television

Animal Planet’s ‘Sexy Spearfisher’ is a Miami-Dade paramedic

 

scocking@MiamiHerald.com

Disregard the double-entendre name of Animal Planet’s new, eight-part competition reality series premiering Sunday. Top Hooker might be about the world’s oldest profession, but it’s not what you think — despite the racy trailer featuring Melanie Housh of Key Largo saying “I’m gonna get the longest rod and reach out and touch it.”

Nope, the new series is about one of America’s and South Florida’s favorite pastimes: fishing. It pits 10 contestants — eight men and two women from around the country — against each other in a series of zany angling challenges to win $30,000 and a new truck and the title of Animal Planet’s first Top Hooker.

But about that title …

“It’s catchy. It grabs your attention. It gets people watching,” acknowledged the show’s publicist, Bonita Lynch.

The network put out a casting call last summer, and Housh, urged on by a friend, was one of hundreds who responded.

“I’m like an adrenaline junkie,” she said.

Housh, 32, is an 11-year veteran firefighter/paramedic/diver with Miami-Dade Fire Rescue. The Homestead native and graduate of South Dade High School said she has been fishing and diving with her family since she was a tot — catching sailfish, cobia and other species on rod-and-reel and diving down to catch lobster and spear hogfish and other quarry. Her audition video for Top Hooker demonstrating her fishing prowess above and below the surface wowed the crew at the Animal Planet.

“It was awesome,” Lynch said.

Along with her fellow competitors, Housh was given a special nickname by the show’s producers, “Sexy Spearfisher.” Others include Larysa Switlyk, 27, of Sarasota, the “Bowfishing Babe;” Ian Esterhuizen of Trabuco Canyon, Calif., “Beefcake South African;” Kevin Vendituoli of Little Compton, R.I., “Al-lure-ing Lawyer,” and Patrick Crawford of Charleston, S.C., “Cocky Captain.”

Housh said she was at work when she first learned of her new nickname and took some ribbing from her fellow firefighters. However, the “Sexy Spearfisher” didn’t actually get to use her talents with a speargun during the various contests on Top Hooker.

For example, “we get in a big fish tank at the very start,” she said. “You have no rod or tools. We had to catch goldfish with our mouths and spit them into a tank. I’m never gonna live that one down.”

Other challenges involved sliding down a zip line while trying to net fish and balancing on logs to get to a small fishing platform where the contestant catching the final fish gets eliminated.

“There is drama in the very first episode,” Housh said. “One of the guys gets hurt really bad after he ran across a log and slipped and nailed his knee against a log. He had to get surgery. I hope they bring him back.”

In the days leading up to the premiere of Top Hooker, Housh and dad Tim, who works for Miami-Dade County Schools, took a little time off to do what they love best — fishing and diving in South Florida’s offshore waters.

Guided by family friend captain Jon Cooper on his 32-foot Contender open-fisherman Dive Version, father and daughter teamed to catch five dolphin to up to about eight pounds in about 1,100 feet of water southeast of Fowey Light. After the dolphin fishing dried up, the party cruised around until they came upon a floating trap buoy with line dangling from it. Instead of trolling past or casting live baits, Cooper and Melanie decided to dive in.

“It might be worth it. There could be a wahoo,” Cooper told her.

The pair donned masks, snorkels and fins and took a large speargun with a line and buoy attached and dropped into the abyss, leaving Tim to drive the boat.

The two divers each took a deep breath and plunged about 20 feet below the surface where, to their excitement, they saw two wahoo to about 25 pounds circling the dangling trap line.

The duo returned to the surface, and Cooper gave Melanie the gun. With little experience in blue water hunting, she wanted to give it a try.

They went back down, and Housh aimed and fired at one of the wahoo. She missed, but inexplicably, the fish swam back toward her, “checking me out,” she said. “I was really amped up.”

But by the time they readied the speargun for another shot, both wahoos were keeping their distance, and the hunters returned to the boat.

“She did all the right stuff,” Cooper said. “Wahoo have a force field. You go here, he goes there.”

Housh didn’t seem disappointed.

“It was cool,” she said. “I’ve never shot at a wahoo.”

Housh said she thoroughly enjoyed her experience as a contestant on Top Hooker and would like to appear in another reality show — perhaps Survivor, where she could use her outdoors skills in competition with others.

“I’m into anything adventure,” she said. “I’d pick up and go in two seconds.”

Read more Outdoors stories from the Miami Herald

  • FISHING

    Popular artificial reef and live bait spot Bug Light demolished

    Bug Light was demolished and removed, which means anglers and charter captains have to look elsewhere for live bait.

  •  
 <span class="cutline_leadin">Good to go:</span> Ryan Bancroft of Weston measures one of the lobsters he caught in the waters of Biscayne Bay near Fishermen’s Channel in July 2013.

    Lobster fishing | Annual two-day miniseason (Wed.-Thu.)

    Claw and order expected for Florida’s annual two-day lobster miniseason

    Florida’s largest undeclared state holiday — the annual two-day lobster miniseason — arrives Wednesday and Thursday. Thousands of hopeful scuba divers, snorkelers and bully netters will crowd the state’s waterways, vying for neighborhood barbecue supremacy.

  •  
 <span class="cutline_leadin">Saving the day:</span> John Long releases a tarpon caught on fly rod by Sue Cocking off the Marquesas Keys.

    In My Opinion

    Tarpon make for nice backup plan

    Captain John Long and I zipped west in his skiff from Key West to the Marquesas Keys on Wednesday, filled with anticipation of permit. A few days earlier, anglers competing in the three-day Del Brown Invitational Permit Tournament had released 15 on fly and the winner, Nathaniel Linville, had five releases. That might not sound like much to a non-fly angler, but it’s huge. And on the previous day, Long and a friend had no less than 40 shots at permit on the flats west of Key West. They hooked two and lost them.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category