Cheyenne Lee, The Gunslinger
It takes a certain type of person to dive to depths of 70 feet on a single breath, spear in hand, and surface with dinner. Nerves are steel, pulse is rhythmic, blood runs salty—you must be born of it. Cheyenne Lee is.
Raised in Stuart by a fishing family (her dad has been a commercial fisherman for nearly 30 years), Lee was picking up a spear by the first grade. “When I was 6 and my brothers were 4, my dad sharpened wooden dowels and put pole spear bands on them,” she recalls. “We would shoot sheepshead and mangrove snapper in the river all day every day.”
Now 24, Lee is a decorated spearfisher who holds six world records with the International Underwater Spearfishing Association—jack crevalle on speargun and pole spear, cobia on pole spear, kingfish on speargun, and red grouper on speargun and pole spear. She has parlayed her talents into a bit of social media fame, with more than 100,000 Instagram followers and a popular (25,000-plus subscribers) YouTube channel where she documents her underwater exploits. As a Salt Life ambassador, Lee truly embraces the brand’s mantra, whether it is under the surface with a spear in hand or on a bloody deck, reeling in another keeper.
“My most fun experience was probably a cobia on pole spear,” says Lee. She was on a Neritic diving team trip to Louisiana for a spearfishing tournament in 2017 when her team was met with an element not exactly conducive to diving.
“The water was pitch black,” she describes. “I literally could not see my hand in front of my face.” She made a few dives behind a shrimp boat searching the bycatch and near oil rigs, where the deafening sounds of the rigs’ sirens added to an eerie and hectic dive. Conditions were made worse by the poor visibility, plus ripping currents and an abundance of sea life like jack crevalle, spinner and blacktip sharks, and porpoises tearing through the waters—and Lee found herself further offshore, diving a rig with just a bit more visibility, though not by much.
“I go down, and all of a sudden this cobia swims up to me from the blackness; I was horrified,” she recalls. “It happened so fast, and the water was so dirty, I couldn’t tell how big it was. I just shot it and started kicking.”
With the cobia thrashing at the surface, Lee had to make her way to the boat and land the fish without any assistance to ensure the integrity of a potential world record—these are solo affairs.
“When I finally got it in the boat, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this thing is massive,’” she continues. “I didn’t know what the women’s world record was at that point, but I knew this was a record. I think it was like 41.2 or 41.8 pounds, and the previous record was around 17. The whole trip was unexpected and a lot of fun.”
“I want to get a wahoo badly, and I would love to shoot an African pompano. But my all-time bucket-list fish is a women’s world record black grouper on speargun. I’ve come
so close, it’s frustrating. I just haven’t been able to break over that [30-pound] threshold.”
Words of Advice
“I think it is very hard for women—and I struggle with this as well—to find a happy balance of being a woman and being an ‘outdoorsman.’ So my biggest thing is, if you seriously love the outdoors, don’t let anyone stop you. Be true to yourself and don’t allow anyone else’s opinions change your passion for the sport or the outdoors. Just go have fun—and don’t worry about the naysayers.”
Christina Weber, The Fundamentalist
South Florida native Christina Weber fell for fishing at a very early age. She recalls plying the waters as a child with her father in search of mahi and snook and devouring Florida Sportsman, memorizing all the secrets of the species printed on its pages. At 15, she
began fishing the Bass Federation’s Youth Trail tournament, driving a career that went from freshwater game to fishing dozens of tournaments atop a kayak, including the Kayak Bass Fishing Tournament and the Extreme Kayak Fishing Tournament (where she fished offshore for sailfish as well as for other species in the Bahamas). She placed in the top 10 and top 5
multiple times, was named Kayak Angler of the Year in 2015, and even landed herself on the back of a T-shirt once.
“Kayak fishing is honestly so badass,” says Weber, now 31. “It is tough but so rewarding. It truly makes you one of the most incredible types of fishermen—you learn patience on a level that cannot be taught. The skill is forced on you.”
While she has taken a step back from the tournament beat, she is embracing a new passion for the waters of “fun fishing” on the Treasure Coast. Aboard her Carolina Skiff, Weber—who lives in Port St. Lucie and works at Sportfish Outfitters in Jupiter—says she had to “learn how to fish standing up again” from a boat, targeting triple tail, snook, and redfish, as well as the occasional stone crab trap pull. A true angler in all
respects, fishing for Weber is not about landing the game but the journey that leads her to the fish.
“If I had to pick one [big catch], it would be a rooster fish I landed from a kayak in Panama,” says Weber. When I die, I know that will be one of the memories that flashes before my eyes. That’s how memorable that fish was for me.”
In her twenties, she had the opportunity to fish the waters of Costa Rica and Panama a few times—but the rooster fish always proved elusive. After years spent on the tournament trail, however, she began leading kayak fishing excursions for a lodge in Panama (Los Buzos) in 2016. It was there that she headed out on a mission. “I was like, here is the Pacific Ocean, here is this plastic vessel, go figure it out,” she recalls. “I was not leaving until I caught one—I didn’t care what it took.”
After four days, she found success on her last day in the jungle. “I ended up catching this
rooster fish on a little jig,” she says. “I did it just the way I wanted to: in a kayak without anyone else there. It was one of the most intense moments of my life on the water. You work really hard for something, fishing from sunup to sundown, getting your butt beat, in water you have never seen before, around whales, swell, and tide you’ve never experienced before…. It was surreal.”
“I have never done any blue marlin fishing, so I think that is the fish I’d like to get next.”
Words of Advice
“If I met the younger version of myself, I would tell her that being naïve is just being brave—and it’s okay to be afraid, you just have to do it anyway. If it feels right, do that. Fishing is one of the most unique sports, whereas there really are no rules. It’s constantly evolving and changing—you need to do what feels right and have confidence in that. Don’t fight your strengths; lean into them.”
Melissa Fox, The Salt Sister
When the seas are whipping and the reels are screaming, Melissa Fox is in her element. What began as a shared hobby with her father when she was around 6 years old, catching peacock bass with a little clicker rod, has become a lifestyle defined by the sea.
When she was 10, her family moved from Fort Lauderdale to the Treasure Coast, and Fox’s angling quickly went from inshore lakes to offshore game. At 12, she joined the Stuart Sailfish Club, and her passion for fishing turned competitive. She avidly competed in tournaments, both locally and in Isla Mujeres, Mexico, where her family has another home. In Mexico, she has participated in a women’s tournament called La Dorada, a barracuda competition, and the Torneo de Pesca of Isla Mujeres, in which she won the largest bonito. Locally, she has competed in several of Stuart Sailfish’s kingfish, dolphin, and wahoo tournaments, winning third place in 2013. When she was younger, she won the junior division with a nice wahoo.
Now 22, Fox says she still fishes a few tournaments a year with her dad. “It’s usually the meat-fish ones, where you can eat what you catch,” says Fox, though she has earned her stripes hunting for sails as well.
Just as comfortable on deck as she is below the water’s surface, she has developed a strong passion for freediving and spearfishing, traveling the Caribbean shooting grouper and hogfish, swimming with whale sharks, and bagging big bull dolphin. With so many adventures revolving around the sea, the Port St. Lucie resident decided to launch a YouTube channel a few months ago, where she documents her exploits, while also repping Salt Life as a brand ambassador.
While the sea offers Fox a seemingly endless opportunity for fun, her goal is to help foster the life that makes the ocean so extraordinary. A recent University of Central Florida graduate with a degree in biology, Fox started veterinarian school at St. George’s University in Grenada this fall. While COVID regulations have forced her to attend classes online from Florida for now, she plans to move to Grenada to continue with school there as soon as it’s allowed. “I love the ocean, so I am hoping to specialize in the marine mammal track,” she says. “I have four years to decide, so we’ll see.”
“I’ll never forget it,” she says of her fondest fishing memory. Fox and company were getting skunked in Mexico with the seas roiling, the bites few and far between, and just a few bonito swallowing bait. The crew was ready to call it a day when Fox says she “saw this giant mahi come up to the spread.” She continues: “I was the only one who saw it jump in the back, and I was like, ‘Holy crap this is the biggest fish I have ever seen!’ It ended up being a 40-pound mahi, one of the biggest fish I’ve ever caught.”
“I have never caught a yellowfin tuna. I’ve come close a couple of times, had a pretty big 30-pound yellowfin on in Mexico, but I lost it at the side of the boat. It was so disappointing!”
Words of Advice
“Don’t give up. There are going to be days that you’ll go out there and won’t get a bite, but keep going, keep learning. The more you go out there, the more you will learn. You’ll eventually get some big fish for sure.”