MUSCLE MEMORIES: Capt. Andrew Dover named ‘Captain of the Year’ for the 4th year in a row

“I’ve been into fishing since I was in diapers,” laughed Captain Andrew Dover.

His dad was in the military, and his family moved to Okaloosa County in 1996 when he was seven years old. He has been fishing our local waters ever since. 

  • When Dover turned 16, he started working on a boat and began a promising career as a fisherman until he was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy at the age of 24.  

“I was working on a private sport fishing boat, traveling, going to Mexico and the Bahamas,” he explains. “I’d run a few boats here and there, and was about to get my career started. I was 23-years-old and people were trusting me with their $5 million boats. Then I got diagnosed and couldn’t physically do anything anymore. That was definitely a bummer.”

As Dover explains it, muscular dystrophy is a mutated X chromosome. His body does not take protein and process it properly to turn it into dystrophin, which turns it into muscle. 

“My onset didn’t start until I was about 18,” he says.  “At some point in time, my body didn’t know what to do with protein. Basically, all of my muscles are breaking down and turning into fatty tissue. My muscles are deteriorating and they cannot rebuild because my body doesn’t turn protein into muscle.”

📸 Andrew Dover

Muscular dystrophy affects every little task he has to do each day. Even though he is still walking, Dover says that when he got diagnosed, he was under the impression that he was going to be in a wheelchair by the time I was 30. He is now 33. 

  • “When I was 24, walking upstairs was doable. I could grab the handrails and go upstairs, but it wasn’t really the easiest. Now, it’s not impossible, but I can do only a few stairs.” 

When Dover was first diagnosed, there was a lot going through his head about what his future held. Was he still going to be walking by the time he was 30?  How long will he live? It took him a couple of years to start realizing the positives of things versus what he could not do, to overcome and not let the disease get the best of him mentally. He had to accept that he couldn’t do what he used to do.

“I’ve always been a fisherman, but now I was limited on how much of it I could do,” he says. “I was able to get my dad and my brother out fishing with me, and it kind of just evolved to where I wasn’t fishing anymore, but I was driving the boat, which I’m perfectly fine with. The boat is a team effort, and that’s what’s evolved into what we are now, with the 28-foot boat my dad ended up buying and I just drive it and I fish the rodeo.”

📸 Andrew Dover

The boat is called Muscle Memories and the crew is Dover, his dad Tony Dover, his brother Derek Dover, and his friend Milton Harris. 

“At the rodeo this year, the fishing was tough, but we caught a handful of amazing things.

  • Muscle Memory caught a record-breaking 101-pound Wahoo, a 50-pound grouper, and a 261-pound swordfish.

“As the captain, I was thinking we didn’t do that well because there are so many other species that I felt we could have been better at,” said Dover. “But we lucked out with a Rodeo-record Wahoo. We beat the 12-year tournament record.  He was 101 pounds, 106 before he was gutted.” 

Rodeo record Wahoo caught at 101 lbs by angler Derrick Dover on Muscle Memories (📸 Andrew Dover)

Several years ago, Dover had to buy an electric reel. It is placed in the rod holder and he doesn’t have to hold onto it. He can just hit the button and reel it in. That’s how he caught the 50-pound grouper. 

“I actually rigged up a bent butt rod that I don’t have to hold and ended up winning the 1st place grouper,” he says.  “I was able to just put it in low gear, which is a lot easier to turn, and I sat down and turned the handle until he made it through the top. It took a while, and I even told my brother to take over to which he said, ‘Nope, you do it. You hooked him. Keep going.’”

While they were snapper fishing, they caught a swordfish roughly 30 miles from where people typically fish for them. Dover says he was basically a lost fish. After several attempts, they finally got the fish hooked and fought him for an hour-and-a-half.

Between the Wahoo, grouper, and the swordfish, Team Muscle Memories did well in this year’s Destin Fishing Rodeo. They also placed 2nd for Mingo snapper and 1st for Sheepshead.

  • On Sunday, November 6, Dover won Captain of the Year, making it the fourth time in 4 years of participating in the Rodeo that he has won this award. 
📸 Andrew Dover

His crew knows the routine. From helping get his gear on, to getting in-and-out of the truck and boat.  Dover relies on his brother or friend Milton to help in those situations. He says the crew has figured out a system and there’s not as much physical work that he has to do these days like he had to in the past. 

  • “Those three have to go fishing because if I’m on the ground, I can’t get back up,” he explained. “I haven’t been able to get back up in probably 4-5 years. I can walk on flat, even-ground for long periods of time, but any kind of step-up or elevation is definitely hard for me.”

In the 4 years he has participated in the Destin Fishing Rodeo, he says now when he gets off the boat, his back is pretty sore and he can hardly walk. And while he doesn’t know how long he’ll be able to continue, he says one thing he won’t do is give up.

“I’ll just keep going until I can’t,” he said. “I think I’ll probably find a solution with my ability to weld. If I have to modify the boat for a wheelchair, I will. I’ll do that before I quit anything!”

📸 Andrew Dover

Dover says he receives a lot of support from the local fishing community, and being part of the Destin Fishing Rodeo has allowed him to meet so many people. 

“I meet people like Alex Fogg and Kyle Howard, who are our main competition,” he said. “It’s a friendly competition and we will all text pictures of what he caught and I got to meet them simply because of the fact that they fish the Rodeo against us.”

Outside of fishing, Dover said he did a lot of work to come to terms with muscular dystrophy. 

“When I first got diagnosed, I had this negative mindset and constantly wondered why did this have to happen to me?,” he said. “Then I would go online and read stories about kids with muscular dystrophy and how appreciative they are of everything. Some of these kids have been in a wheelchair since they were 6-years old. That helped me turn around and really appreciate everything I have in life.” 

  • “No matter what you’re struggling with, you have to appreciate what you have and not let it get you down. If it’s something you can’t change, then enjoy your life the best way you can. Do what you love to do.”

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