Growing up, Butch Finnigan frequented the Atlantic Ocean with his father and grandfather, reveling in the rush of netting a big catch. Matt Riley found similar solace atop the ocean's seemingly endless bounty, where he and his family enjoyed each other's company as they fished. More than two decades later, the veteran anglers have become captains and co-founders of Xtreme Saltwater Angler. They assemble all necessary components for fishing excursions into the big blue, including signature lures and apparel, portable lighthouses, and the expertise needed to guide fishing charters and eco-tours.
The captains and their staff switch up their charters from brief inshore jaunts into the famed Mosquito Lagoon, Canaveral National Seashore, and Indian River Lagoon system to lengthier saltwater fishing trips into the Atlantic. Close to shore, anglers snap up species such as red and black drum, sea trout, and famished free divers, while deeper waters teem with cobia, kingfish, grouper, and yellowfin tuna. The sailors also nurture relationships with nature on eco-tours that explore more than 2,100 plant species and 2,200 animal species, including some of the U.S.'s most diverse flocks of birds.
Owner, instructor, and personal trainer Dan Case loads up the roof of his boat with a fleet of standup paddleboards. On his small boat, he's on his way to Ponce Inlet Intracoastal waterways with groups of up to seven. When they've reached their requested destinations, clients get to paddle through the mangrove trails, keeping an eye out for local wildlife such as manatees, dolphins, and Bear Grylls hiding in a tree. Inexperienced paddlers can take lessons on the placid waters of Lake Killarney, and more experienced visitors can try their hand at surfing or standup-paddleboard yoga.
At Fired Up Fishing Charters, US Coast Guard–licensed captains Chris Cameron and Kyle Larson outfit anglers to catch fish such as mahi-mahi, tarpon, sailfish, and more Atlantic-dwelling species. Their 29-foot boat comfortably accommodates up to four fishermen or five passengers for eco and sightseeing tours and is equipped with twin Yamaha 200-horsepower motors, radar, GPS unit, freshwater shower, and restroom.
After spending their youths on the sea sailing, water skiing, and fishing, Cynthia and Jay realized they were in very real danger of spending their adult lives behind the desks of corporate jobs. So, when they got the chance to re-immerse themselves in the aquatic world by buying an inland marina at Lake Fairview, they jumped at it.
Today, they and their team of certified instructors lead sailing experiences on that glassy blue expanse and rent a wide assortment of seafaring vessels. They pile visitors in pontoon boats, two-person pedal boats, kayaks, and sail boats to navigate the lake for on-water picnics and fishing expeditions. Should renters get hooked on the experience, the staff can happily help them purchase new and used sailboats, fishing boats, runabouts, and ski boats. For land-based celebrations, their tiki hut-style gazebo, complete with a panoramic view of the lakeshore, accommodates guests during company retreats, birthdays, and lake monster sting operations.
Captain Brent Sheppard, the owner of Razor Fin Fishing Charters, started out fishing largemouth bass. But once he caught a 46-inch redfish at the age of 10, he knew he couldn't go back to just freshwater fish. Nowadays, you'll find him aboard his 18-foot flats boats in Mosquito Lagoon or the Indian River, where at times the water is just 18-inches deep. If you're with Captain Sheppard, you'll be searching the shallows for redfish, tarpon, snook, trout, and Poseidon's footprints. There's no need to bring any licenses, tackle, or bait because they're all included, and the captain adapts to specific styles of fishing, from pros to those who want to see if fish really do exist.
The sea is famously unpredictable, but when you're fishing with Captain Phil Hartman at the helm, you're almost guaranteed to have a memorable time. With almost 35 years of Florida-fishing experience under his belt, as well as Coast Guard certification, the oceanic expert effortlessly keeps passengers safe while offering tips on nabbing elusive game fish. Passengers' potential hauls may include tarpon, snook, redfish, and trout. Those who brought dry-clean-only rods, meanwhile, can reel in a complimentary snack or bottled water from the deck instead. Some Floridians catch their first-ever fish with Captain Hartman, who welcomes kids onto the boat. And with 50 vessels available, A Fishing Connection can accommodate intimate and large groups alike.