw back,” she said.
As a single mom, she said she finds fishing to be therapeutic.
“While I’m fishing, I don’t think about what bills are due, what problems are going on. I’m thinking about my line and what fish is going to hit it.
“It’s just freeing for me,” she said.
While relaxing on one hand, it also produces an adrenaline rush — when there’s a fish on the line.
“It’s like a drug-free drug. It can be addicting. People get addicted to it. All they want to do is fish,” she said. “I love it. I really do.”
When it comes to fishing, Tanya Michelle acknowledged, she’s hooked.
Published December 22, 2021