An Island Girl And Her Love of Fishing On Martha’s Vineyard

Phoenix Russell Surfcasting Martha's VineyardA couple of years ago at the Featherstone flea market, I met Phoenix Russell, a talented Wampum  artist. I loved her work and began following her on Facebook. I would lust after her latest Wampum creation.

But then, I noticed Phoenix’s pictures were no longer just beautiful Wampum jewelry. She also began posting photos of her catching the most beautiful, huge fish. Here’s this beautiful, petite woman holding fish almost as big as her!

As an Islander, she had grown up with boats and fishing with her dad. However, as she got older, she stopped.  Then last year, she asked on Facebook, if someone would take her fishing. It was random, and at the time, Phoenix had no idea how that post would change her life.

Joe Rogers & Phoenix Russell With Their FishJoe Rogers, who Phoenix had been friends with for about ten years, replied to her request and took her fishing. They knew each other well, but soon they would become best friends and lovers. Joe took Phoenix surf casting. There she was, hiking in waders  that were way too big just to fish. Joe was smitten. This beautiful girl could hang.

No success in fishing that night, but on the second fishing trip, they went to what they now call their “honey hole.” She caught some small bluefish, and then it happened.

Phoenix caught a big 14-pound bass. She was hooked! Phoenix loved the challenge! You had to have the right bait, find the right spot, have the right tide, and it wasn’t always easy. It’s almost a science. For the record, she wouldn’t divulge the location of the “honey hole.”

There was something about catching your food and enjoying something so fresh, a product of your skills. It was as if it was always a part of her. With no fishing equipment of her own, she got some old poles from her father, had them restrung (braided line since it’s stronger) at Larry’s, got new reels, and she was ready!

Phoenix Russell's Winning Fish For Last Year's Fishing Derby Martha's VineyardShe and Joe would fish whenever they could — mostly from the shore, which was great for Phoenix, because this was more of a challenge. She loved it. Naturally when the 67th Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby was happening, she entered.

With few women in the Derby, she was determined to weigh in some serious fish. And she did just that. She caught a big 16-pound bass from the shore. Phoenix won the Daily Prize, and she also won the Mystery Prize.

The Mystery Prize was a lifesaver for the new fisherwoman. It was a tackle bag chocked full of things she needed. She uses this bag every time she fishes.

Now in her second Derby, Phoenix is out fishing whenever she can. Whether by boat or by shore, she is giving some serious competition. Not only is it fun to weigh in at the Derby, but she loves having all this fresh amazing fish. Phoenix catches it all, from Bass to Bonito (a delicacy) to Albys (not so good) to Bluefish.

In the back of her car, she keeps a cooler filled with fish. When she runs into a friend, she loves to offer them some of her catch. She and her boyfriend Joe, also stock their freezer for the winter with their catch.

For this year’s Derby, you can easily spot Phoenix, and she’s out on the water almost everyday. Since there are a lot more men than women, and though she is quite outdoorsy, she is wearing and using as much pink as possible including pink lures — as if it’s not easy enough to spot her, with her long blonde hair and infectious smile.

She’s looking to make some waves with the fish she catches and win another Mystery Prize since she loved it so much from last year. She’d also love to win biggest fish, but there is some tough competition out there. However, she’s determined.

Since she loves the Derby, she has donated some of her Island Wampum Jewelry for prizes for women participants. She hopes her jewelry may also inspire more women to enter the Derby and weigh-in their catch. She’d love to see more women in the Derby.

Speaking of women and fishing, Phoenix is hoping to get a women’s section for this Spring’s Bass Battle that Larry’s Tackle Shop sponsors. I imagine this may be the year if Phoenix is involved.

More Than Just Fish

Having grown up on the water, fishing has come naturally to her, but she was most surprised at how much she loves getting her own food. So much so in fact, she has begun to hunt as well.

She hunts goose and deer with a bow. Since hunting these animals is new to her, she has a couple of goals for herself this year. She wants to learn to break down a goose and butcher her own deer. I give her a lot of credit. I can’t even kill a spider, and her is this young woman getting her own food from the hunt to the table. It’s amazing to me.

Not a fisherwoman myself, I am in awe of Phoenix. Her love of the hunt, the ability to feed herself, and the desire to learn even more. I should mention that she even ice fishes! When I head to the Net Result to get my fish, I sometimes wish that I was able to catch it for myself.  The women that compete in the Derby are all an inspiration to women everywhere. Hey, you never know you might see my name on the board some day.


Since Phoenix catches a number of different types of fish I was curious as to how she liked to eat her catch. With Bass, she loves Bass salad. You steam the Bass, let it chill in the fridge, add a little celery, mayo, and onion and you’re in for a treat.

With Bluefish, she likes to grill it up right when it’s caught in foil on the beach. Add a little salsa and a tortilla and she says it’s amazing.

Haven’t fished the Derby yet? Not to worry, the Derby doesn’t end until 10 p.m. October 19th. So, grab your poles, find a honey hole or hitch a ride on a boat and give it a try. Fish On!!

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