■ BY SUE ERWIN
If he isn’t taking a group of anglers out to fish, heading out crabbin’ with his family or serving as first mate for many well-known local captains, Travis Joiner is sure to be found on the water or somewhere close to it.
This local fishing guide has been going out in his daddy’s boat for as long as he can remember.
“My brother Seth and I’ve been spending days on the boat since we were in a crib,” he said. His earliest memories of fishing on the island are hand-lining squirrelfish one at a time with a hook and a piece of mullet. His father told him if he used a rod and reel it would bring the fish up too fast. And still to this day, that’s how he catches his bait. “It’s how I was taught – it’s what works, so why do it any other way?” Travis said. “There’s an art to it. You can’t rush it.”
Travis is a fifth-generation fisherman on his dad’s side of the family.
His father, Lamar Joiner Jr., and his granddaddy, Lamar Joiner Sr., are active fishing captains on the island.
In fact, they keep three generations of boats docked in a row just behind Whidden’s Marina.
The boat Travis owns and captains for charters is a 24-foot Morgan called the “Family Tradition.” It is docked neatly between his granddaddy’s boat, the “Miss Sarah,” and his dad’s boat, the “Searene.”
His granddaddy and his daddy taught him everything he needed to know about fishing, and he learns more every day.
When asked whom he learned the most from, he said, “I am very fortunate because I’m surrounded by so many amazing teachers down at the docks, and I learn as much as I can from every single one. They are excellent fishermen.”
His first job on a boat was serving as a mate with Capt. Tater Spinks. He greatly appreciates this experience for all he learned and still enjoys working with him now. Travis also works with his grandaddy and daddy on their boats, and with his cousin, Capt. Charlie Coleman, on the Casuarina. Travis also goes crabbing for several different people when he is not working on his own boat.
“That’s what you have to do when you are starting out, you have to do a lot of grunt work and have a very flexible schedule,” he said.
Right now, Travis has been keeping very busy during tarpon season. He recently took a team out to compete in the “Ladies Day” tournament and “Howl at the Moon” tournament. His four-man team brought in a surprising number of six tarpon. That gave them the second-place title that evening, consisting of a nice prize and even some bragging rights for this humble captain.
After the tarpon move on out of Boca Grande Pass and a very short break in the summer, Travis will be heading to Cordova, Alaska in August to work as a silver salmon fishing guide there at Camp Kiklukh. He’s been going there for the past eight years and stays through October. Travis got this opportunity through a connection with his great uncle, Cappy Joiner, who brought Lamar Joiner Jr. up to guide at the end of tarpon season. Travis jumped at the opportunity to join his family and has been guiding for the last several seasons.
When he returns to Boca Grande, he goes right into mullet fishing and crabbing and by the time that season ends in late spring, tarpon season starts again in April/May, bringing his seasonal work schedule full circle.
“I can’t stand sitting still or being indoors,” he said. “I love to meet new people and socialize.”
Another big part of his life is his “Gommie,” Betsy Fugate Joiner. She is very active on the island and is involved in many community organizations. Her unconditional love and support have shaped this young captain, and he is incredibly grateful.
His mom, Toni Reid, is the proud mother of six island kids: Randall, Austin, Travis, Seth, Faith and Lance. Travis’s grandma, Lee Reid, owns and runs Reid’s Nutrition with the help of Toni. You can also find her at our local flower shop, Native Gardens and Bank of America.
“No matter how many kids she had runnin’ around or how hard she was working, if I needed her she was always there for me at the drop of a hat … I can’t tell you how much she means to me,” Travis said.
When asked about his siblings, Travis replied, “They used to call us the rats. My younger brother Seth and I are a year apart, and we’re very close. We always wanted to be around dad, so we were always out on the boat fishing.”
Seth is studying food and resource economics at the University of Florida, and he fishes part time in the summer.
Travis currently lives on the island and is thankful to his family for having the privilege to live in Boca Grande.
“The O’Bannon family are people that I’m also grateful for, because they were very supportive when I was growing up,” he added.
Travis grew up on the island and went to Vineland Elementary School. He attended L.A. Ainger middle school and then went to military school at Florida Youth Challenge Academy in Starke, Florida, just south of Jacksonville. It was an intense eight-month program, and he earned his diploma when he was 17.
Travis won second place in the 2017 “Howl at the Moon” Tarpon Tournament last weekend. He said,
“It was definitely exciting, there were a lot of good anglers and captains out there. We were lucky and had seven bites and six caught.”
When asked what he loves about tarpon fishing, Travis replied, “Although I’m not the one holding the rod, I still get to fish the whole time. I love the learning process of not only getting bit but making the connection between my captaining practices and the likelihood of getting bit again in the same spot over and over.”
Tarpon fishing and commercial fishing run thick and true in the Joiner blood. Travis loves it and feels most at home when he’s out in the Pass navigating through his family members and fellow captains in the “Family Tradition.”
His goal is to one day win the Jay Joiner Memorial Belt Buckle Award in the World’s Richest Tarpon Tournament.
“It’s the greatest honor that a tarpon fisherman in this area can have, because it represents your skill as a captain to catch the most fish in the big tournament.”
To contact Capt. Travis Joiner about charters, call him at (941) 462-9082.