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Captain Sam Atwell

Captain Sam Atwell

Meet Captain Sam.

A hard-working, personable fishing guide from Vero Beach, Sam Atwell is the new host the Florida Sportsman Watermen TV series.

Entering its second season, the series will again spotlight diverse fisheries around the Sunshine State, but with the unique FSW “hook.”

Atwell and guest hosts–including guides, avid anglers and other “watermen” (and women!)—focus attention on environmental issues affecting fishing and overall Florida quality of life.

Atwell, 29, grew up fishing the Indian River Lagoon and the deep blue waters off Fort Pierce and Sebastian.

In many ways Atwell was the prototypical coastal kid: Talked his way into junior mate gigs on sportfishing boats; saved up to buy a Gheenoe (and sink it, and save up for another); learned classic deadbait billfishing from the Fort Pierce crew.

Observers might’ve guessed Atwell would one day become a fishing guide, but there was Tallahassee… and there was a young lady named Jess.

After graduating from Florida State (international affairs and business), Atwell got a job at PipeWelders, the Fort Lauderdale-based fabricator of tuna towers and outriggers. Certainly a step up from plastics, to borrow from the classic coming-of-age film The Graduate, but Atwell would soon find his internal compass pointed elsewhere.

“At that point, when I graduated, I had my father and soon-to-be-father-in-law watching,” Atwell said. “God forbid I start some derelict job, like guiding!”

Today, Sam and Jess are happily married (with a baby!), and Sam is back on the Treasure Coast, building his own business, Down Sea Charters. Going into his fifth year of guiding, he splits his fishing days between private shifts on a 45 express, and charter trips on his 18-foot skiff and 25 center console. For this season of Florida Sportsman Watermen, he’s running a 24 bay boat. Hardly derelict.

“I’ve always loved working on boats,” Atwell said, “and now that I’m guiding, I find that I’m actually applying what I learned at school, running my own business.”

Back at home on the Indian River Lagoon, Atwell says the fishing is still great for redfish, tripletail, cobia and many other species. But, he’s witnessed seagrass dieoffs. Sewage spills. Rubbish piling up insidiously on local beaches. The kinds of emotional burdens which lay heavily on watermen of all ages, around the coasts.

“The state of Florida is behind on environmental awareness,” said Atwell. “That kind of awareness, we need to create. Some solutions will be technical, but some are straightforward—little things can make a big difference. Water quality is vital to our health, communities and economy. We need clean water to ensure healthy ecosystems for fish and wildlife.”

Florida Sportsman Watermen Season Two is produced by Cameron Cushman. Cushman, like Atwell also of Vero Beach, is a rising filmmaker with a keen eye for the outdoors—and for people whose lives are connected to the waters.

Captain Mike Conner, Conservation Editor for Florida Sportsman and recently appointed Indian RiverKeeper, will make regular appearances on the show this season, contributing research and commentary on environmental topics.

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