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Julia Bernstein, a 12-year-old adventure-loving tween from Miami, made headlines earlier this year by breaking two state records and three world records (with one pending) while fishing off the Florida Keys. She will be honored with the Fleming Species Award for catching and releasing 37 different species of fish in 2023 by the International Women’s Fishing Association. Bernstein’s fishing guide and boat captain praised her determination, willpower, and coachability, making her a force to be reckoned with on the water. She snagged the Florida Fish and Wildlife state records for cobia and mangrove snapper as well as the International Game Fish Association junior length records for red grouper, red snapper, and cobia on January 5, with the cobia record still pending certification.

Bernstein shared that having a strategy for the day is crucial when fishing for records, and she was fortunate to catch the red snapper on her first drop during a successful day with light winds and sunny weather. She released the snapper after photographing and measuring it, then moved on to reel in a qualifying record for cobia after spotting them above a shipwreck. Bernstein displayed patience and a strong work ethic, staying focused on her mission and eventually landing both a world record and state record for cobia. She emphasized that fishing can be unpredictable, with obstacles such as sharks eating hooked fish or lines breaking, but she never gives up and always remains determined to succeed.

Bernstein’s mother, Dr. Heidi Mason, who is a lifelong fisherwoman with four IGFA records of her own, shared her pride in her daughter’s focus and determination on the water. Mason highlighted the character-building opportunities that fishing presents, as it involves long, physically demanding days that require full effort and perseverance. Despite the challenges, both Bernstein and Mason appreciate the beauty of nature and the importance of conservation, with all of Bernstein’s world-record catches being released according to IGFA rules. They hope to inspire more girls and women to participate in the sport, emphasizing the teamwork, strategy, and equal competition that fishing offers.

Bernstein, a straight-A student and accomplished sailor, recently represented the U.S. team in a regatta in the Netherlands, showcasing her talents in multiple water-based activities. She believes that fishing is a sport she can enjoy for a lifetime, no matter the location, and values the fun and excitement that come with each catch. Bernstein encourages others to participate in fishing, citing it as a great family activity and a way to promote conservation of the environment and marine life. She attributes her success to determination, patience, and a love for the sport, noting that boys and girls can compete equally in fishing, where finesse and strategy often play a key role in success. Bernstein hopes to continue inspiring others through her fishing adventures and looks forward to many more memorable moments on the water.

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