Loren Rea: 'Hooked' on the Florida Keys

An accomplished graphic designer and website programmer, director of two fishing tournaments and proud mother and wife, Sugarloaf Key resident Loren Rea has made a name for herself in the Florida Keys during the last 17 years.

Originally from a small town outside Stanford, Conn., Rea spent her days fishing off the beach in Greenwich — until her friends recommended that she visit the Florida Keys.

From then on, Rea took long weekends away from work to visit the Keys and fish at Bahia Honda State Park.

"I would always call my boss and tell him I was staying here another day," said Rea.

In 1996 she moved to the Keys, with only her pet Doberman, and got a job designing advertisements for the local daily newspaper. In 1998, she transferred to the paper's Internet affiliate and began building web pages.

"It was a great experience," she said. "I was learning so much about my trade."

Around 2005, Rea started scorekeeping for the Del Brown Permit Tournament, a popular fly- and flats-fishing challenge. The contest honors the late angling legend Del Brown, widely considered to be the most successful permit fly-rodder in history.

A few years later, she became the event's director.

"We were cleaning up after a tournament, and the co-founder just asked me if I wanted to take her position," Rea said. "I thought about it for a little while, but then I gladly accepted."

In the last few years, she has made major changes to the tournament — increasing its momentum and sponsorships while decreasing entry fees to make it more appealing to anglers. In recent years the tournament also has donated to the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust, a nonprofit devoted to the conservation of saltwater flats species.

Rea is not only passionate about directing tournaments; she's also a remarkably talented angler in her own right. In fact, she is the only woman to fish Key West's prestigious March Merkin Permit Tournament.

"I knew they weren't easy to catch, but I definitely knew I had the skills to do it," said Rea of the notably elusive permit.

She certainly does. In her first year of fishing the March Merkin, she caught a 20-pound permit and earned the respect of the 25 male participants.

She shares her love of fishing with her husband Captain Justin Rea, founder of tarponfishingkeywest.com, a fly-fishing business that provides guided shallow water flats fishing tours.

"I always fish with my husband," Rea said. "He's great because he's very passionate about it."

The couple has a 5-year-old son who is already a fishing fanatic.

"He's been fishing and swimming since he was one-and-a-half years old," said Rea. "He'll just sit at Bahia Honda on the shore with his little net and catch fish all day."

In 2011, Loren and Justin Rea founded the Cuda Bowl, a barracuda-fishing tournament that takes place just before Super Bowl Sunday each year. Today the event is growing in both participants and sponsorships.

It's no surprise that the couple's down time is focused on fishing. They have traveled to different angling destinations including Montana, Idaho and Wyoming.

Their travels even led to their very own fishing show. In 2012, "Getting Guided" focused on prime destinations for saltwater and freshwater fishing adventures from the Rocky Mountains to the Caribbean.

Loren and Justin Rea hope to expand to new businesses in the near future.

"I really want to write a book," said Loren Rea, "a mixture of fishing stories, fishing advice and food recipes."

Whether it's catching her next permit, writing or designing a website, the enthusiastic Rea is sure to find the perfect "angle" to succeed.

Loren Rea with her 5-year-old son, who is already a fishing fanatic.

Loren Rea with her 5-year-old son, who is already a fishing fanatic.

Rea, an accomplished and talented angler, releases a permit.

Rea, an accomplished and talented angler, releases a permit.

On days off, the Rea family fishes together.

On days off, the Rea family fishes together.

The Keys to Sustainable Travel