“Usually at Alys Beach, I like to go shark fishing. Or bay fishing. Or sometimes redfish, or when I’m on the beach, it’s pompano,” says Josh Fogelman. As you’re listening to Josh rattle off all the fish he aims to catch and the different kinds of bait he uses, and how that changes whether he’s at Lake Marilyn or on the beach at Alys, you have to remind yourself that this seasoned fisherman is actually only eight years old and just finishing second grade.
Josh is the youngest son of Margo and Mark Fogelman, Alys Beach homeowners from Memphis, Tenn. The Fogelmans have had a home on 30A for two decades, and in 2017, they purchased a home in Alys Beach because, as Mark notes, “We had to move where there was good fishing.” Their love for catching fish has deep roots. “I grew up fishing all my life at camp,” said Mark. “I think all of our kids have loved the mystery of fishing. You never know what you’re going to catch. It’s a great bonding experience.”
While fishing has long been a way the Fogelmans—who also have two children in college, Alex and Matt—like to spend their family time, the COVID-19 pandemic took their love for the sport even further.
“We were at Alys Beach for spring break, and then everything shut down. Suddenly we got to live at the beach for nine months,” said Mark.
Luckily for them, they also got to fish. Matt was sent home from college at Tulane University, and Josh was in virtual elementary school last spring. When they got breaks in the day, they’d head out to the water to fish. When the opportunity arose for Josh to continue school virtually this past fall, the Fogelmans decided to continue their stay at Alys Beach, allowing Josh extra time in one of their favorite places and, of course, more time to fish. “We had the option to stay and we took advantage of that. There were other people here this fall doing the same, and Josh made a lot of friends at Alys Beach,” said Margo.
“Big bass won’t come with lures, so you have to catch small bream and use that as bait,” says Josh. And you guessed it, he catches the bream himself. He also captures sand fleas on the shore if he’s fishing in the Gulf from the beach. Margo laughs as she mentions that Josh will raid the kitchen and try to use almost anything as bait, even edamame, to see what works.
While fishing from the shore has provided incredible learning opportunities and family bonding experiences for the Fogelmans, they’ve also enjoyed hiring a guide from time to time to go after larger fish, including sharks.
“When we’ve had a guide before to place bait for the sharks, we sit on the beach while he places it from a kayak,” said Mark. “We’ve caught and released a hammerhead, a lemon shark, and a 200-pound nurse shark. It’s really a neat experience, and it really takes a lot of manpower to reel them in.”
It’s difficult to get Josh to reveal his very favorite spots to fish at Alys Beach, but he does mention that he has one secret spot on Lake Marilyn near the back of the bridge where he often catches bream and sometimes bass. Margo says that Josh will see other folks out fishing on Lake Marilyn, and he’ll direct them to the best spots on the lake to fish. Matt also mentions that he enjoys fishing on the beach and looking for deep spots in front of the sandbar.
Josh, with his sun-kissed blonde hair, has always been a water baby, Margo explains. She even recalls that when Josh was seven years old, he chased a shark for 15 minutes with merely a net. “He has just always loved the water. He loves to spend hours on end out here, filling his day with fishing, swimming, or snorkeling.”
Now that Josh is a little older, he’s moved beyond simple net fishing and has developed a true understanding of all that goes into the hobby. He keeps up with all of his own fishing gear—from his rods and pliers to his bait.
His bait, it’s worth noting, is another part of angling that he handles all by himself.
So what do the Fogelmans do with what they catch? Clean it and eat a lot of it, ofcourse. Whether it’s blue marlin that they caught in the Bahamas or pompano that they’ve caught off the shore at Alys Beach, Josh says that “almost all fish tastes like chicken,” and he loves it. He’ll admit that his favorite is “100 percent mahi mahi and fried mahi fingers.”
“I really enjoy how even though my father, brother and I are so different in age and have different interests, we’d all drop what we’re doing to go fish together,” said Matt. “It’s awesome to share that with them.”
This hobby was cultivated during the most unexpected season, providing a bright spot in an uncertain year and a shared experience they’ll come back to time and time again. And that’s what is often so special about Alys Beach for so many—it is the kind of place that allows the world to slow down enough for families to connect. The Fogelmans certainly have found that this is the perfect spot for their adventures.
“The great thing about fishing at Alys Beach is the unknown,” said Mark. “You can walk out your door, and you have the Gulf right there a few steps away. Or you can head back to the lake on the north side of Alys Beach, and it’s a different experience. And we’re just a couple miles from the bay. It’s an incredible opportunity, a great place to be.”
What’s next for the Fogelmans? They’ll spend their summer here, and it’s likely you’ll catch sight of Josh out perfecting his technique. Maybe, if you’re lucky, he’ll give you some tips, and perhaps reveal some of the secret spots he’s found during this special season fishing at the beach with his family.