Capt. Neal Stark / Founder of Fishing with America's Finest for past 10 years/business owner, Guide, Fishing educator, 10 years Pro staff Bass Dania , Cabela’s , Livingston Lures, Wiley X, field writer for Coastal Angler Magazine for the past 10 years writing monthly fishing and what's going on report.
Cosmetologist specializing in color correction, hair coloring, chemistry, precision hair cutting, worked for NBC 4 years, in high fashion 39 years. 29 in the same salon.
I was born in South Florida I’ve spent over 40 years fishing in Saltwater & freshwater as an experienced captain I loved exploring the seas and all the way into backwaters and bays of the Florida Everglades, Flamingo, 10,000 islands into freshwater swamps. No matter what was going on in my life this would totally put me at ease.
In 2009 I was reading that we were losing 22 veterans a day to PTSD and reentry issues here on American soil. I found this to be unacceptable!!! My Idea was to introduce Veterans to all that I had witnessed in fishing this untouched wilderness of beautiful nature in Fl Everglades. I wanted to take the highest level of fishing and share with America's Finest to help veterans find them sleeves, thoughts, and find their way home.
To also help enhance the lives of our veterans help them break down some of those walls and barriers while bass fishing.
I use the capabilities and the skills I acquired along the way. I teach U.S Veterans and local youth the art of bass fishing. We call it fishing 101. I’ve used the success I’ve had on and off the water to promote and give back to our community. Especially the veteran community.
I want to help develop their skills and capabilities so they can be successful all the time while fishing and working out any issues. I want to influence others in the community to focus on positive activities. I want to show that there are positive options available other than drugs, both prescribed, alcohol.
Bass Pro Shops (Dania Store), Wiley X, Gambler Baits, Please Release Me, Bass Angler Magazine, Rapala, Hawgtech, Livingston Lures, Yamaha Motors, Coastal Angler Magazine.
It has been an honor to stand and fish alongside all of you.
Thank you for the opportunity to be able to give back to you, Americas Finest.
May God bless you all!
Judy Lusskin has resided in the Town of Golden Beach for 23 years. She has served on the Town Council for the past 14 years and currently serving her fourth term as a councilmember. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Education and speech at Long Island University in New York. Councilmember Lusskin was the Program Director at The Jewish Community Center (JCC) for 15 years where she supervised over 100 staff members and initiated an extensive employment orientation program.
Previously, Ms Lusskin also served as the Education Director for Beth Moshe Congregation and has also served as the Chairperson of the Notables, a group of individuals dedicated to growing and improving the Miami Jewish Health Systems care for the elderly.
Ms Lusskin has been extremely active in the Town of Golden Beach. She founded the Golden Beach Youth Leadership Group (GBYLG), chaired the town’s 75th anniversary celebration committee, and is the previous chair of the Town’s recreation committee. She currently serves on the Town’s Beach Committee, as well as the Security & Public Safety Committee. Annually, Judy Lusskin directs and leads the Town’s Veterans Day and Memorial Day Programs. She has served as the Town’s liaison to The Miami Dade county League of cities, and has also served on the Vice Provost Council of Florida International University. In addition, she currently serves on the Board of Directors of Seasons Hospice and Palliative Care.
Councilmember Lusskin has her Private Pilots certificate and when not busy with political obligations…she can be found navigating the sunny skies of Florida.
Harold Valenzuela, is an on-air talent/producer on iHeartMedia’s “Tu Manaña con Enrique Santos” nationally syndicated morning show in 17 cities via Premiere Networks. The morning show is based out of Miramar, FL on its flagship radio station (WZTU) TU 94.9fm that serves both Miami-Dade and Broward County.
Born in Santo Domingo D.R. he was mainly raised in Manhattan, New York City and Miami Florida. Graduating Class of 2000 in the top ten percent of his class with a pilot’s license he was a student of Hialeah High School (Miami, FL). He served in the U.S. Marines for 5 years (2000-2005) achieving the rank of Sergeant as a 6112 helicopter mechanic on the Sea Knight CH-46 stationed in San Diego, California with HMM-364 “Purple Foxes”. Deployed for 9 months in Iraq (Jan-Oct) in 2003 he became the shop supervisor/inspector of 37 marines to maintain 12 helicopters fully functional during and after Operation Iraqi Freedom. During his time in the Marines he was decorated with Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Sea Service Deploy Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal, Presidential Unit Citation – Navy, Letter of Appreciation. After his time in service he moved back to Miami to start a new life working for Seger Aero Corp. as lead mechanic for 3 years. Where he did overhauls, repairs, inspections and testing of Rolls Royce T56 and Allison 501 turbo prop aircraft engines which are normally used in aircrafts like C-130’s, P3’s, CV-580 and Electra’s. While working at Seger Aero he also worked at Miami International Airport for a year and a half maintaining CV-580 for a cargo transport company by the name of Air Tahoma that delivered packages for Fedex to and from South and Central America.
Harold is a proud boat owner of a 330 Express Grady White and enjoys fishing. He is passionate about helping others especially when it comes to helping other veterans. After participating in a recreational therapy fishing event recommended by the Veterans Affairs, Harold stated, “This is a program I needs do be a part of”. He was so impressed on what the program does to help veterans that suffer from PTSD, anxiety, depression and other conditions that he has joined the team and is offering his boat to start a saltwater chapter for Fishing with America’s Finest. It has become an exciting part of his life because he gets to help fellow veterans and go fishing at the same time. Those that have not experienced a fishing trip will never understand how the mind and body feel when out in the ocean. It brings fellow veterans together and creates an atmosphere that is relaxing and therapeutic and this is the type of therapy veterans need.
Chaz Hickcox has been fishing all his life. When he was a young boy you could probably find him barefoot in a creek near his home in California or Arizona fishing for sunfish and catfish. He caught on to bass fishing while spending time with extended family in East Kansas fishing farm ponds. His love of country took him away from bass fishing for most of his twenties while he spent multiple deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan while serving in the United States Marine Corps. Chaz started tournament fishing in 2009 while stationed in Virginia Beach, Va. When he transferred to California in 2012 he co-founded the West Coast Bass Cat Owner’s Invitational with Steve Molina. The West Coast Bass Cat Owner’s Invitational is now an annual event on the California Delta launching out of Russo’s Marina on Bethel Island. While in California, Chaz was deployed often and did not compete in many tournaments but he used his time there to learn how to effectively fish for over pressured bass in the tiny Southern California lakes. When he transferred to South Florida he founded the Florida Bass Cat Owner’s Event which is held annually on Lake Tohopekaliga in Kissimmee, Florida. He used the knowledge he learned in those Southern California impoundments to great success in Florida, winning his first event there and competing in the Gator Division of the Fishing League Worldwide Bass Fishing League. He is known for having a small stature, but a much larger personality. Which was largely imparted upon him from his father Charlie Hickcox who was an Olympic Champion in swimming. Chaz has a wonderful wife Randelle and two beautiful children Serenity and Ashur.
Chaz is the owner/operator of two companies within the fishing industry as well. First is his pet project, Cross Bone Outfitters (www.CrossBoneOutfitters.com) where he compiles the best small American Companies in one easy to find location. Providing a means to assure a quality standard to all of those small baits we all see get promoted by their promotional staff all over the country. Each of these small companies deserve their place amongst the best in the industry, but because they’re not backed by corporate funding and marketing, they rarely make it to the end user where their value is best utilized. The skull and bone logo is the mark to find the best in American companies within the fishing industry.
The second is Crossed Industries (www.CrossedIndustries.com). Chaz acquired Crossed Industries from Dave Davis and Brandon Palaniuk in June of 2018. The purpose of Crossed Industries is to be the one place where all outdoorsmen and women can find the truck, boat, and UTV accessories they need to get the most out of their outdoor experience. The name itself was established in order to show the world we at Crossed Industries are crossing the boundaries of the truck, boat, and UTV industries with the outdoor enthusiast.
I am Florida Everglades Largemouth Bass Fishing and Peacock Bass Fishing guide, Captain Shane Procell. I have held a U.S.C.G. 6 pack operators license for the last 16 years. I have been told that I run one of the most exciting bass and peacock fishing charters in South Florida by thousands of angling clients. I have been fortunate to have been featured on numerous TV fishing shows including; ESPN2 “Beat Charlie Moore”, NBC Sports “Bass2Billfish”, SUNSports Florida “REEL TIME”, Animal Planet & Discovery Channel “Off The Hook: Extreme Catches”, NBC Sports “Charlie Moore-No Offense”, SUNSPORTS “Captains Tales”.
I have spent the last 30 years fishing Florida’s lakes and rivers and swamps. The last 20 years i have spent most of my fishing time in the Florida Everglades and the urban canals for Largemouth, Snakehead, Clownknife and Peacock bass.
My bass fishing guide service routinely produces triple digit stringers of Florida Largemouth bass in the most remote and untouched areas of the Florida Everglades. My specialty is fishing little known and hard to access areas of the South Florida Everglades. I specialize in light tackle fishing bass fishing in areas that get very little, if any fishing pressure. As a charter guide I love to share my experience and knowledge of the local habitat, wildlife and fishery with clients. By the end of the day you will be well versed on the local fishery and habitat.
On my Florida Everglades Bass Fishing Adventure charter you will experience the natural beauty of the Florida Everglades, like it was 100 years ago. You are going to catch a lot of nice fish and you will see plenty of alligators. At days end I want you to have had the best Largemouth bass, Snakehead, Clownknife and Peacock bass fishing adventure of your life, a real "Dream trip"! That's my goal.
Captain Drew Rodriguez. Born and raised in Miami FL, Professional freshwater fishing guide.
I'm a freshwater fishing guide in Miami FL for both Largemouth & Peacock Bass. I've been fishing South Fl for over 25 years.
I'm blessed with a huge clientele base and I know it's by the grace of God. I'm fully aware that if I don't give back to my community and country, there's really no point.
Captain Neal Stark is like a big brother to me. I've know him on a personal level for a lot of years now and I know he puts his heart & soul into FWAF. There's no other program in the world that I'd rather be a part of.
I enjoy the fact that we take out Veterans of all eras and we leave no one behind. I also love the fact that everyone is a volunteer and 95% of all donations goes right back through the program. This only leaves space for people who have it in their heart to do the right thing.
I feel that God puts people that he knows are going to give back to those in need, in a position of success for a reason. I enjoy helping others and being a mentor.
In order to be a Piscatorial Therapist, you need to do a lot of learning on how people behave & think. I do a lot of reading on this subject because I'd like to help as many Veterans and people in general as I can.
There's not a more peaceful place in this earth than the Fl Everglades. We are truly blessed down here to take Veterans to such remote locations where it's just us, the fish & the good Lord.
I look forward to fishing with y'all and showing you what I do on a daily basis. Not everyone's therapist is a professional fisherman. You're going to enjoy this experience and it will heal your mind, body & Soul.
God Bless you,
Born in Havana, Cuba and raised in Miami, FL since 1980 by my single mother. Growing up in Miami with my two sisters and a younger brother we always gravitated to the beach or the ocean. The ocean is a place where we always found peace and reminded us of our home town in Cuba. Our family loved fishing and would enjoy an entire day on a pier or boat enjoying the sun and of course the fish. I reside in Key Largo where the fishing is always exciting and relaxing.
In 1999 I joined the United States Army Reserve and was stationed with the 3220th out of West Palm Beach, where I conducted Military Police duties in FT. Stewart and FT Gordon, Georgia. In July of 2001, I enlisted active duty and was stationed in Wiesbaden, Germany with the 501st MP CO supporting the 1st Armor Division. We deployed to Iraq in April 2003-Aug 2004. Upon returning to Germany I was reassigned to US Army Garrison Wiesbaden as a Military Police Investigator. In October 2005, I returned stateside and was assigned to US Southern Command as a Protective Service Agent, where I deployed to Iraq and supported OIF and OEF operations with CENTCOM until 2007. During service I received the following awards.
Army Commendation Medal, 4 – Army Achievement Medals, 2 – Army Good Conduct Medals, Joint Service Achievement Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, Joint meritorious Unit Award, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, and Mechanic Badges.
Sadly, my service ended in July 2008 due to medical issues sustained during my military service. I enjoyed serving my country and have no regrets.
First and foremost, Family is key when you return home. Family isn’t always blood. Family is people who want you to be part of theirs and who accepts you for who you are. I am a proud father of two boy- a young Army soldier full of life and ready for his journey, an energetic and intelligent 9-year-old son, a bright and full of life grand-daughter and a beautiful, supportive and joyful wife.
Post Military Life
Right out of the Military I proceeded to work with AlliedBarton Security Service as an Account Manager attached to Merck Pharmaceuticals and as Govt Project Manager for the Perez Art Museum until 2015, where I started working as a Communication Supervisor. Through-out my time in the service overseas and stateside I continued to fish both salt water and fresh enjoying the assortments of species South Florida has to offer. On my limited amount of free time I started fishing more often. In 2013 I first met Captain Neal Stark, with his social butterfly demeaner and willingness to teach, opened my eyes to a different method of fishing and was able to reconnect with my passion. I am empowered by giving back to military veterans by advising of different programs or processes to attain benefits or even if it’s only on an Eco Tour or a calm day on the island overlooking the ocean having a BBQ.
I am a proud owner of a 18 Maverick Master Angler powered by a 115 Suzuki SS and a 263 Chaser Grady White powered by twin Yamaha 225. I have joined the team and I am offering different saltwater excursions chapter for Fishing with America’s Finest. I am excited to start this chapter of my life because I get to help fellow veterans and go fishing at the same time. Those that have not experienced a fishing trip will never understand how the mind and body feel when out in the ocean. It brings fellow veterans together and creates an atmosphere that is relaxing and therapeutic and this is the type of therapy veterans need. Back-Country - If you want to enjoy a back-country fishing trip like no other place in the fishing world, Key Largo and the surrounding areas takes you into the most gorgeous, untouched waters in the world. Focusing in the outdoors, you can enjoy an ECO Tour, snorkel, fish for mangrove snapper, Tarpon, Snook, Trout and even some occasional giant sharks or just a nice day relaxing enjoying the sun. This is an epic outing for veterans that suffer from PTSD, anxiety, depression and other conditions. Better than a massage. If you want to enjoy a Deep Sea fishing adventure that will open your eyes to so many different species while enjoying the ocean in one of the world’s best and most beautiful locations in Florida. We can try that instead. Targeting species like Yellow Tail Snapper, Mutton Snapper, Grouper, Dolphin, Tuna, King Fish and Sail Fish or just relax on an island gateways in crystal clear water enjoying the sun and a small BBQ lunch. Snorkeling Mosquito Bank, Molasses Reef or the Giant Jesus Christ of the Abyss is some other options instead of fishing. My main goal is to make sure all veterans are stress free day learning new fishing techniques and relaxing.
BeardCityFishing, Yamaha, Suzuki, Penn, Shimano, Ugly Stik, Star Rods, Garmin
Love, Live and enjoy the Journey. Enjoy the Sunshine.
Harold Burgos is a Retired US Marine with 21 years of Active Duty.
Harold was born in Cali, Colombia and came to the United States at 18 years old in November 1982. In June 1985 Harold joined the US Marines and made a career retiring in Jun 2006 after 21 years of faithful and honorable service.
During his tenure as a Marine Harold served as a Tank crew member in the M1A1 Abrams Tank where he went from tank commander to Platoon Sergeant, Company Tank Leader and Company First Sergeant.
Harold deployed to Iraq in 2003 for 6 months as a Tank Platoon Sergeant with 2nd Tank Battalion out of Camp Lejeune, NC and then again in Sep 2004 until Mar 2005 as a Company Tank Leader.
Harold’s Military awards include the Joint Service Commendation Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with a Combat V, Combat Action Ribbon, Good Conduct Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Navy Unit Commendation, Navy Unit Meritorious Unit Commendation, Marine Corps Recruiting Ribbon, many Certificates of Commendation and Letters of Appreciation.
After his retirement Harold joined the US Office Of Personnel Management where he worked as a Federal Investigator until Feb 2016 at the Miami Field Office.
Harold first participated with Fishing with America’s Finest in April 2013, since then Harold has grown as fisherman, loving and enjoying the beauty and peacefulness the Florida Everglades offers. There’s no other way to connect with Mother Nature and being able to express Gratitude for the blessings received.
No other program brings Veterans together to enjoy great moments, making memories, friendships and helping each other with our daily struggles due to our combat and service experiences.
Fishing has become the best Therapy, helping to reduce the intake of prescription medication given by the VA medical providers.
My name is Theresa Castro. I first met Captain Neal back in 2011. My husband, Moises Castro, was recovering from his brain tumor surgery. During that time his Veterans Affairs team prescribed him recreational therapy which included Captain Neal Stark. For two years after the surgery, he suffered depression, PTSD, anxiety, and did not leave the house. It was a very difficult time for our family, the time my husband spent on the water with Captain Neal changed our lives. Captain Neal even takes Salsa my husband's service dog.
I served in the United States Navy from 1994-2015. Four years ago I retired after 21 years. I served four years active duty 1994 -1996 in Guantanamo Bay Cuba and 1996-1998 onboard the USS John F. Kennedy. The rest of my time I served in the United States Naval Reserves. I did a deployment in 2005-2006 in support of OEF/OIF.
I currently work for Coral Springs Regional Institute of Public Safety. I have been working there for five years. One of my duties is the Veterans Affairs Coordinator for education benefits. In 2018 I was selected as Civilian Employee of the Year.
Captain Neal and Fishing with America's Finest truly made a difference in our lives. And for that, we are blessed and thankful.
Robert “Rob” Barretti- Born in Queens, NY.
Owner/ General Contractor- “From the Floor Up” by trade and Fisherman at heart…
I moved to Miami, FL in 2002, and took up fishing. I’ve been hooked ever since no pun intended!
Fishing with America’s Finest has allowed me to enjoy two thing’s I love- support others and fish. It’s been a gratifying experience as well as a peace that I can identify with. I’ve never had something in my life that has been so relaxing and meaningful. Helping Veterans by fishing is a way to draw attention to their struggles and provide the tools for fishing therapy. My father was wounded in Vietnam and is a Disabled Veteran, which is also a reason this cause is dear to my heart.
Thank you for letting me be part of this meaningful journey,
Michael Santos, was born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. By the time Michael moved to Miami at the age of 5, he had already lived in Guatemala, Los Angeles and Houston. Miami is what Michael learned to call home. Michael started fishing with friends at about the age of 12, fishing the local canals throughout Miami.
In 2005, Michael joined the United States Army. He attended basic training at Fort Benning GA. After, graduating Infantry School and Airborne School at Fort Benning. Michael was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division. He deployed twice to Iraq, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), in 2007 and again in 2009.
Combat Infantry Badge, 3 - Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Iraqi Campaign Medal w/ 2campaign Stars, Meritorious Unit, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Non Commissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, 2 - Overseas Service Ribbon, Parachutist Badge, Irish Parachute Wings.
After leaving the Military Michael, then moved to a town outside of Charlotte named Fort Mill. He became a police officer for a town named Rock Hill, where he serviced the community. After about 10 years of being away from “Home”, Michael decided to move back to Miami and attend Florida International University. Michael graduated from FIU with a Bachelors in Science of Information Technology.
Michael was introduced to Fishing with America's Finest by Harold Valenzuela at a event at Bass Pro for Veterans. Since then Captain Neil Stark, have taken Michael on several trips to the Everglades to fish. This is when Michael realized the importance of Fishing with America's Finest and wanted to help other Veterans the way Captain Neil Stark helped him.