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A Fisherman Is Not Always A Man

Sherri O'neal |

A Fisherman Is Not Always A Man

There’s something about the ocean that captivates us.  Those of us that have been coastal born and bred realize at some point that living away from the ocean is an uncomfortable feeling.  For me, the coastal lifestyle isn’t just something that makes my soul happy, it’s a necessity.  I am almost a fish out of water when I try to live away from the coast.  For some people, the coastal lifestyle is discovered later in life.  That is the case for Ana Shellem who fell in love with Wrightsville Beach due to chance, not birth.

Ana Shellem found the coastal lifestyle and fell in love.  Falling in love with the ocean is much like any romance-it is all consuming.  You crave it, cherish it, long for the feeling of the sun, saltair, ocean spray.  Finding God in almost every step you take along the marsh or shores connects us in a spiritual way and also makes a human connection amongst each other that is unique.

Surfers often have tribes, fishermen are the same.  There is a bond that forms amongst the people who love the salt water.  The bonds and tribal feelings are almost something that cannot be explained to people who are not as passionate about the salt water.  There is also a community amongst the fisherfolk that seems to be somewhat lost to the rest of the world.  The ocean can create such a magical elixir of smells, feelings and emotions that convert even the most landlocked of people over to fanatics over the ocean and its capturing effects.

I would venture to say that Ana, too,  has become a victim of the way the ocean captures our attention.  Ana Shellem, of Shellem Seafood, is one who loves her time in the marsh, many days all alone.  I’m sure she feels the connection, the pull, of spiritual overcomings while she does her work.  


I met with Ana in a local restaurant.  She is super easy to chat with and has an easy spirit.  I felt an immediate connection as we conversed about the fishing community and the lifestyle it offers.  I reminisced about days watching my Grandfather fish and she listened intently, exclaiming that I was a lucky gal to have grown up the way I did.  I certainly didn’t argue the point as it does with most people, reflecting back makes us appreciative of the past while we may not have realized how magical it was at the time.

Ana actually gets in her boat, collects oysters and other shellfish from the marsh and sells them to restaurants around the state of North Carolina.  Shellem Seafood delivers these magical delicacies to restaurants in Wilmington, NC, Charlotte, NC and a handful of other places.  Ana loves what she does with such intensity that she lights up when she has a chance to talk about it.  I love her enthusiasm and her passion for what she does.

Ana Shellem makes certain the chefs in the restaurants she serves get the finest of mollusks and delivers them in such a timely manner that the freshness is impeccable.  Ana even says that if the weather has affected the salinity or flavors in any way, she has to hold off on her deliveries as she would much rather deliver a product that is always superb and never disappoints versus a mediocre product.  She also says that she loves to see what creations the chefs will come up with the products she brings. 

I think there is such satisfaction being able to provide food.  It is almost one of the fundamental ways that communities connect.  Ana loves being able to provide food and nourishment to people and her history and reputation with restaurants allows her growth to continue.  Truly loving what you do and providing something very unique to people who appreciate it honestly makes for a great way to live.

I had to ask a couple questions that Ana obviously has to answer repeatedly.  First, is her last name really “Shellem” and what kind of obstacles there are for her being a female in the industry.   I was happy to learn that “Shellem” really is her last name.  It couldn’t be more fitting.  I think that sometimes the planets align, the universe listens or God plans (depending on your own unique perspective of which one works best in your life) and makes things come together for people in an almost unbelievable way.  Secondly, yes, Ana gets comments all the time about her company and the fact that people think that she’s just the salesperson for the company and other folks, obviously men, must be the ones doing all the work behind the scenes.  She shrugs it off and explains that she is the one who actually drives the boat, gets the oysters and other mollusks and delivers.  She is quite the amazing young lady who isn’t afraid to get cold, hot, dirty and tired all for a day's work, a work that is her passion.