Chrystal Murray Interview E-mail
Sunday, 18 October 2009 16:00

KFM: Chrystal, can you tell our readers a bit about you, and what you do?

It’s challenging to describe it in a “bit” but here goes. I work full time as a Marine Scientist at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute at Charlotte Harbor, Florida. Formerly a kayak fishing guide, I am also currently Editor-in-Chief for Onshore – Offshore Magazine. As Pro-staff with Ocean Kayak’s Florida Fishing Group, I travel to promotions and grassroots events where I provide information and demonstrations on all the latest kayaks.

KFM: Were there any obstacles for you as a woman in male dominated sport?

None. Being a woman participating in kayak fishing has opened many doors.


KFM: How did you get involved in kayak fishing?

My first boat was a used Ocean Kayak sit-on-top purchased 16 years ago for exercise. I returned to the retailer who sold me the kayak for an accessory and a sales associate asked if I liked to fish. When I said yes, he suggested that I should give it a whirl out of the kayak. I caught a big beautiful redfish the following week and the obsession with kayak fishing was born.

KFM: You kayak fish in southwest Florida. What is a typical day on the water like?

I check the local weather websites and add 5 knots to the forecast wind speed and direction and 20 percent to the rain probabilities! Tides are important, too. The water has to be moving for the fishing to be best. That determines where I will launch and fish for the day. In the fall it’s still blazing hot in the Charlotte Harbor National Estuary so the best catching is early morning. So, it’s up before dawn as afternoon thunderstorms can pop up quickly! I am usually off the water no later than 11:00am.   

KFM: What is your most recent kayak fishing achievement?

Landing my first tarpon out of the kayak on a fly I designed. That fish was maybe ten inches total length, but it was a tarpon all the same!

KFM: Tell us about the Calusa Paddle and Fly Fishing Challenge you are putting together?

The Calusa Paddle and Fly Fishing Challenge will be held on September 27-28 out of the historic Tarpon Lodge in Pineland, Florida. The event combines the best in adventure travel, fly-fishing, and paddlesports with zany competition. An ironman fly-fishing event of sorts, anglers will challenge each other over two days in five separate, madcap events.

Day one of the Calusa Challenge will begin on Pine Island Sound with a two-mile paddling race followed by distance casting and a fly-casting croquet match back at the Tarpon Lodge. Early evening, challengers will compete in a fly tying contest in the bar.

On the second day, challengers will return to Pine Island Sound where they will fish out of paddle craft using only the flies they tied the night before. Challengers will be targeting snook, tarpon, redfish, trout, sharks, and variety of other fish in a catch-photo-release format. After Sunday fishing, there is a final check-in at the Tarpon Lodge where appetizers and cold drinks will be served. Prizes for first through third place will be awarded to over-all and each event winners.
The inspiration to organize the Calusa Challenge came from the short non-fiction story Ironman with Fly by best selling Pineland, Florida mystery novelist- Randy Wayne White. His son, Capt. Rogan White is judging the fly tying contest.
One hundred percent of the entry fee goes to the Randell Research Center and Tarpon Lodge for providing four star restaurant dining, drinks, and use of their facilities during the event. The Tarpon Lodge is offering a discount on accommodations for anglers competing in the Calusa challenge.
The Randell Research Center, located across the street from the Tarpon Lodge is a permanent facility dedicated to sharing the archaeology, history, and ecology of Southwest Florida. Situated in the scenic community of Pineland on the western shore of historic Pine Island, the RRC encompasses more than 50 acres at the heart of the archaeological site. Here a massive Calusa Indian shell mound site extends across more than 200 acres from the mangrove coastline. Proceeds from the Calusa Challenge will go towards ongoing site recovery from Hurricane Charley. Kayak Fishing Magazine readers can find out more at   

KFM: What kayak do you use when you are kayak fishing?

A girl can’t have too much money or too many kayaks, right?

At this time there are four boats in the rack- the Ocean Kayak Prowler Trident 15 and Prowler 13, a Caper Lady Angler and Venus 11. I hope to add the new for 2009 Ocean Kayak Trident 11. (Note to husband- Please build another kayak rack!)

KFM: Can you tell us how you rig a kayak for fly-fishing?

Simple is best though I did go a tad overboard with my Prowler Trident 15.

I really enjoy standing and poling shallow water shorelines to sight cast at cruising fish in early spring. I had already purchased a Lendal paddle and 12’ pushpole before the boat even arrived on my doorstep. I added pushpole holders, an anchor trolley, a flexible video camera mount on the forward deck as well as an MP3 player in the Sonar Shield compartment with waterproof motorcycle speakers also mounted on the foredeck.

The Trident 15’s “Rod Pod” provides inboard rod storage and access from a seated position. This unique feature eliminates the need for in-cockpit rod holders that might snag the ever-errant fly line.

KFM: What is your favorite species to fish for?

Tarpon! Second favorite would be any of Florida’s variety of sharks.

KFM: When are you going to take a trip to the North East to fish for some big stripers?

I constantly battle paddle-fishing wanderlust. My husband and I would love to travel for paddle fishing and stripers are on our wish list, but for now, our obligations keep us in Florida.

KFM: Are there any fishing trips or other species that you want to pursue?

Someday my husband and I will treat ourselves to a belated honeymoon and visit Tropic Star Lodge in Panama to fish for Black Marlin. 

KFM: So what is next for Chrystal Murray?

I look forward to contributing to the scientific monitoring of Southwest Florida’s diverse marine fishery. Every day on the water or in the lab is a lifetime experience.    

As far as paddle fishing, I’ve committed the unspeakable and mounted a 40lb. thrust Minn Kota trolling motor on Old Town’s “Pack Angler Edition” canoe. Everyone I consulted said it shouldn’t be done on a solo canoe, but the rig is working out great. The little canoe will be useful as a stable and mobile platform for kayak fishing photography and video.  

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