Spotlight: Sjon A. Harless

Mobile native Sjon A. Harless has been catching world-record fish for seven years. The International Game and Fish Association’s top female saltwater angler of 2012 harnessed her skills with a rod and reel growing up on Dauphin Island.

The biggest fish I ever caught was a 600-pound marlin on a 50-pound test (or line).

My very favorite places to fish are Guanacaste, Costa Rica, and at home. If I can’t be there, I want to be in Orange Beach.

Fishing in Costa Rica is completely different. The underwater topography is different. In the Gulf, you have to travel to get to deep water. In Costa Rica, it only takes 20 minutes. Gulf fishing is regulated, whereas in Costa Rica they fish how and where they want.

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This is definitely a family activity. My husband Jamey taught me everything I know about the way we fish. My daughter has her own fishing world record, and my husband has three. My son also loves it.

Now that the kids are older, I spend half of my year in Costa Rica. The teenage years were the hardest. They can look back on it fondly, because they’ve had experiences they never would have gotten.

Fishing is my drug of choice. I don’t fish for awards and tournaments; I fish because I love to fish. The National Geographic Crittercam billfish project is the first job-like thing I’ve done. (Through the project, fish are fitted with a research tool, which collects video and audio recordings, as well as other environmental data, to provide new understanding of animals’ natural behavior.)

People are going to say I’m lying, and it depends on the fish, but it typically takes no more than 20 minutes to reign in a fish. It’s not something I’m doing all by myself. I’m out there with a captain and a mate.

Just like a dog or a cat eats different things, whatever species I’m after, they’ll have bait or a lure that they like.

I’m still looking for a world-record fish in Mobile, but you have to find the right fish that wants to commit suicide. I haven’t found it yet, but I’m after it. 

text by Abbi-Storm McCann • photo by Devin Ford

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