Shot gunning, bow hunting & fishing, fly fishing, spin casting, deer hunting, offshore fishing, horseback riding, trail mudding, and outdoor photography are just of few of the pursuits of Ericka Johns- a young woman who lives her outdoor life like there’s no tomorrow. Find out more about what fuels the passion of this outdoorswoman.
iBass360: Do you remember the very first fish you caught?
Johns: I don’t remember the very first fish, but I do know my father had me out on the boat at 3 months old! I remember one of my first keeper fish, caught on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. My father set me up with an “easy kids set up”- a hook, a bobber and a bloodworm. After not getting any bites, I was goofing around with my sisters and I told them I was going to catch a fish with a huge wad of bubble gum. Sure enough, I hauled in a huge summer flounder. Nobody could believe it! I was the happiest five year old in the world! To this day, even after fishing all over the world, fluke remain one of my favorite fish to target!
iBass360: If I remember correctly, your experiences hunting and fishing started at an
early age in the “islands” and throughout the south. Now that you been in South Jersey for a while, what have you found exciting about the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast Outdoors?
Johns: After moving up North, I learned quickly, where and how to catch fish or target game animals in this region. I have to say, it takes a lot more skill and knowledge up here than in other areas of the world, which makes the catch even more rewarding! I never went freshwater fishing in the islands, so I quickly fell in love with freshwater fly-fishing. I really like that here I can saltwater fish at dusk and freshwater fish at dawn!
iBass360: You’ve been working at Bass Pro Shops in Atlantic City for some time now; what’s been your experience with northeast anglers?
Johns: The community of Northeast and Mid-Atlantic hunters and fishermen is phenomenal. I can’t begin to explain the number of people that have taken me under their wing to show me the ropes. I am forever grateful for such intelligent and hardcore anglers and hunters. I also recognize how many different genres of fisherman- from offshore to surf-casters to river finesse fly fishing- that are accessible here.
iBass360: Some lady anglers I know have had to deal with some chauvinism in the
ranks. Their response has been to seriously out fish their male counterparts. Has this been something with which you’ve had to deal?
Johns: Every woman has to deal with it her own way but to me it’s a funny question! My fly fishing mentor, Mark, is always messing with me. He’ll say, “I can’t fish with you, you’ll catch all the fish!” That makes me break into a smile. There have been some hard times, however. I have gotten the ‘hooting and hollering’ treatment while out surf or jetty fishing when some guys see a young blonde fishing by herself. Even while fishing offshore I’ve heard men from near-by boats trying to mess with me on their radios. Usually once they see me breaking out my fly rod or reeling in a nice fish they realize I’m no joke. Giving seminars at Expos or at Bass Pro Shops I have also encountered a few chauvinists. I typically have at least one hardcore angler, often someone who’s been fishing longer than I have been alive, sitting with their arms crossed, trying to kill me with their stares and thinking ‘there’s nothing this girl could teach me’. Fortunately, usually by the end of the seminar, I’ve seen his eyes light up and him take a relaxed posture even asking for more info. Winning one of these guys over is what I really enjoy- getting them to realize that I genuinely love the sport and have the same intensity and passion about it as they do.
iBass360: You’ve been battling some serious health issues lately. I have to say, when it comes to dealing with this, you’re one of the toughest people I’ve ever met. What can you tell us about the prognosis? How are you feeling?
Johns: First I want to thank all my friends for all your support during this hard time. The support I have received from the fishing community has been amazing! My prognosis is unknown at this point. After conquering 8 brain surgeries, more than 10 procedures and lyme disease- all since the age of 15- I can tell you I have such a passion for life! I am currently suffering with three cysts on my spine, leaking cerebral spinal fluid and screws loose in my skull. Yes, you read that right, I have screws loose and I’ve sprung a leak! If my body does not fix itself within a month, I’ll have to go back under the knife- probably twice. I’m doing the best I can, trying to stay positive, and scheduling fishing trips for my big comeback when I am healed. When he sees me, my neurosurgeon always knows my #1 question- “when can I get back to
fishing?”. He also knows the lake will be my first stop after a release after surgery!
iBass360: As a hunter, angler and all around outdoorsperson, has that experience
helped you in the fight?
Johns: Absolutely! Hunting and fishing give me another great reason to push through. The same determination that got me up on those early hunting or fishing mornings is helping me fight this illnesses. Learning to appreciate every little thing in the outdoors has helped me appreciate life, every person in my life, and every interaction I have- including a unique enjoyment of every fish I’m able to catch. My antidote for the pain has always been fishing. Every person goes through trials and tribulations, but it is how you overcome that defines you. Once of the things that drives me through all this is the goal today I set to get as many women and children- even men- into some part of fishing and hunting. I want to give them the opportunity to share the passion!
iBass360: What fish is currently on your bucket list?
Johns: I have a few: 1) Catching a tarpon on a fly; 2) Ice fishing for a trophy musky; 3) Catching a beautiful sailfish; and fighting a 10+ foot sturgeon!
iBass360: What advice would you give to folks looking to introduce new anglers to the sport, and make sure those new anglers come back time and again?
Johns: First you need to pick a beautiful day. Next you need a spot where you know you will find the fish- whether it be a bunch of bluegill or schoolie striper. Once you got those two down, remember to teach the newbies something about the fish- their spawning pattern, their migration pattern, how they feed and what they eat. The only thing I like better than fishing is getting others hooked. I really focus on teaching beginners. I let them know everyone fishes differently, there’s no right or wrong way to fish, as long as you’re catching fish and having fun. Magazines, videos, books, and the knowledge of others are all great tools, but in the end, its dedication to time on the water that will make you a skilled fisherman.
iBass360: You do some writing, give seminars, and work at Bass Pro Shops. What’s next
for you professionally in the world of fishing- video or television?
Johns: I’m working with some amazing companies and hoping to start filming once I am better! I’m working on a television series called “Cooking Wild” with Robert Gourley. I may be filming a fluke fishing trip with Joebaggs Tackle and I’ve been discussing an ice fishing trip with a Resort up in Michigan. I work closely with iBass360, Woods n’ Waves and YoBuck, and I am looking at ways to grow my YouTube channel including filming my Bass Pro Shops Seminars. Basically, different ways to use the media to share my love and knowledge of fishing and hunting.
iBass360: Last question- favorite place to fish?
Johns: That’s a very difficult question. Guam and the Bahamas were out of this world.
Nothing really compares to fighting a goliath grouper or witnessing sharks, dorado, barracuda, and snappers in crystal clear waters. I remember the thrill like it was yesterday. In Guam I had one of my favorite hunting/fishing experiences with my father- free diving for lobster at night. I remember holding my breath underwater in the pitch black using only a flashlight to scout huge lobsters. I remember surfacing to the light of the moon over the Micronesian waters and seeing endless streams of phytoplankton lighting up like fireworks. Despite these more exotic adventures, fishing Jersey is up there on the list. The Atlantic City area has a 360 degree radius of great fishing if you know what your doing. My favorite places to fish in New Jersey are the Nature Land trusts. These crystal clear blue holes and sand washes remind me of island fishing. The deep, clear, Caribbean blue waters off a variety of fish species. My favorite time and method to fish these beautiful sand washes is fly-fishing for largemouth during that magic hour before sunset.