The Reel Housewives
What She Wants You to Know
by Alexandra Stark
In a world where finding your soul mate is increasingly difficult, there is a class of men that’s certain to fit the bill, one so manly and desirable that when he describes himself, he is—in his own eyes—the ultimate catch. He’s a professional fisherman. Behind each great man, the saying goes, there is a strong woman and so this is the story of the wives, girlfriends, and significant others of the sportfishing world: the reel housewives.
Fishing is much more than a job. It is passion, a lifestyle, a pastime and an aspiration. For those who are fortunate enough to make their living in the sportfishing industry, fishing is all-encompassing. Captains and mates may travel to some of the most exotic destinations in the world, but all the hard work and long hours they put in are how they make their living and how they provide for their families.
The Reel Housewives: April and Jessica
When it comes to fishermen, the lifestyle they enjoy has a very direct impact on those who love them and who depend on them. To understand all that goes into dating, marrying and living with a professional fisherman, you must go straight to the source. In my quest to find out what it is really like to be in a relationship with a person in the industry, I interviewed two women who are proud wives of two seasoned veterans of the industry. April Brownlee has been married to her husband Ben since 2013. Ben captains the Wybulu, 63-foot Merritt based out of Lighthouse Point, Florida. Jessica Haydahl Richardson is a newlywed of a few months to her husband Wade, who operates a 90-foot mothership operation including the Hooker, a 48-foot G&S gameboat, down in Panama.
Both women are strong, independent and have a great sense of humor about most things, including their relationships with their best mates (pun intended). April spoke of the learning process she experienced after meeting Ben. “To me, the fishing industry was a whole new world, a new language and a new non-traditional lifestyle,” she says. April reminisced about the beginning of their relationship and how she now views it as a learning opportunity. “Every day is something new,” she reports.
Jessica literally grew up on the water, as her father was a tugboat captain in Vancouver for 47 years. She spent time as a tour boat captain for an eco-tourism company in Canada before making her way to the United States. “There are long, hard days and I get it, but I still had a lot to learn about billfishing when I met Wade.” As a professional photographer with her own business, Jessica has been fortunate to travel with Wade on most of his fishing trips to Panama for about 120 days per year. “Living on a small boat together helps you get over your fights really fast,” jokes Jessica. Both women referenced the difficulties others have in understanding what it means to date a fisherman. After all, to most outsiders, the prospect of your husband being gone half the year sounds a bit crazy. But along the way, several themes emerged.
To illustrate the points and to help in providing fishermen (and their significant others) with some take-aways, there is perhaps no better form than the question and answer. The following provides practical insight into the lifestyle dynamics involved.
Question: What are the most common responses when one says that they are in a relationship with a person in the professional sportfishing industry?
Oh, you poor fishing widow!
It’s not for everyone.
You are his greatest catch!
It must be just like on Wicked Tuna!
Answer: All of the above.
The professional boating and fishing industry consists of captains, mates, anglers, deckhands, engineers, stews and more. The industry is small and difficult to break into. Many families have been in the business for years and have passed down the profession through the generations, from fathers to sons and daughters. Boat owners pay a premium for the hard-working people they employ on their boats and do not hesitate to use that to their benefit in terms of travel and hours worked per week.
Those in the industry are known to travel extensively for weeks or months at a time to destinations that others can only dream about. “I am heading to the Abacos for three months on the boat,” a captain can calmly say, as his non-fishing buddies stare back blankly. “I won’t have cell service, but I may be able to………. Click Here to continue reading this article.