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  • 08/31/2016 9:33 AM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    What is it that makes a great charter captain?
    By Capt. Charlie Philips

    What are the qualities that separate the best of the best charter captain from the pack across the region? These are things that I have asked myself since we started our personal business in the Everglades and I continue to ask myself now. Being a charter captain and running a successful charter business is the dream of many. Those of us that choose this line of work are blessed beyond measure, but what is it that makes some guys stick around for 50 years like our own Capt. Bouncer Smith in Miami Beach, while others are here and gone in the blink of an eye? This is my topic of discussion for this months “From the Crow’s Nest”.

    To be honest I never planned on taking many guests when I started Hope Fishing Adventures in Everglades City. I had a very successful career going in the commercial explosive industry and was blowing up things from bridges to beaver dams all over the nation. That job afforded me the opportunity to live anywhere I chose, and being an off the beaten path kind of guy, Everglades City was a great fit for me and my border collie Cody.

    It was just the two of us back then. Cody went with me on the blasting jobs and served as navigator on the boat each day when we were back at home. Fishing was all I really did when I was off. We would exploring the Everglades and 10,000 Islands, seeing where this creek went, what lived on that oyster bar, trying to figure why mullet jumped. I was living the dream.

    Getting my USCG captains license was just something I wanted as a personal accomplishment for myself.  I have always had a commercial driver’s license and wanted to obtain my USCG Masters license as well as a pilot’s license, but had never taken the time to make that first step.

    In about 2006 Laura walked into my life and the rest is history. She encouraged me to take the time and get my USCG license and helped me start our charter business. Without her help, I would never have gotten it done. All the paperwork, all the tax mess, and LLC this and that, but with her help we were a bonafide Everglades National Park and 10,000 Islands charter fishing business.

    Now keep in in mind, I had moved to Florida right after getting out of the service, didn’t know a soul and tend to be a quiet guy keeping to myself and minding my business. Those of you that know Everglades City can attest to the fact that is a wonderful place, with some of the best fishing in the world. It is a small and close knit community (things I appreciate and grew up exactly the same in my hometown), but folks weren’t exactly jumping over themselves to try and help teach me, or show me the tricks of the trade. That was actually OK, as I still didn’t plan on taking many trips. Fishing was going to be a hobby. I would take a few trips a year and it was still more of a personal thing for me.

    My first trip with customers was a donated one. It was a benefit for a friend that had passed in the explosive industry and me being the “Charter Capt.” (I use that term loosely at the time) I was going to donate a trip to the event and take these folks fishing. The guest came to turn in their voucher and I took them out for a day in the swamp. We had a banner day. It  seemed like everywhere we went we caught big snook, big reds, inshore tripletail, black drum, you name it, we caught it. We were on fire. I came home that night and told Laura, there is nothing to this charter captain gig. I must be a natural - boy over the years have I paid for that comment many times over!

    After taking the donated trip someone was crazy enough to come fishing with me and give me money to do it. I don’t remember who they were, but do remember I couldn’t buy a bite. They never came back. Humble pie is best eaten in small slices, I quickly learned. Those experiences began my bumper car life of running more trips in SW Florida and growing our business into what it is today.

    Being in the business I had to learn the ropes pretty much on my own. I took my time, made my mistakes, had my quiet victories, but just kept plugging thru. At the dock each morning I watched from afar as the old salty captains launched their boats, grabbed their guest and took them out for a day of fishing. Many times coming back with a meager fish box for my own guest while these old hands had a net full to get filleted at the end of the day.

    It was one of these old salts that left a big impression on me one time at the dock at the days close. I was up filleting my few trout, maybe a snapper and Spanish and getting my hands shook and my customers on the way. This older Capt. pulled up and made small talk with his guest and waited for my folks to leave. Once they were gone, he started piling permit, snook, and reds in a small mountain and turned to me and said, “Waited for your folks to get gone, we don’t do that to each other when we have a slow day. It happens to everyone and tomorrow it might be my turn”. This was the start of me seeing the camaraderie and professionalism of what made up the successful guides and captains from the rest of the pack.

    As time has gone on, and I too have gotten a little longer in the tooth, it’s much clearer now and easy to see. Running a charter boat is a business first and foremost. A successful captain has a business plan, he knows his cost, and he or she knows what it takes in revenue to keep the lights on for tomorrow. They have the license, permits and gear that it takes to keep them compliant and to keep their passengers safe while in their care. They know their waters, they know their fish and they know their equipment. And above all, they are “entertainers first and foremost.” A captain in the NE portion of the state told me that several years ago and it’s as true a statement as I know about this business. We all catch fish.The trick to this game is getting the customer to come back and be happy to see you next time on a day when you didn’t catch many.

    The common trait I see in the captains and guides that I admire most is passion, its drive. These folks eat, sleep and breathe fishing, boats, and the water. A great many of them, on a day off from running charters, go fishing themselves. That’s passion right there. How many other trades do that on a day off?

    These captains are many times great teachers, they are wonderful ambassadors to the sport and life we all love. They never forget or miss an opportunity to show an angler something that makes them a little better, they teach conservation and a love and respect for the fish and the fishery. These are just a few of the habits I see in successful guides all over the nation.

    Now add to that list the guides that make up the Florida Guides Association and you’ll see some of the best ambassadors of the industry working in unison to ensure our voices are heard, and that the things we hold dear and in high regard are here for years to come.

    The FGA is an opportunity for professional captains and guides to come and share insight, and knowledge to other professionals, it’s an opportunity for individual small business owners to work together for a common purpose. It’s also a rare chance for a newer guide, or an older one like myself, to learn and share that camaraderie I first saw on the dock in Chockoloskee many years ago. 

    While I have just touched on a small part of what makes up a successful fishing guide, the one thing I know for sure is that looking at the ranks of the FGA, a big part of our membership has been in the industry for decades. That should tell you something as a newer guy to the industry.

    There is a great value to being a part of a professional association such as the FGA. Its simple business if nothing else, while fishing is of course what comes to mind as the root of running a charter boat, ensuring and being directly involved in your industry is also a part of the equation.

    If you never take the time to attend a meeting, talk on an issue and/or be a part of a professional association making sure you are represented in issues that affect your future and ability to work, then can you complain if things go a way that makes life harder for you to be successful? For me the answer is no, but to each their own. At the end of day I believe with my whole heart that the same passion I have in my fishing should be also there as we work as a team to help shape the future we want for our charter businesses as well as the next generation’s chance at this profession.

    I thank each and every one of our Guide, Associate and Corporate members for your participation and being involved in shaping all our futures. It’s that support that has made the Florida Guides Association the biggest statewide voice for charter captains, recreational anglers and sportsman thru the nation for the past 25 years and for many more to come.

    As always I encourage feedback and any questions please never hesitate to get in touch. Have a great Labor Day and talk to y’all in next month’s FGA Newsletter.

  • 08/30/2016 6:00 PM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    NOAA Fisheries Announces New Text Message Alert Program

    NOAA Fisheries Southeast is pleased to announce the introduction of our new text message alert program. The program will allow you to sign up to receive important fishery related alerts via text message.

    Text alerts you may receive include:

    -Immediate fishery openings and closures

    -Any significant changes to fishing regulations that happen quickly

    How to opt-in:

    Sign up for one or more of the following groups:

    Gulf of Mexico Recreational Fisheries Related Alerts

    Text GULFRECFISH to 888777

     Gulf of Mexico Commercial Fisheries Related Alerts

    Text GULFCOMMFISH to 888777

    South Atlantic Recreational Fisheries Related Alerts

    Text SATLRECFISH to 888777

    South Atlantic Commercial Fisheries Related Alerts

    Text SATLCOMMFISH to 888777

    Caribbean Fisheries Related Alerts

    Text CARIBFISH to 888777

    Standard message and data rates may apply. You may opt-out at any time.

    See the announcement at

    This Fishery Bulletin is forwarded as a courtesy of the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council. 

    Questions or comments should be addressed to  NOAA Fisheries using the contact information provided in the Bulletin.

  • 07/31/2016 10:55 AM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    Fish Handling Tips 

    Handle fish as little as possible and only with wet hands.

    Match tackle to the targeted fish to land it quickly and minimize stress on the fish. Large species such as sharks, billfish and  tarpon should be brought alongside the boat within 20 minutes of being hooked. If you are consistently landing exhausted fish that require extensive efforts to resuscitate, consider using heavier tackle.  

    If a fish needs to be handled, wet your hands. This reduces the amount of fish slime removed from the fish. Fish slime protects the fish from infection and aids in swimming.  

    Never hold a fish by its jaw, gills or eyes. This can cause damage. 

    Large fish, such as tarpon, should not be boated or dragged over the gunwale of the boat because this could injure their internal organs. 

    Sometimes it’s better to carefully remove the hook so it can be released, and other times it’s best to cut the line as close to the hook as possible while the fish is in the water – especially if it’s large or agitated.  

    Never hold on to or tow a fish not allowed to be harvested to a different location to weigh or measure it.     Reduce handling by using a dehooking tool. Dehooking tools allow anglers to quickly release their catch while minimizing injuries and handling time.     

    Photographing Fish        

    Remember, when taking a picture of your catch, hold the fish horizontally and support its weight with both hands. This decreases the possibility of damaging the fish internally. 

    It is best to designate someone on the boat as the photographer, that way when an angler hooks up with a fish, the photographer is ready to go. 

    Whenever possible, take pictures of the fish while in the water. Tarpon should always be left in the water if they are more than 40 inches long.  

    And remember, when you are releasing your catch… Practice CPR - Catch, Photo, Release! 

    To learn more about fish handling methods and gear you can use to increase the survival of released fish, visit

  • 07/31/2016 10:19 AM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    Proper fish handling; show me yours

    Laura and I were watching a program on television the other night about the 80s, during which I remarked the 80s were awesome. She agreed and said it was such a simple time. 

    Now keep in mind, both of us were just wee little kids at that time, so our opinion is a bit jaded, and I know it. But I think we can all agree that it was a simpler time. No cell phones, no mass internet, and no social media. Laura says I am an 80 year old man trapped in a 39 year old body, and as I get started with this months From the Crow’s Nest piece I can kind of agree, but I am noticing a trend and I have a strong suspicion of the cause and that’s this month’s topic of discussion.

    This got me thinking about stuff and, you know, who else probably misses those simpler days? The fish we chase and hunt on the water. Modern electronics like cell phones with cameras, social media and that kind of stuff are wonderful tools that are here to stay and do make our lives easier. But I have no doubt that now each and every fish is subject to a photo shoot for the sake of social media or a snapchat message.

    In the olden days pictures were of course taken as well, but it was the wind up camera…turn the little dial…crank crank crank….When it stopped we looked thru the viewfinder and clicked. Back to the winding. Film was limited and there was no mass photo shoot so I would guess the fish was released or put in the box in short order. To be honest, I don’t remember really taking many pictures of fish back then. Maybe the big ones my folks would snap a picture of, but the majority were simply caught and released or put in the box for dinner.

    In today’s modern age each and every fish that comes aboard is apt to have its picture taken multiple times, be handled by multiple people for extended periods and stressed much more than in past years. All this for the sake of a social media post, a text message or cool new profile picture. This year alone I have received reports from multiple members who are concerned with what they are seeing on the water each day with the way fish are handled.

    Our founder Capt. Scott Moore has noticed a trend in his area of tarpon being handled incorrectly and in ways that could actually be harming the fish, all over social media in his area. On the East Coast I just got a report from one of our members who is very concerned with the way the big trophy snook are being handled, photographed and then simply dumped overboard with no care or time being given to make sure the fish is revived and ready to be released. This is not surprising to me but is deeply disturbing to hear.

    As professional guides we have a duty to treat each and every fish that comes over our rail with the respect it deserves. There is a balancing act that we must walk, to satisfy the customers who pay our bills while ensuring we do what’s right for the fish that bring the customers in the first place.

    If the fish is going in the box, then it takes the pressure off a bit. We are going to harvest the fish so if my guest want a few pictures then I am much more relaxed about the process. I still want to get it in my ice slush as quick as I can, but I have no worries on reviving so it’s a moot point.

    On the other hand, if we are catch and release, or if it is a species that allows no harvest, as the captain I must do all I can to first and foremost ensure the fishes survivability. It is up to me to make the call on when it must be released, how it is to be handled and to ensure the fish is revived enough to swim away. As captains we do it typically over and over each and every day, so to be honest it’s not something I even think about anymore. Kind of second nature stuff, but I do take it seriously.

    I never miss an opportunity to educate my guest on the importance of ensuring the survivability of the fish we are targeting. I teach them how to properly hold the fish, to be ready with their camera before the fish comes out of the water, how to safely release the fish and then have the pleasure of watching them swim away with that strong kick as they leave the boat.

    I teach them that certain fish have certain rules and why those are in place and why that must be followed if we want to ensure their kids and their kid’s kids still have the opportunities we are enjoying today. I never allow a fish to be abused or needlessly killed simply for the sake of a picture.

    Almost every year, we take a trip to Costa Rica to do some offshore fishing, and one of the things that impressed me from my initial trip to now is the respect and care and love the captains and mates on these boats have for the fish they catch. Each fish is treated with great respect, is caught, a picture or two taken (mostly in the water) and the fish properly revived and quickly released. These guys get it, they know that the reason I am on that boat is in pursuit of that fish. They do all they can to keep the stock up which keeps me coming back and spending my money in their country.

    We are no different and if they can do that in Central America, we should be able to do it in the most modern country of the world. In that spirit I want to invite every FGA Guide member to send me a 30 second video or picture showing one tip on proper handling, reviving, netting or releasing of a fish you have caught. Let’s make August our proper fish handling PSA month and share all this to the Facebook page and website.

    As professionals, you are the expert in the eyes of the recreational sector, so be just that and teach the proper way of doing things while ensuring the fish you catch get the best chance for survival so I can try to put my guest on them tomorrow. I look forward to your tips and of course I always invite and encourage any comments or feedback on my editorials each month.

    Y’all have a great August and we will see you next month.

    Capt. Charlie Phillips. 

  • 07/07/2016 10:27 AM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    From the Crow's Nest
    by Capt. Charlie Phillips

    The crow's nest is the highest point on a vessel and used as a lookout point. As the president of Florida Guides Association (FGA) I plan to be on the lookout for hazards as well as opportunities that affect our organization. This column will be used to communicate my observations to you. Please feel free to share our newsletter with any of your friends that may also believe in our mission to protect Florida's fishery resource to the benefit of recreational angling.

    A Chance to Educate

    One of the best parts of being a charter boat captain is the opportunity to meet so many new and interesting people on an almost daily basis. I have always found it unique to our industry that we can shake hands as strangers in the wee morning hours before our departure, and return as old friends, having forged our new relationship during the day as we pursued the days target species. How many other industries can say that statement? Strangers to many time’s lifelong friends in 8 hours or less is pretty remarkable.  We are in the entertainment business and share a passion with our customers each day that is often not the case in most other service and entertainment industries.

    With that unique bond comes a unique opportunity, the ability to speak the same language with our guest of the day and have a real chance to educate on how to be a better fisherman, how to make the most of the day and the importance of conservation. It’s this last one that I want to talk on for this months “From the Crow’s Nest Piece.”

    How many of my professional captain friends have customers come on the boat each day that judge the trip by the amount of fish in the fish box or on the cleaning table? I know I do, heck many times that’s the topic of conversation on the phone as we book the trip. A lot of this I think, is natural competiveness and human nature. More is always better right!

    You know I wonder if we have all had a direct impact in this more is better mentality as it relates to sport fishing.  Recently I saw a charter boat over in the Louisiana area post a picture on social media with a banner days catch. Multiple anglers with limits of a variety of species added up to an insane amount of fish harvested and made for a darn good picture. I know that I am personally guilty of having a big day on the sheepshead, or Spanish macs and posting a picture of a full fish box, and overflowing cleaning table, especially early on in my fishing career. It’s an exciting day for a new captain, and we want to show our potential customers that we can find the fish. What an easy way to do it!!

     Now in both these two examples, no laws were broken, no rules were bent and I can’t say I will never post the “hero” shot in the future. But I am now starting to wonder if the pictures I post of the big catches help further that belief that a great days fishing must have a full cooler and overflowing cleaning table? For years that has been the example that our clients have seen us share as we advertise our businesses and talk about success on the water. It’s the pictures that are on the walls in the old fishing lodge or at the sporting goods stores we all shop at.

    Have you ever looked at those old pictures showing a few 100 plus pound tarpon hanging on the hooks for proud anglers back in the day? What would be the conversation if that same picture was posted to social media today? The fact that we are finally in 2016 holding our game fish in much higher regards is a wonderful thing. But what about our wonderful reef, bottom and table fare fish? I wonder when/if it will change that taking a picture of a full limit of bottom fish being bad juju? My hope is that if that day ever comes, it’s not due to the fact that we have horribly overfished the resource with our “more is better mentality”.

    There is nothing wrong with being proud of a successful day on the water. And as I said before, no laws are broken to showcase days like I am talking about. I will never berate my fellow sportsman for these pictures personally. We are brothers and sisters of the sport we are all so passionate about and to berate or belittle my fellow sportsman over personal opinions and beliefs only causes more division in a time and age when unity is so very important.

    I instead will use the opportunity on the boat deck each day to education my guest about the importance of self-moderation as we harvest fish we catch. I will be conscious of the fact that when I post pictures of an overflowing table I am continuing the cycle of that being the mark of a successful day. And I will try to instill to my for hire friends about the opportunity we have to teach the guest we have aboard each day about the importance of our actions today effecting our fisheries into the future.

    All this is just food for thought, and as I said, there will never be a time I will berate my fellow sportsman on being proud of a successful day. There is way too much of that going on right now, but that’s a topic for next months “From the Crow’s Nest”. Y’all have a great month and as always we enjoy your comments on our articles.

  • 06/30/2016 6:07 PM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    From the Crow's Nest
    by Capt. Charlie Phillips

    The crow's nest is the highest point on a vessel and used as a lookout point. As the president of Florida Guides Association (FGA) I plan to be on the lookout for hazards as well as opportunities that affect our organization. This column will be used to communicate my observations to you. Please feel free to share our newsletter with any of your friends that may also believe in our mission to protect Florida's fishery resource to the benefit of recreational angling.

    A Blurring Distinction

    Welcome to June, the official start of summer (though who can tell the difference down here) and this month’s edition of the Florida Guides Association newsletter and my editorial “From the Crow’s Nest “piece. I sometimes push it to the wire (much to the chagrin of Capt. Ron Presley who puts all this together each month) on what to touch on. It’s often just not an easy thing, or sometimes there’s too many things to touch on that I have a hard time focusing on just one.

    For this month, I want to touch on something I see coming in the not too distant future, vilification of those people who choose to harvest a fish, or hunt an animal that has been deemed “untouchable” by our current society.

    I know a great many of you have heard the recent news about a young boy falling into a gorilla pen in which the gorilla was put down to ensure the boys safety. Now I am not going to touch on parent’s responsibility or any of that stuff. Not my wheelhouse. What struck me about this issue was the fact that people would even question an animal’s life over that of a young boy. As a matter of fact if you took a casual look thru social media you could find some comments concerning the value of a human life over the gorillas that was downright concerning.

    When did there become any question that when a young boy falls in a gorilla pen, and there is a chance the boy could be injured or worse, on what to do? To me it’s a no brainer, but there are a great many people in our world today that seem to strongly disagree with that thinking. I am not personally a big hunter, and have a hard time anymore harvesting a deer for my freezer (turning into a big softy in my old age) but if there is ever a question on a human in danger or the life of the animal, I think you know where I am aiming. How many of you ever thought 10 years ago we would be having this conversation? I know I didn’t.

    Our world is changing, people are blurring the lines nowadays in my opinion on the role of a human vs that of wildlife. I recently saw a video of a lady who had a brown bear eating her kayak outside her house. She was trying to reason with the animal as it systematically dismantled her boat. While greatly amusing to me, again this is concerning as that blurred line is growing fuzzier and fuzzier and more and more humans think animals are people who listen to reason and react as humans do.

    Personally, (and I say this with a bit of tongue in cheek) I blame cartoons. Cartoons gave animals, human personality, gave them human emotion and human logic. For a great portion of our nation, these movies, cartoons, and social media are as close as they will ever get to being around a wild animal. Other than a Central Park Squirrel, or a San Francisco pigeon, they will never be around an actual bear, encounter a shark in the water or hear an osprey cry high overhead. Being fair, if those movies and cartoons are their only interaction, how can you blame them for forgetting these are animals and not humans.

    I know, I know, what does this have to do with fishing? We are the Florida Guides Association, not the Florida hunters group. Well we are the Florida GUIDES Association, and we do have some who make their living hunting from boats. Several of our members pay the mortgage hunting gators and ducks. Always an option and while a small part of our specific group, it is a portion.

    I recently shared via social media the fact that my wife was successful in this year’s first period gator tag lottery. Hopefully she takes me (gotta be extra nice till August), as it’s something that is going to a very special and exciting day for her. You know, I had a person I call a close friend that was extremely agitated with me that I would go hunt an alligator? They asked why I couldn’t buy my meat from farm raised stock, and leave those wild gators alone. In the conversation, I realized that their mind was made up, as was mine, and the best we could do was agree to disagree. Ten years ago would any of you thought you would get grief over harvesting a gator?

    Don’t think that just because you take a fishing pole and not a shotgun that you’re excluded. It’s starting to spill more and more over to our world as well. I recently saw where a young man fishing in Naples was cited for catching a shark from the Naples Pier. Now they have a ban on sharks coming on the pier, and its city property, their pier, their rules. I am good with that, but in reading all the comments by citizens of the area demonizing this young man for catching a shark, I saw the same mob as I see in the gorilla incident or the Cecil the Lion issue from last year. More and more it’s becoming more accepted to vilify and demonize the hunter or fisherman who is acting within the law and chooses to harvest a legal fish or game animal.

    There is nothing wrong with conservation and protection of the resource. This is what the Florida Guides Association was founded on and for. We are doing our part to ensure that as future generations hit the water, start their guide business or take their families for a day out fishing the stocks are healthy and abundant……for them to catch and release if they choose, or harvest for a meal. Whatever they personally desire and to each their own.

    I saw a few days ago, a video of a fishing team that harvested a pretty big grouper, can’t remember exactly where it was caught, or if it was a Warsaw, or black or gag. Really doesn’t matter, what does was it was an outstanding catch for an angler and I believe a tournament winning fish. They were being crucified by their fellow sportsman for harvesting the fish, for daring to bring a legal to harvest fish home to weigh in and eat, because it was big and according to a great many folks comments “earned the right to live”. This, folks is a bad bad manner to go down. Beliefs are a varied as the winds that blow around the seas, and while one person thinks a snook should never be harvested, another feels the same about a permit, another cherishes reds and on and on and on.

    Fish, game, and animals are here for a purpose. No one disagrees when I ask if the gazelle was put in place for the lion, or the rabbit for the hawk, or the fly for the spider. It’s an accepted thing that these creatures are here to provide food for the predators. That’s their role and whole purpose of existence. The lion owes its life to gazelle for without it, the mighty apex predator could not survive.

    Why are more and more people we encounter starting to get iffy on humans role in regards to fish and animals? We must do all we can to make sure we are good stewards and keepers of the lands and seas. Groups such as the FGA, CCA, SGF and many others are doing just that. Doing our part to promote conservation and love of the wild things to ensure that our kids, and our kid’s kids have the opportunities we have.

    But folks, don’t beat up your fellow sportsman for harvesting something that is perfectly legal to bring home. Teach your kids the role of humans and animals and how all must exists in unity to ensure each thrives. Give thanks to that deer, or trout, or chicken or cow for that matter that provides the meal for you and your family. And above all, if a human is in danger, do what’s necessary so that a young boy has a chance at a life. Weep for the gorilla after you take the shot. Simple stuff.

    Thanks for reading. Remember this is my personal ramblings and I always encourage feedback, agree or disagree, all are welcome. Yall have a great June and we will chat again in July.

  • 05/01/2016 11:40 AM | Anonymous

    From the Crow's Nest
    by Capt. Charlie Phillips

    The crow's nest is the highest point on a vessel and used as a lookout point. As the president of Florida Guides Association (FGA) I plan to be on the lookout for hazards as well as opportunities that affect our organization. This column will be used to communicate my observations to you. Please feel free to share our newsletter with any of your friends that may also believe in our mission to protect Florida's fishery resource to the benefit of recreational angling.

    Puttin’ Stuff Out Front 

    A dozen different people have presented a subject to me in the past month. Because of its provocative nature I thought it warranted a spot on in this month’s Crow’s Nest commentary. The purpose of this editorial is to open up topics that are sensitive, or controversial and try to meet them head on versus doing damage control later. 

    How many of my guide readers have heard someone say, “Well you just want tighter regulations on (insert various fish species here) so that you have more for your customers to catch each day?” How many of my recreational angler readers have said or thought just that comment? Its ok, you’re among friends here, and putting stuff like this right out in the sunshine for all to see and converse about is exactly what this article is written for.  

    I enjoy having these types of conversations with the people I meet, on the boat, at a show or just when Laura and I are out and about. Fishing and fishing related things are going to be the subject at some point, and I always like to ask how the particular person feels the state of their fishery is currently in and what they may see as the biggest issue that will be faced in the future. The responses are as varied as the winds, and many times can be guessed by knowing what fish the angler targets first and foremost.

     The things that an angler who targets primarily Bonefish and Tarpon finds important many times maybe different then someone looking to catch flounder, snapper and grouper. It’s all in perspective, and it’s all very understandable in motive, if we think on it for a minute. But one thing that’s not hard to see is how our recreational partners can easily mistake the intentions of charter boat operators who support increased regulations, as solely for their personal business and in increasing the bottom dollar when we don’t do the other half of that equation and educate, inform and involve them in the process. 

    As guides, we have the blessing of being on the water much more than the average angler, our office is the most beautiful backdrop Mother Nature can provide. Our desk is the deck of our boats and our tools are the rods and reels we use to connect us to the fish we are targeting with our customers. We are the envy of a great many people. We are living their dream as we run our businesses each day trying to put our clients on the best fishing opportunities our fishery and we can possibly offer. 

    Our recreational partners are often limited in their ability to get out on the water. Maybe due to work schedules, weather or other factors. For many people 1 or 2 days a week is all they have open and they look to make the most of it when they can. A fact of life for many, is they don’t have the opportunity to be as involved in the decision making processes that affect their fisheries, either in fish regulations, FWC meetings or other events. To take days off multiple times per year during the work week, to attend workshops, meetings and events regarding fisheries regulations is not an option. They also tend to see less of a fishery then a professional guide or captain, meaning they may not be as quick to see a change, or issue that may be obvious to someone on the water 5 or 6 days each week. 

    A recreational angler who fishes one day per month may have a hard time seeing how a reduction in his redfish limit from 2 to 1 per day is fair, I mean after all, he takes 24 per year at a max and sometimes it’s a hard topic to sell. The fact is that while he may only fish once per month, his retired, non-guide neighbor may fish 5 days per week, taking 10 fish per week and over 500 fish per year and is legal to do so, and his neighbor may do the same, and his the same and his the same.  It’s a volume thing, and it’s sometimes hard to see and might not have even been considered. 

    This is why it’s very important, that we, the professional guides and leaders of our industry, must take the time to talk to, listen to and involve our recreational partners at every chance possible. Even when we may disagree, and sometimes we are going to, we must be good ambassadors of the industry and make attempts to educate, inform and involve when the conversation comes up on the boat, on the dock or off the water about why a change is needed, how it impacts us all and the cost of doing nothing. 

    It’s a fact, FGA Guides are governed by the same exact rules when we leave the dock each day in state waters as our recreational neighbors and partners. While many charter boat groups and associations are endorsing catch shares and sector separation type programs, the FGA has been very vocal in opposing programs that separate the charter boats from our recreational partners. This will only further the thought that conservation is not the reason behind a group pushing increased regulation. And you know what, for many groups pushing various programs, it’s exactly right. 

    Right now, there are commercial boats in states along the gulf coast that are taking anglers aboard as crew for a day of snapper fishing and at the end of the day they may buy a portion of the catch from a fish house as an end around game. All the time, you the recreational angler are looking at a 9 day red snapper season. This is wrong, and we at the Florida Guides Association are on your side with this. One set rules for all players is what I personally believe (this is my personal opinion, not the FGAs) and I also believe that I should not be able to harvest a fish for profit that my recreational neighbor can’t take his grandson after during an afternoon trip. (Again my personal opinion) The fish and the resources belong to the people of Florida first and foremost. 

    We must all be good stewards, and we are all going to have to make concessions as we move into the future. A fact of life for us all is Florida’s population is growing, almost 20 million people in 2014 and more now I’m sure. Over 3 million licensed anglers in a 2013 data share I was able to find online, show that we must have the foresight to think much further down the road then tomorrow or next week.  We must consider the impact a year, 5 years and decades from now. We are the variable Mother Nature did not contend for; able to harvest fish at a much greater clip then she can put them back in rotation. 

    So Florida Guide Association guides, I challenge you to take the time, have the patience to have the hard conversation about why a rule or regulation change may be needed, and to explain to any who will listen as to why it’s important for our fishery now, and for the future. 

    And recreational partners, I urge you to have an open mind as you listen and talk with our guide members. Remember that the FGA Guide you are speaking with is a true ambassador of the sport we all love and is here and involved as a direct testament to their devotion in ensuring our fisheries remain sustainable for generations to come. 

    The Florida Guides Association has been the leader of the industry for guides and recreational anglers since 1991 and this is something we will ensure continues long into the future. Rest assured, that as we face the challenges of the future, when the Florida Guides Association considers a statement or position, our guide members, as well as our customers, you the recreational angler and partner, are very much a part of each and all decisions. 

  • 04/01/2016 11:34 AM | Anonymous

    From the Crow's Nest
    by Capt. Charlie Phillips

    The crow's nest is the highest point on a vessel and used as a lookout point. As the president of Florida Guides Association (FGA) I plan to be on the lookout for hazards as well as opportunities that affect our organization. This column will be used to communicate my observations to you. Please feel free to share our newsletter with any of your friends that may also believe in our mission to protect Florida's fishery resource to the benefit of recreational angling.

    I first want to say, THANK YOU!!!!!

    I have been honored to hold the helm of the FGA ship over the past year, and am honored to again carry the title of President of the Florida Guides Association for the next 12 months. I thank you for your vote of confidence, for your trust and support. We have come a long ways in a short amount of time, but we still have a lot of room to grow and improve.

    This is your association, it’s something I never forget, and never overlook. The FGA is your collective voice and for many of you (myself included), that’s why we are here.  As an individual guide, I have a voice of one person, my membership with the Florida Guides Association, multiplies that voice by every other member involved. That’s a very powerful tool in today’s complicated and political world we often find ourselves in. As we continue to grow the FGA in membership size, it increases our voice many times over. The FGA is made up professional working captains and guides and your reputations carry weight in and of themselves, put it all together in an association such as the FGA, and you have a very powerful presence for the future of our profession.

    In 2016 we doubled our membership rolls, we went from around 85 guide members to 200. That’s a powerful accomplishment. It’s motivating to me, as it tells me that we are on the right track, we are doing the things that you, the guide members see as beneficial to your business and to our industry. As we move into the coming year, one of the the big challenge we face is keeping that momentum of growth going. Membership growth provides the opportunity for many different parts of this puzzle. Of course the increased voice and presence in the industry is one key point, but it also provides more opportunity for the FGA to bring on new and better corporate members that can offer our members discounts or programs on the items they are already using. This is the key to the circle, attracting new guide members equals attracting more business partners, which brings more guides and it goes on and on and on.

    And all that said, while I personally believe in recruiting new members to the FGA and letting more out there know who we are and what we do. It’s the current membership that has been here for the long haul and there is a responsibility to make sure that you, the current guide membership is satisfied with the direction the FGA ship is heading and sees the value of continued membership. If you have an issue, if you have a suggestion I invite and encourage you to contact myself or any of the officers or board member’s to let us know. That’s our job, and that’s what we are here for. We may not have the answer you need, but we will sure have a conversation about it.

    We have a few items on the burner this year that I hope will be of interest and benefit to you. The first is the revamping of our Associate Membership program to better serve our recreational anglers that wish to be a part of the FGA. The details are still in the works, but our hope is that by increasing our roles we can add some funding to better serve our members by promoting to the public why it’s important to use a Florida Guides Association Guide for their next trip as we set up the booth at more shows in Florida as well as some outside the Sunshine State.

    Another thing we have added recently is a new website where you can go to purchase all your FGA Gear instead of having to wait for the next show or try to track me down when you need a new shirt. Check it out at for all the info.

    As we move thru the next 12 months, I want to challenge each guide members to bring one new guide member to the FGA. If we can accomplish that task, imagine where we can be next year. This is our association, and we need your help to continue the upward trend we have seen over the past 12 months.

    Again, I sincerely thank you for your trust as I do my best to man the helm of the FGA ship for the next 12 months. Should I be able to assist with anything, please let me know. Stay safe out there.

    Capt. Charlie Phillips

  • 03/01/2016 11:26 AM | Anonymous

    From the Crow's Nest
    by Capt. Charlie Phillips

    The crow's nest is the highest point on a vessel and used as a lookout point. As the president of Florida Guides Association (FGA) I plan to be on the lookout for hazards as well as opportunities that affect our organization. This column will be used to communicate my observations to you. Please feel free to share our newsletter with any of your friends that may also believe in our mission to protect Florida's fishery resource to the benefit of recreational angling.

    Water Release Issues

    Each month as I ponder a topic to write on, I try to look at big issues that are facing our membership or the charter boat industry. This month was a no brainer, as I am sure everyone is well aware of the water release issues that are currently ongoing down in the SW and SE portions of our state. These releases are a real challenge for our captains as well as the ecosystems, but they are not new, nor are they going away anytime soon. I know this is a very complicated topic, that is drawing a considerable amount of passion, but what I want to touch on is the other components of this issue that I have not heard much about, but are worth considering.

    My life immediately after high school until my dive into the charter business revolved around explosives, from clearing mines to bringing down bridges with an occasional beaver dam removal in-between, blasting was my life, and from that world, I developed some habits I still hold today. One of the greater ones that help me daily is the ability and personal requirement I have ingrained in me, to see the entire issue, challenge or job in its entirety, or in the big picture so to speak. In the explosive world, this trait is critical to retaining the connection of all ones digits to ones appendages, and while a little different in my current role, I still find it very important in manning the helm of the FGA.

    The FGA is a statewide professional association made up of both Saltwater and Freshwater fishing guides. With that in mind, has anyone considered the impact to the FGA guide members around Lake Okeechobee area when the waters are called toxic, polluted and worse? Have you thought of how that image is impacting our peers of the industry and the FGA who are trying to run charters each day to catch bass, specks and catfish? While of course we all want clean and healthy water for our fisheries to thrive in, isn’t the hit to tourism also a part of the issue with the water releases, and are some of the statements being made not having the same effect on the inland communities?

    These guys and gals are just like us, professional captains, doing the exact same job we are. Now they are put in the position of defending to potential customer’s comments by other guides, maybe of the same association, that their waters are polluted. But wouldn’t most of us agree that Lake Okeechobee is today a world class destination to catch a trophy largemouth bass, hunt for waterfowl, gig frogs or even try your hand at harvesting an alligator? I know if I had the opportunity to jump on a boat leaving Clewiston this morning to do some speck fishing, or out of Lakeport to go catch a bass, there would be no hesitation. The hard working guides of Lake Okeechobee are not being given a fair shake in this argument, nor a voice and for me, that’s very troubling.

    Have you taken a moment and considered that when we use the big catch phrases for Facebook pages, and news articles on the evils of the Ag industry we are demonizing an entire group of good people who are hardworking folks, just trying to earn an honest living. Sometimes these same people make up a portion of our customer base as charter captains. Now I know as you read that, you are saying we don’t mean that man driving a tractor plowing right now, or the folks working in the sugar mill making sure their shift is done and their family is fed. No we mean the executives and big shots in these places making the decisions that are so much the issue. Well I would ask, has anyone expressed that to that guy in the tractor, or in the mill? If it’s been done, I haven’t seen it.

     That man or woman working in a field is not our enemy and we should be very careful of making this a coastal versus inland battle, not only as we try to find an answer to this issue, but also as small business owners and professional charter captains who need these people on our boat decks to pay our bills. Imagine the impact if the Ag industry of Florida grew tired of the constant abuse and boycotted as a whole all charter boats of the state, or the FGA. I am sure the boats in Georgia, or Louisiana would love to have their business. Think that would have an impact on your business? I know it sure would to mine.

     If there’s a problem with the way management of a company or organization is operating, then call those specific people or groups out, don’t lump in the folks who have no control on any of those decisions and are just trying to pay their mortgage the same as you and I are. And don’t forget the Ag industry around Lake O is fuel suppliers, truck and equipment dealers, service industry folks, Ag supply houses as well as the sugar companies themselves. That’s a big group of people to point the finger at with general statements and titles, and you don’t have to dig very far to find out that the inland communities, and residents that have nothing to do with these decisions are not happy with the unfair demonizing that’s is currently going on.

    I also would ask our FGA members to consider as well that while this issue is ongoing, and no one cares more then you, who live and die as a result of water quality and the guest you have aboard that pay your bills, you also still have to make sure your bills are paid, and you run the trips you can if you are going to stay in business.  I think most of you agree that this issue will not go away overnight, the water must be released to protect the good folks who call the areas south Lake O home and as it stands today, there is not a good alternative. The pollutants in the water are not only on the Ag industry, but on every one of us that has a septic tank not working properly, over fertilizes our lawns to make them green and pretty or buys a home in areas that have to be drained to ensure flooding doesn’t occur. There are a lot of fingers to point in this argument and I am afraid this conversation will be ongoing for all of this year and well into the future. But with that said, as a charter captain and must make a living short term so that you are around long term to see real changes and improvements to the water issue.

    Is it not in your best interest to make sure to highlight that you’re still catching fish, your still running trips and you’re still open for business. For some of you that have other sources of income as well as what you can make on the boat, it takes a bit of the burden off, but for folks like me that need my charter income to survive, I can assure you that no matter the issue I face, I will adapt as best I can to continue my way of life, while at the same time working to fix the problems that are causing the hardship. My only other option is closing my business, so to me, there is no other alternative. You may have to change tactics or change areas short term, and I know that’s rough but in the big picture you are trying to survive in your livelihood. It is my opinion that fishing as much as you can, posting pictures of happy guest does not take away from the issue we are facing. To me it’s just self-preservation and doing what must be done as a small business owner to weather a storm, while doing what you can to find a solution.

    I take my job of manning the helm of the FGA very seriously. And I want to remind everyone reading this, we are a statewide association so we have a considerable amount of variables to consider as we encounter contentious issues. On each concern that arises, we must consider how current members are affected locally, regionally, statewide, how this may affect our members in the future and how our decisions and actions could influence those repercussions and affects. We will always act as professionals as we represent you, the members of the Florida Guides Association, as that’s what you have entrusted us to do with your membership here. But sometimes that will come as action with restraint, and action not as visible as activist and conservation only groups. We take very seriously the role of correcting issues like this; the big difference between the FGA and many recreational angler groups is we have to come at this from a business angle as well as a conservation angle. Both equally important and each depend on the other. But if a recreational angler group offends a portion of the population with an action, well, they all just yell at each other, but if the Florida Guides Association does the same, it’s much easier to target you, the professional charter captain and make you suffer for that decision right or wrong.

    I can tell you in closing that we are working on this issue, I hear your voice on this, I see your frustration and we have a plan to come up with some real answers that you will see in the next few months as we sit down with our elected officials and agency heads to find solutions. But it’s not going to be overnight, and you’re probably not going to see a FGA picket line on this issue. That doesn’t mean we are not making sure you are represented, on the contrary, it’s the FGA seeing the entire picture of the issue and representing professionals as professionals... Thanks for all your support.

    Capt. Charlie Phillips

  • 02/01/2016 11:20 AM | Anonymous

    From the Crow's Nest
    by Capt. Charlie Phillips

    The crow's nest is the highest point on a vessel and used as a lookout point. As the president of Florida Guides Association (FGA) I plan to be on the lookout for hazards as well as opportunities that affect our organization. This column will be used to communicate my observations to you. Please feel free to share our newsletter with any of your friends that may also believe in our mission to protect Florida's fishery resource to the benefit of recreational angling.

    Food for Thought

    This month I want to ask you all an important question, what does it take for you to have a great day on the water? Is it a day full of laughs and good times, does a fish box full of keepers, mean it was a good day, or maybe you have a new picture on the camera with a trophy fish. I would guess that if you asked 10 different people what the definition of a great day on the water is, you would get close to 10 different answers. Each one is right, and over time I have noticed this answer will change for most folks.

    When I first started fishing as a young boy, years ago in farm ponds in the piedmont of NC, a good day meant a five gallon bucket slap full of bream, crappie and if I was lucky maybe a big old bass. I loved pulling back into to our house to show off that big catch to my family and maybe snapping a picture or two. To me, at that time success meant having the largest quantity I could possibly have. As I got a little older and started hunting a bit, I was required by the Tarheel State to take a hunters safety class, and it was there that I read this bit of information that has stuck with me over 25 years. There are five stages of a hunter (or fisherman I now realize) and they are as follows. 

    • The shooter stage- the priority is getting off a shot, and many times this want to shoot will cause the hunter to take a shot that shouldn’t have been attempted. This is usually overcome thru mentoring and range time.
    • The limiting out stage- the hunter (or fisherman) judge’s success at this point by filling an entire bag limit or having the highest quantity of game/fish harvested possible. This stage is usually overcome by time with more experienced sportsman.
    • The trophy stage- the fisherman (or hunter) bases the entire experience on quality, not quantity. The goal is a fish or animal of trophy category and lesser quality fish and game is ignored
    • The method stage- the fisherman (or hunter) places the emphasis on the process of the game they are chasing. They may still want to limit out, but the entire emphasis is based around the process leading up to it.

    The sportsman stage- Success is measured by the total experience, the appreciation of the outdoors, the love of the fish/game being pursued, the passion of the hunt and the blessing of companionship with fellow sportsman.

    I have never forgotten this simple set of stages, and if you think about it for a minute, and are personally honest, I would bet you may know what stage you are in at the moment, and times you have gone thru various stages, sometimes even in the same day or trip. This is natural and again there is nothing wrong with that fact.

     As I look thru the stages, I think of the brand new boater for stage one, learning the water, learning to fish, they make some errors and learn on the fly. As they gain more experience and get a little more salt in their blood, they usually enter stage two. Any of Y'all have a buddy that must come back with the maximum amount of snapper or grouper in the box? I know I do. Some folks will never leave this stage, they will for eternity judge the day based on the amount of fillets in the cooler, and we as charter captains know this better than most.

     I always try to educate my guest on the importance of taking what you need for dinner, but leaving a few in the water for next time. Most folks get that, some may not and that’s ok too. It’s my opinion that we can use the moment to teach, but it’s also important not to vilify those that are within the laws and bag limits, and may not agree with our way of thinking or us with theirs. Again as charter captains, we deal with this quite often, it’s very tough sometimes to explain to a client from Indiana, who fishes one day a year, how he possibly is making a dent in the sheepshead fishery when he and his 3 buddies on the boat all want to take their 15 fish limit for 60 fish in the box. I mean he’s only fishing one day, right. But he forgets that I am on the water for hundreds of days per year, and I am one boat out of thousands. But again, all you can do is educate, and in the case of my boats, establish some bag limit rules a little more conservative than the actual regulations to make sure the customer is happy as well as leaving a few for tomorrow.

     All of us that are on the water have a love for catching a trophy, and what’s not to love with that? A big snook, a thirty-pound permit, or your first Blue Marlin, these are the fish we dream about as anglers. But how many of you still get a smile on your face when a ladyfish goes hopping all over the place on a slow day, I know I do, and I love seeing my customers (kids are the best) who think it’s the most fun thing they have ever done. I do have folks that just look at these “trash fish” with disgust, as they only want that big redfish and nothing else. That’s their perception of things for whatever reason, nothing wrong with it, just different than mine is, and that’s all. The trophy stage is something I would think we all go thru and maybe stay in more days than not, it’s still appreciating the other, not so trophy fish that I find important.

    On the method stage, I instantly think of our beloved hardcore fly fishing buddies. I throw a fly from time to time, but I will probably always prefer my old spinning reel, though to some in the fly world this is blasphemy. They are very focused on the process, very focused on the procedure. Nothing at all wrong with this, lots of artificial guys are the same exact way. I have a good friend who comes with me from time to time on backcountry trips, and he always brings the fly rod, not long ago, we were in an area and were using some ladyfish for cut bat targeting redfish, I told him he couldn’t tell his buddies at the fly shop what we were doing or they would revoke his membership card, and I’ll be darned if he didn’t catch grief when his peers learned he dared use a piece of cut ladyfish. I got a good laugh out of that, at his expense of course. I have a lot of respect for the passion, thought and process my fly-fishing friends put into their work. They are artist, and the ones that come to mind for me will be in this stage I would think for the rest of their lives. The method is their passion.

    The final stage, the sportsman stage is where I like to think I am now. I am happy on the deck of my boat, I love being on the water each day, seeing the Everglades each morning. Watching the spoonbills on the bar as I head out to meet the sunrise, hearing the turtles, manatees and dolphins exhale on a quiet day in the backcountry. Seeing a tarpon roll on a morning where the water is like glass in a back bay. These are the things that I cherish. I absolutely love taking a new angler into our fishery for a day on the water. There is nothing better to me than seeing a 60 year old man, almost giddy with excitement about his 100th time fishing the 10,000 Islands, reminding me in a lot of ways of the 12 year old boy I had on the previous day who was experiencing his first time in the Glades and has the thrill of the day before him. These are the things that I hold most dear, and can never get enough of. Of course I am running a charter boat, and we have expectations we must meet, but I never lose sight of the fact that for me, I think the fishing is only 50% of the service I am offering. I really try to instill the passion I have for the beauty surrounding us to the folks I bring aboard each day.

    I hope you all take a look at these stages, think about maybe where you are, where you would like to be, and help educate a fellow sportsman on enjoying the experience to the fullest. We are so very blessed to live in the Fishing Capital of the World, and for my FGA Guide member family, we are living the dream of so many thru the nation each and every day. That’s something I never take for granted.  Y'all take care this month, and come see us at the annual meeting in Tampa on March 6th. And, as always thanks for your support of the Florida Guides Association. 

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