Florida offers plenty of boating and fishing opportunities. Several members of Walbridge’s Florida Group take full advantage of activities on open water and under blue skies to fill in their off-hours.
John Sullivan, a safety supervisor who joined Walbridge as an intern in 2008, paddles a kayak around Tampa Bay in search of hungry fish. He holds either a rod and reel or an eight-foot cast net. He started kayak fishing after relocating to Florida in 2014.
“Kayak fishing is very popular in Florida,” he said. “After wade fishing a few times and seeing sharks swimming around, I was ready to change it up. I have a Hobie Pro Angler 12 with an efficient pedal system so I can utilize leg power as opposed to paddling.”
While John stays above water, Florida Senior Project Manager Terrance Sterett dives below the surface to scuba dive around shipwrecks and into caves. Another Walbridge team member, John Penichet, has joined him cave diving at Ginnie Springs.
“My team has won seven of the past eight years in the West Coast Council dive tournament series,” Sterett said. “When I compete, I go as far as 120 miles into the Gulf to an area called the Florida Middle Grounds. When I go to the Dry Tortugas, I got as far as 80 miles west of Key West.”
Sterett is also a competitive spear fisherman and calls lobstering “my favorite.” Equipment varies for each pursuit.
“For spearfishing, I add a spear gun, a stringer, and a power head – a bullet loaded in the end of your shaft – for shark protection,” Sterett said. “For lobstering, you need a tickle stick or a snare, gloves, net and a bag.”
Sullivan’s gear includes a push pole for “stealth and anchoring in shallow water,” pliers, and a Yeti cooler filled with drinking water, juice and food.
Just as he focuses on safety procedures and closely observes his surroundings at a construction site, Sullivan takes appropriate precautions every time he prepares to push away from shore.
“I always wear my personal floatation device and bring dry bags, a map and GPS, VHF radio, laser flare, a whistle, high-visibility flag, pump, water tape, rope, cell phone, safety knife, headlamp, backup flashlight and a first aid kit,” he said. “I leave a ‘float plan’ in my car and make sure I communicate it with someone before-hand.”
Sterett dives accompanied by one or more people to ensure someone else is around in case anyone needs assistance.
He recalled a close call once when he experienced a malfunction with his diving gear.
“I got overworked, blacked out and almost drowned,” he said. “I shot to the surface too fast and had symptoms of narcosis and an air embolism. I went from a boat to an ambulance to the hospital. Lesson learned.”
Setting aside complex preparations and potential risks, both men agree something good happens to them when they venture into the waters of either the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic Ocean or the Florida Keys.
“It’s beautiful above and below,” Sterett said. “It makes me very happy and calms me down for another week at work.”
Sullivan said, “I think I enjoy it so much because it’s an adventure and it can be a big challenge. Overall, it provides great stress relief.”
Some friendly competition exists between on-the-surface Sullivan and underwater Sterett.
“My photos aren’t nearly impressive as his since I go FISHING,” Sullivan said via email. “Terrance just shoots them, whether they want to eat or not.”
Sterett provides a simple reply: “I’m in favor of whatever method gets a tasty treat on the boat.”