I saw a crying need for a voice advocating recreational fishing, and in 1969 founded Florida Sportsman. At the time the commercial industry dominated fishery regulations, led by the state’s largest gillnetters. I saw this firsthand in the ’60s working as an investigative writer for the Miami Herald. Fishery management was done all by seafood industry lobbyists and lawmakers close to commercial interests.
Throughout the ’70s and beyond we exposed overfishing, mainly by gillnets and abuses continued on a large scale due to increased demand, more efficient boats and gear, state-sponsored promotion of commercial fishing and lack of enforcement.
Change, significant change, didn’t come easy. Exposing conflicts of interests and proposing unification of our fishery divisions was a significant effort. Getting Florida to agree to a saltwater fishing license was surprisingly difficult. Gaining gamefish status for redfish, with the help of a mobilized recreational angler for the first time, was a game changer. The statewide ban on gill and entanglement nets was an effort I’ll never forget.
You, the reader, have been with us all the way. In recent times, I’ve read your letters expressing outrage over algae blooms and water management failures. I’ve listened to you speak at fisheries meetings. I’ve watched you form advocacy groups with like-minded sportsmen. I’m encouraged beyond words to see you take action.
I’m retiring from full-time employment, but this won’t be the last you’ll hear from me. Our work isn’t done. And I don’t expect the Florida Sportsman family to become any less outspoken on fishery issues.
In fact, with this column, I’d like to launch a new campaign. And I want to hear what you think about it.
How does the Gamefish Trifecta sound?
Let’s finally take the price tag off our beleaguered seatrout. And while we’re at it, let’s grant gamefish status to two other nearshore, recreationally important players, cobia and tripletail.
Decades ago I asked for letters, and they came by the thousands. Today, I’m asking you to respond through emails to our editors, tweets, forum posts and engagement with our new panel. A survey will be posted at floridasportsman.com/panel May 22-June 19. But, you can send a letter, too.
Florida is a place like no other. Care for its waters. Respect its fish and wildlife. Learn from its history. Nurture its future. Pass the love of it to the next generation, as I have to Eric, Blair, Drew, Holly and Hannah, Sarah and Thomas.
First Published Florida Sportsman Magazine June 2018