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Sportfishing isn't just for boys anymore
Shirley Says
Debbie Tomkiewicz and the first mate of a Cape Cod charter boat hold the flounder she caught in Nantucket Sound. - photo by Photo provided.

By Shirley Hiers

Have you ever wished you could fish with “the big girls?” These ladies know the ins and outs of onshore, offshore and bottom fishing, as well as fly-fishing. Backing a boat trailer down a ramp, throwing a cast net or properly hooking shrimp bait is second nature to them.
Enjoying a sport dominated by men, these ladies are hooked on deep sea fishing. Most women’s experience with fishing is simply being put in a boat and handed a baited line. Once they hook a fish, everybody starts screaming and yelling instructions at them. But that is not so with these lady anglers.
Debbie Tomkiewicz began freshwater fishing when she was 8 years old. Since then, she’s been “hooked.” However, she didn’t experience deep sea fishing until she was almost 30. Most of her fishing is done off the coast of Georgia and Florida.
Who does Debbie fish with mostly?
“I like to fish with anyone,” she said. “Especially, if they own a boat. I always offer to pay for the gas.”
Her passion for deep sea fishing was inherited from her father.
“I think it’s in my blood,” Debbie said. “I am also an Aquarian, maybe that has a little to do with it. I love the ocean, the beach, the birds and the smell of salt in the air.”
What type of fish does Debbie believe are the most sporting?
“King mackerel are fun to catch because they put up a good fight,” she said. “Grouper are also fun. As soon as they are hooked, they try to swim under a rock to get away. When you are fishing in 60 feet of water, you have your work cut out for you.”
As might be expected, Debbie will fish for anything that bites.
“It’s always fun to reel in and be surprised by what’s on the other end of your line,” she said.
Debbie’s family and friends think it’s great she loves to fish – and is good at it.
“I don’t eat much of the fish I catch,” she said. “I usually give them to friends or people at work.”
Following in the footsteps of her mother, Margaret, Stephanie Henderson has always enjoyed fishing. It wasn’t until her uncle Jesse Butler took her to Blackbeard Island that she discovered the thrilling adventure of deep sea fishing.
Can the ultra-feminine Stephanie bait her own hook?
“You got to if you want to get ahead of the others fishing with you,” she answered.
Cleaning the catch is another story. Flashing a big smile she said, “Somehow I always persuade someone to do that – most of the time, it’s Mama.”
Like her mother, Stephanie is competitive and relentless when it comes to fishing – or hunting, for that matter.
“I can fish all year round,” she said. “I prefer to catch redfish – they will give you a good pull.”
One of Stephanie’s favorite things is paddling down the Canoochee. She said, “It’s always relaxing and peaceful. It’s a good day when you’re on the water.”
Sherri Audesey became interested in sportfishing when her husband, Bo, got involved with the Southern Kingfish Association (SKA) fishing tour. Before long, Sherri saw how much fun Bo was having and she wanted to be a part of it. Her first year with the SKA, she won Lady Angler, catching a 41.22-pound king mackeral.
A native of Florida, Sherri grew up across the street from the beach. She could often be found surfing or sun tanning. It’s no surprise Fort Pierce is her favorite fishing spot.
“Florida is an awesome place to catch big fish,” she said. “The fish love the warm water”
What is the SKA all about?
“Fishing in the SKA is all offshore fishing,” Sherri explained. “Everyone pursues one type of fish, the king mackerel. All our tournaments this year were in Florida.
 “The division category is a specific fishing location,” she continued. “This year we chose Division 8, which includes Jenson Beach, Fort Pierce, Jacksonville, Cape Canaveral and St. Augustine.”
Sherri and her captain husband fish on their 25-foot boat, the Code Red, and their crew includes co-captain Tony Karwacki, senior angler Hugh Robinson, junior angler Cain Wells – and of course, Sherri is the lady angler.
Sherri said she is proud of the team’s accomplishment this year.
“The SKA is not sure if this has happened before,” she said. “This year we not only won the Division 8 title, but we also won in the divisions (for) Junior Angler, Lady Angler and Senior Angler. They called it a ‘clean sweep.’”
No “sissy” when it comes to fishing, Sherri can maneuver a boat trailer down a ramp, bait her own hook and withstand rain, wind and even 8- to 10-foot seas. I don’t think this makes her a sissy, but Sherri only does all of this in warm weather – she said she hates the cold.
Many things in the outdoor world are adorned with pink. Could it be the “pink movement” is driven by one thing – the fact that more and more women are realizing what most outdoors men already know: Sportfishing is fun, and they want in.

Hiers was born and raised in Richmond Hill. She can be reached at

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