Wish for big fish - A little girl that is swimming in the water - Common bottlenose dolphin

Indiana boy dreams of hooking first deep sea ‘monster’

Thanks to the efforts of national children’s charity Kids Wish Network, Greg Stepro got to experience the ultimate Keys trip.

Greg, who has Wilson’s Disease (an inherited disorder that involves copper not properly being eliminated from the body), is first and foremost a dedicated angler. One of his favorite television shows is “River Monsters,” and he expected to catch a monster of his own.

Along with his parents, Lisa and Michael, he was invited to stay at Ocean Reef Club for a fun weekend of fishing, fun and a swim with the dolphins of Dolphins Plus.

The first day, Greg and his family went out fishing aboard Key Largo’s Round Up Fishing Charters. It wasn’t long before Greg hooked on to his first skipjack tuna. After it was all said and done, Greg says he very much enjoyed the day offshore.

“I thought it was a pretty fun day,” said Greg – adding that he was exhausted afterward. “First I pulled up a 25-pound skipjack tuna, then a couple hours later we were catching mahi.”

An Indiana native, Greg often fly-fishes with his father in rivers and streams back home.

The second day of activities was even more fun. Dolphins Plus Bayside welcomed Greg for a dolphin encounter.

The family was welcomed by trainer Evan Norris, who guided them through the facilities and explained the various functions and responsibilities.

“Greg is here for a shallow-water dolphin encounter where he’ll learn a lot of anatomy of the dolphins he’s meeting, like where on a dolphin hair is located when they’re born,” said Norris. “Dolphins – even the females – are born with a little baby dolphin mustache. So to be classified as a marine mammal, mammals have to have hair at some point in their life.”

Pressed as to which dolphin had the fullest beard, Norris said “I’m pretty sure that’s Ige.”

Along with dolphin mustaches, Greg had the chance to get up close and personal with Ige, Hurlee, and Axl to learn about their anatomy. Part of the experience included painting with the dolphin and teaching Greg hand signals – like how to ask for a tongue wiggle. Since Greg is a big fan of Animal Planet, and because it’s Shark Week, Norris also promised to teach Greg how to ask the dolphins to do their best shark impression.

Dolphins propel themselves through the water by moving their tails up and down. Sharks, on the other hand, move their tails from side to side.

After learning commands and signals from Norris, Greg commanded the three “Southside Boys” as if he was a seasoned trainer.

“The dolphins were really cool,” said Greg.

More than anything, Greg said, he’s excited to return home and tell his friends how he caught some really big fish and swam with dolphins. He hopes he can return soon to play with the dolphins again.

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