New TV show, town hall meetings and documentaries set to air.

After two months of filming and meeting with anglers from all over the state, “The movement we envisioned is moving,” said Florida Sportsman Watermen host Benny Blanco. “Floridians know it: We can no longer wait for someone else to fix our state’s water quality problems.”

Toxic algae blooms, red tide, seagrass dieoffs, degradation of springs and the harmful effects of dredging are just some of the issues that limit anglers’ opportunities to find fishable waters.

Florida’s fishing potential is unlike that of any other region or state, seemingly endless species to target and locations to launch from, but there’s a thread that ties them all together: water—clean, healthy water.

For the inaugural season of Florida Sportsman Watermen, Blanco, a Miami fishing guide and dedicated conservationist, has teamed up with expert anglers and water advocates to chart the connections between spectacular fishing and healthy water and habitat.

Flip Pallot and Blanco discuss watershed health.

In each episode, Blanco and his guests fish Florida’s backcountry, nearshore and offshore waters. Blanco started the season off fishing the flats of Titusville for reds with Flip Pallot, and then in episode two fished Florida Bay with Capt. Rob Fordyce. For episode three, it was up to Stuart for pompano action with Capt. Ed Zyak. In episode four, the stakes were high as Benny tried for a Charlotte Harbor slam with Capt. Chris Wittman. Wrapping up the first half of the inaugural season in May will be shows in Tampa Bay with C.A. Richardson and Everglades National Park for tarpon with Andy Mill. Each of these guest hosts has a unique story to tell.

When Blanco was asked about what he thought of hosting his own TV show versus the dozens of others he’s made appearances on, he quickly responded, “It’s a hundred times more work! But, we’re making a difference. Everywhere we go the entire marine industry comes out in support. Other TV show hosts, non-sponsors, you name it—they want to help.

Chris Wittman, Captains for Clean Water, hunting inshore slam on Charlotte Harbor.

“It’s also been fun,” Blanco added. “I’m fishing with people who care about the resource. They’re excellent anglers and don’t take themselves too seriously. On the first day of filming, Flip showed up with a reel that sounded like a lawnmower. It didn’t take long for him to realize the antique was better off under the gunnel. And then there was the day when we got stuck in a mosquito ditch with Chris Wittman and had to wait for the tide. And then there was the haunted Airbnb in Tampa. I’m not making this up.”

ON THE CONSERVATION FRONT

Florida Sportsman Watermen explores a variety of fishing areas, both inshore and offshore, as well as current conservation projects.

In addition to following Blanco’s days on the water, Florida Sportsman Watermen features a two-minute segment, and a longer form documentary streamed online, working with an advocacy partner tackling some of Florida’s most pressing and toughest water quality issues.

Red tide was the issue on the table with Bonefish and Tarpon Trust’s Aaron Adams and a panel of experts at Ocean Research & Conservation Association in Fort Pierce. The experts examined how nutrients discharged from Lake Okeechobee and other sources intensify Florida’s red tides and other algae outbreaks.

Those Lake Okeechobee discharges were also investigated in a documentary featuring Alex Gillen of Bullsugar and U.S. Representative Brian Mast. The subjects: changing the Army Corps of Engineers’ operational priorities in managing lake discharges and taking into account the effects on human health of toxic algae associated with discharges.

Why we’re seeing more, and more severe, health effects from blue-green algae and red tide is the subject of another documentary.

Habitat was the issue at hand with Dr. Aaron Adams, who gave a glimpse of a fascinating project at Bee Gum Preserve on the Indian River Lagoon to increase the productivity of tarpon and snook habitat at an old mosquito ditch compound.

Host Benny Blanco (R) and Rob Fordyce with Florida Bay snook.

The health of Florida Bay, and why it’s being threatened by high salinity from a lack of fresh water, is also investigated, with scientist Dr. Jenn Rehage of Florida International University.

And with Philip Kushlan of Friends of the Everglades, we get a better understanding of some of the magic of one of the world’s unique ecosystems—the Florida Everglades—and why the River of Grass is so critical to the health of Florida Bay and the Keys reef system.

FSW ADVISORY PANEL

In between fishing, Blanco sits down with conservation experts like members of the Bonefish and Tarpon Trust on Florida Sportsman Watermen.

Behind the scenes at Florida Sportsman Watermen is an advisory panel of experts who bring unique viewpoints on how to address Florida’s water woes. The panel represents organizations with a mix of constituencies, priorities and geographies.

The primary purpose of the Watermen Panel is to work with the magazine editors and the host of the TV show to determine critical issues to cover, help provide access to expert opinions on selected issues and to help give direction on the production of the show, documentary and town hall meetings.

The advisory panel for season one of Florida Sportsman Watermen includes representatives of Bonefish & Tarpon Trust, Bullsugar, Captains for Clean Water, Florida Wildlife Federation, Friends of the Everglades, Apalachicola Riverkeeper, Miami Waterkeeper and St. Johns Riverkeeper. FS

Airtimes:

April-September

Fox Sports Sun

Fridays 9:00 am
Saturdays 6:00 am
Sundays 8:30 pm
Mondays 8:30 am

Sportsman Channel

Sundays 8:30 am
Tuesdays 3:30 pm
Wednesdays 6:00 am
Thursdays 5:00 am

For more info: Check out the Florida Sportsman Watermen page here

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