May 26, 2017
Florida Sportsman honors fallen armed services members.
While all of us take time to remember those who have died in service to the U.S. armed services this Memorial Day weekend, at Florida Sportsman we also want to take note of the many charitable outdoors organizations that support veterans by getting them out to the fields and the waters for therapeutic activity. One of those organizations, Fishing for Warriors, is led by Florida Sportsman's own Rick Ryals. An upcoming feature story, “By Dawn's Early Light,” takes a look at the work of these organizations across Florida. The excerpt below, about Fishing for Warriors, is taken from that story, which will appear in the July issue of Florida Sportsman.
The Fishing for Warriors campaign is now in its fourth year of matching qualifying wounded military service personnel with complimentary trips hosted by Northeast Florida fishing guides. Florida Sportsman Radio host and jack-of-all-trades Capt. Rick Ryals conceived of the idea and enlisted the support of Yamaha, a continuing sponsor. With help from trip coordinator Eddie Smith, Fishing for Warriors has placed over 140 wounded veterans on a wide variety of fishing trips—from redfishing in the St. Johns River to bluewater action far offshore. Trips to Pensacola and Palm Beach have also been made possible.
The program is promoted in magazine advertisements and weekly on FS Live Radio, airing 7-10 a.m. Saturdays for a listening area that stretches from Fernandina Beach to St. Augustine, Stuart to Boca Raton, and Fort Walton Beach through Pensacola. Sponsors include Yamaha ($175 gift card to the Yamaha catalogue for each captain), Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation (gas cards for the captains), and Costa Del Mar (provides each warrior with their choice of glasses).
“One of our coolest stories was one of the original Wounded Warriors we took caught a blue marlin on his trip,” said Ryals. “I'd say over the years we've had half a dozen billfish caught, and one trip we took six warriors and came close to limiting on 60 dolphin. But then last month we had a trip that turned into a real struggle—we were supposed to fish 3 hours but ended up staying out 8 hours to catch two reds at the end of the trip. Unfortunately, the fish don't always get the memo that these special guys need help!”
Among the Northeast Florida sportfishing boats frequently donating trips over the years: Dos Amigos III and IV; Streaker, Turtle, Blockade Runner and Kingpin. For more information, contact Rick@floridasportsman.com