Being a guide in Florida, Lacey's business was hit hard by the B.P. oil spill this summer.
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Captain Lacey Rush runs Rush Charters, a guide service in southwestern Florida, with her husband Chris.
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Lacey is the only full-time female guide in the area. “[Guiding] is still a man’s game for sure,” Lacey says. “But it’s OK, because I get along with all the guys.”
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Rush charters specializes in tarpon, snook and redfish, but they also take people out for permit, cobia, kingfish and other species. While she’s an experienced guide now, Lacey didn’t start with rod and reel. She got her start on the water by spearfishing with her dad.
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After she married Chris, she helped him with marketing and advertising for his guide service. Eventually she grew restless just hanging out in the office while her husband was out fishing. “I was like what am I doing in the office and he’s out catching redfish,” Lacey says.
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So Lacey and a girlfriend went to captain’s school and got their captain licenses.
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She started taking out clients when she was just 21 years old. “That first year was pretty crazy,” Lacey says. “It was sink or swim, you either can do this job or you can’t.”
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Chris, pictured here, helped Lacey through her first year, and now at age 25, she’s a well-respected captain.
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“One of the reasons women don’t have the desire to [guide], even though they might be good at it, is because they don’t have someone to help get them started,” Lacey says.
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Here’s Lacey with a 75-pound cubera snapper, which is a rare catch in southwestern Florida. Strangely enough, the fish was the reason Lacey met Chris. This picture was posted in the marina that Chris’ dad owned.
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When Chris saw the photo of Lacey and her huge fish, he knew he had to meet her. Eventually he did, and they got married.
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Lacey is also a hardcore hunter.
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She deer hunts in southern Florida near the Big Cypress National Preserve.
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Lacey doing her best to help Florida control its hog population.
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“I’ve grown up hunting and fishing my whole life,” Lacey says.
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Being a guide in Florida, Lacey’s business was hit hard by the B.P. oil spill this summer.
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She estimates they lost about 50 percent of their clients this July and August. But they didn’t lose business because the waters they fish are covered in oil. In fact, where Lacey and Chris run charters the fishing is as good as ever.
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The perception of oil-stained waters hurt Lacey’s business more than the the actual oil. People were scared to book trips because of all the attention the spill was getting.
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“I had customers who come down every year but they didn’t want to make commitments this summer,” she says. “I don’t think we’ll every really know how much business we lost.”
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This tarpon was nearly bit in half by a shark, and the area where Lacey fishes has plenty of sharks.
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Lacey has had her fair share of experiences with sharks. Once when she was spearfishing, a 10-foot lemon shark circled her and tried to steal her catch.
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Lacey fought the shark off with her speargun, batting him away every time he attacked, and she made her way up to the boat.
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“They pulled me out of the water and I was screaming ‘shark!’ As they pulled me out he was right under me,” Lacey says.
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The key to staying out of trouble with sharks is to kill the fish with your diver’s knife quickly after you spear it. Otherwise the fish will flutter around and spread blood everywhere attracting sharks, Lacey says.
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“The last thing you want is to be 80 feet down and have a 10-foot hammerhead shark come up on you,” Lacey says.
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Lacey shot this gator on her brother-in-law’s farm. It measured 12 feet long.
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“They’re like dinosaurs,” Lacey says. “You shoot them and they keep moving it’s really weird.”
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Lacey’s father had a big impact on her involvement in the outdoors. He was the one who introduced her to spearfishing. “He’s like the old man from Old Man and the Sea,” she says.
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Lacey is now also getting into fly fishing.
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Here’s a trout she caught while fishing in Yellowstone National Park.
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Lacey and a huge permit.
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“I wish there were more girl’s out there,” Lacey says about the guiding industry. She hopes that once women see her guiding, they will be inspired to try it themselves.
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While she likes fishing with rod and reel, it’s hard to compete with spearfishing. “For spearfishing you target and stalk a specific species,” she says. “It’s like hunting underwater.”
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She also bowhunts.
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If you’re interested in learning more about Rush Charters or booking a trip, click here.
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