A long lineage of commercial and tournament fishermen before him, it's safe to say Cody Chivas was born with it.
His father and grandfather were both successful fishermen, and those before them were seamen lost to the deep. As a boy, Chivas watched his father win numerous Kingfish tournaments—not from the dock, but from the deck. Soon he was testing his wits amongst commercial fishermen many years his senior, not as a tag-along, but as a respected set of hands. As a teen he was picking up trophies in the Redfish Circuit and Professional Tarpon Tournament Series, holding his own amongst seasoned professionals. When asked about his prodigious abilities, Chivas humbly remarks that he learned a lot at a young age, supposing a bit of his angling prowess was "probably in his blood."
Despite being described as an innovator and trailblazer by his peers, Chivas' tone is that of a professional committed to his craft: the day in, day out. The grind. He spends the cooler months commercial fishing, while peak months are dedicated to chasing one species. "Tarpon. Every day I'm giving it one hundred and fifty percent. They get my heart beating every time...it's why so many guides commit their life to that fish, to that profession."
But Chivas’ diverse background, experience, and family lineage doesn't just allow him to fill out his schedule, it lends us a voice we ought to give pause and listen to. On the future of Florida's fishery he says, "It hits close to home. You see stuff change, and a lot isn't for the better.
"There are more people on the water than ever, but we can't tell people not to enjoy it. We have to figure out ways to conserve what we do have. We're going to have to learn how to catch and release more...coming from a commercial fishing background, that's not the easiest thing to say."
As a captain doing it all, Chivas recognizes the future will take a united approach amongst all forms of anglers and watermen. "I'm fly fishing, I'm plug fishing, I'm bait fishing. I'm amongst all of it, so I understand all the angles. The way I see it, we all have the same common goal: we want as many healthy fish and the cleanest water possible."
When framed in those terms, few can argue. Whether commercial, bait, artificial, or fly—the goal remains the same.
"It keeps me awake at night," he says, describing areas once lush with seagrass now barren, or the continued worsening incidents of red tide. But Chivas highlights that there is cause for optimism in the fight for a robust and healthy fishery.
"Groups like Captains for Clean Water are doing the Lord's work," he says, before going on to point out some positives he has seen in the past decade: a robust red snapper fishery and the revival of Florida's once famous bonefish.
Each day brings new opportunities for captains like Chivas to both pursue their calling as fishermen, as well as leave their stamp on the future. Having signaled his arrival as a youth, Chivas built his reputation through grit and time on the water. And now, with the next Chivas generation on the way, there are clear skies along the horizon.