On father-son fishing trips, Bart Swab’s dad taught him not only how to cast his line but also how to treat the aquatic ecosystem surrounding him with respect. Now a licensed and insured guide, Swab helps other fisherman appreciate the open water’s beauty, helming kayak trips through Florida’s pristine saltwater marshes. After arming prospective kayakers with safety tips and familiarizing them with their fishing equipment, Swab guides lead paddlers into the water. They maintain a 3-inch draft that allows students in kayaks to sneak up on fish without having to glue sequins to their skin to look like scales. Kayakers can also gaze through binoculars at the diverse fauna roaming the area’s shores. Trips range from a half day to a full day, and for a more structured route, participants can opt for destination trips to seasonal hot spots, where they can search out fish such as black drum, sheepshead, and tarpon.
It might be hard to believe considering its vast array of products, but Sears, Roebuck and Co. began with one accessory: watches. In 1886, Richard W. Sears bought a box of unwanted watches from a jeweler, thinking he could turn a profit by selling them. He was correct and committed to the watch business by hiring Alvah C. Roebuck, an experienced watchmaker.
As time went on, though, their business expanded its umbrella far beyond what people wore on their wrists. Sears became known as the place to shop for almost any appliance, from sewing machines to those magical boxes that create water from nothing and clean your clothes.
Today, the stores stock clothing, accessories, electronics, kitchen equipment, tools for outdoor living, and home decor. This variety is sustained by Sears's proprietary brands—Kenmore, Craftsman, and DieHard, to name a few—and other national names that populate the shelves.
Nestled amid a tangle of scenic tributaries and the boundless Intracoastal Waterway, Cast and Cruise Boat and Sport furnishes adventurers with the requisite vessels for nautical exploration. Setting out from the Vilano boat ramp, kayakers can paddle along the gentle cerulean waves, spotting the pods of dolphins, flocks of seabirds, and the manatee dance troupes that inhabit the area. Those who prefer to sightsee from a higher vantage point and prefer distance from the salty spray can take the motorized reins of a sprawling pontoon boat replete with drink coolers, a radio, and sunny or shaded seating for up to 14 people.
Captain Pat Needham of Buck N Bass Sports Center & Outfitters equips adventurers on fishing, hunting, and other outdoor activities in the nearly 400,000-acre Ocala National Forest. Beneath the mounted bass and 7-foot standing black bear in the shop's interior, an array of gear inspires a multitude of outdoor adventures, from snaring largemouth bass and catfish to sneaking up on squirrels and demanding your Nutter Butters back. Soft baits, such as Reaction Strike, Warrior, and Yum ($3.75–$8.45), undulate beguilingly at the end of ineluctable hooks and tackle ($1.10–$9.99). Jig heads and bodies, such as Fire-Fly, Road Runner, and Jiffy Jigs ($0.60–$4), dance open water at the end of strong spider-silk fishing line, including Vicious, Berkley Big Game, and Sufix ($1.80–$24.10). Dedicate today's Groupon toward storybook-worthy exploits with rugged rods and reels ($10.75–$174.95), camping and hiking gear ($1.90–$200), or hunting ammo and clothing ($2.50–$300) to spur a quest for the buck that grazed insults into your lawn.
Captain Kevin and Cecilia McCarthy have always been fond of the sea. Born and raised in the port town of Gloucester, Massachusetts, Kevin sojourned south in 1968 before meeting his wife Cecilia, whose family had arrived on the marshy shores of Fernandina nine generations ago. After Kevin worked as a building contractor for nearly 30 years, he and Cecilia opted to embrace their shared love for being on the water, and founded Amelia River Cruises in the summer of 2000. Twelve years later, their fleet is three U.S. Coast Guard–inspected boats strong, and each cruises steadily along myriad tours of Cumberland Island, Beach Creek, and the shores of Amelia Island. History buffs rejoice in narrated jaunts down the Intracoastal Waterway that lead to the Kingsley Plantation—whose 1797 establishment makes it the oldest surviving plantation house in Florida—before traveling to the historic Fort Caroline National Memorial, one of the first permanent settlements in North America. Two-hour eco tours journey through state parks and aquatic preserves, where hands-on shrimping experiences let guests identify their captured creatures before asking them the current exchange rate of a sand dollar and releasing them back into the wild. The local and surrounding ecosystem, with diverse wildlife that appears most prominently during the summer months, boasts playful pods of dolphins, an abundance of shore birds, and sea turtles who visit to nest on nearby island shores.
At Fish Magnet Fishing Charters, the magnetic force that brings hook and fish together is United States Coast Guard–certified Master Captain Janot B. Vilardell. Aboard his 18-foot fishing boat, he steers anglers into fishing hot spots along the Gulf of Mexico as well as inland waterways such as the Suwannee River. Once anchored, he shares tips and techniques for reeling in the big one: the plug to the ocean's drain. As an added bonus, he supplies all of the tackle and bait.