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Fishing is just super for Jimmy Johnson

It's one of the Super Bowl's more humorous scenes, that Kodak moment when future NFL all-time leading rusher Emmitt Smith mussed the perfectly coiffed hair of then Dallas Cowboy's head coach Jimmy Johnson after the victor's shower in Gatorade.

These days, far removed from that 52-17 triumph over the Buffalo Bills, the first of the Cowboy's back-to-back Super Bowl wins under Johnson, J.J.'s hair remains tussled at times, albeit for much different reasons.

Retired and living in the Florida Keys hamlet of Islamorada, Johnson is content today to remain out of coaching, do his annual autumn football commentator gig and board his boat to sail off into the sunset.

Johnson, now as much an avid boater, diver and angler as he ever was a football genius, spends much of his time cruising the saltwater in and around the Keys, a region he first discovered while leading the nearby University of Miami Hurricanes to national championship.

It's that love of boats and fishing that has led Johnson to be named honorary chairman for this year's National Fishing and Boating Week, a week long celebration that kicks off this Saturday with J.J. making the ceremonial first cast in New York City's Central Park.

Johnson took a few moments to discuss his love of fishing, boating the Florida Keys and National Fishing and Boating Week:


ESPNOutdoors.com: "Now that you've retired from coaching, you're on the water frequently. How often do you get out on your boats and enjoy fishing?"

Jimmy Johnson: "Really, if we've got decent weather, I'm going to be on the water three or four times a week. Most of the time I'll be fishing, but I also do some scuba diving, diving for lobster, and recreational diving. But about 80 percent of the time when I'm on the water, I've got a hook in the water somewhere."

EO: "Describe a typical day of fishing for Jimmy Johnson — where do you go, what species do you target and what do you use to catch those fish?"

JJ: "A typical day really depends on if I have people on board). (New England Patriot's head coach) Bill Belichick and his son came down a month ago and we went out for dolphin or mahi mahi. Some days, I'll wake up at 5, start the engines and go out by myself. But the great memories are when I'm with people. I started fishing with my dad and have some great memories. Even at 85, he still fishes with me."

EO: "Florida offers a variety of fishing opportunities. Do you prefer to fish the deep water or the flats?"

JJ: "I'm really a deep-water fisherman. I like to go after wahoo, dolphin and sailfish. We occasionally get a tuna and I do some occasional fishing on the bottom for things like grouper and mutton snapper. But the dolphin is what I fish for most, sometimes by trolling with ballyhoo."

EO: "Many describe the Florida Keys as perhaps the best fishing that America has to offer. Why is the fishing in the Keys so special?"

JJ: "Fishing in the Keys, the water is so clear, the Gulf Stream is only about 10 miles offshore and there are all kinds of species to fish for."

EO: "You've done a lot of interesting things on the football field. Now you'll be making the ceremonial first cast in New York City's Central Park. How will this compare to your memories on the gridiron?"

JJ: "It's going to be interesting. We're going to have a lot of kids out in Central Park. They'll have cane poles and it will be interesting. I've had the opportunity to come to New York on several different occasions. The people are nice, but 90 percent of the time they want to know when I'll be coaching the Giants or the Jets. But (this time) I'll be fishing in Central Park, so that will be a different experience."

EO: "What is your favorite species to fish for and why is that?"

JJ: "I think I enjoy fishing for the mahi mahi, or dolphin, more than any other. They are great eating and, on top of that, they are a beautiful, beautiful fish. We release most of what we catch, but we do keep some for the table occasionally. My wife (Rhonda) loves to cook them and I love to eat them. Sometimes, we can catch big ones (in the Keys); one time I caught a 58-pounder. Sometimes they'll be schoolies, but I love fishing for dolphins."

EO: "That's interesting since you coached the nearby Miami Dolphins."

JJ: "No, there's no conflict from coaching the Dolphins and catching dolphins. When I was coaching the Dolphins, that was the marine mammal and not the fish."

EO: "Is there one fish species that you haven't caught, but would like to?"

JJ: "I've never caught a blue marlin. I've caught white marlin and I've caught most every other fish, but I've never caught a blue marlin. One day, I'm going to hook up with one. I may have to travel quite a distance to hook up with one, but occasionally we get a blue marlin down in the Keys."

EO: "You've made a lot of incredible memories on the football field. What are some of your greatest memories on the water while chasing fish?"

JJ: "One time I was fishing in a place called the 'Hole in the Wall' up in the Abacoes. I had some fishing equipment that I had bought at K-Mart and other places spooled with 20-pound test line and I hooked a 90-pound yellowfin tuna. I had quite a time, but I did get it in. I didn't even have a belt, but I did get it in. We live on the water in Islamorada and another time, a friend called and said, 'Hey, let's go for sailfish.' We hooked up with five sailfish in about three hours right there in front of the house. We released them all, but had to fight each one of them. We had a fish on the entire time we were out there."

EO: "We understand that you have a big collection of fishing rods and reels. How many? What do you fish with most often?"

JJ: "Well, I don't want to scare anybody away because you can get into fishing with a very inexpensive rod and reel, just one or two of them. I go overboard sometimes like I did in football; I've got over 100 rods and reels. I've got some Penns and Shimanos and stuff like that — just a little bit of everything."

EO: "What's the best fishing tip that you could give to our readers?"

JJ: "The best tip I could give, No. 1, is to be patient. Even better though, I'd say that while you can really enjoy fishing with your family and friends with little or no experience, if you really want to catch fish, then it might help to get with a guide or someone who is really experienced in fishing. They can give you some tips and some insights on how to really catch fish. Get with a boat captain or a guide and they can really tell you how to fish."

EO: "You've indicated that you have no plans to return to coaching football. What does the future hold for Jimmy Johnson?"

JJ: "Well, I do the 'NFL on Fox' every Sunday, so I'm busy traveling during the football season. During the offseason, I do quite a bit of fishing, diving for lobster and sport diving. What's in store for me? I'd say some fishing, some diving, some boating and just a little bit of football."

EO: "Is there anything else that you wished you could have accomplished during your storied football career?"

JJ: "Well, you always want to win more. But winning two Super Bowls and winning a national championship, think I got more than my share. It's time to let someone else enjoy that. Yeah, I'm completely satisfied with my career. Towards the end of my career, I kind of looked at things and decided it was time to spend more time with my family. And I've done that. My two sons and my dad, who is 85, we spend a lot of time together on the boat. So yeah, I'm satisfied with my time on the field."

EO: "Describe the perfect day of fishing for Jimmy Johnson."

JJ: "The perfect day of fishing for me would be having the people I really care about on the boat; now, it would have to be a big boat. Whether or not we caught any fish or not, that wouldn't matter. Just being associated with these people, having fun and seeing the smiles on their faces, now that would be the most satisfying day for me. It would be having the people I love on the boat with me."

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