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Erin B

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Brett Fitzgerald

Brett Fitzgerald is the Executive Director of the Snook & Gamefish Foundation.

Executive Director of the Snook & Gamefish Foundation, Brett Fitzgerald, explains the concept of Ales for Anglers and shares easy ways to contribute to waterway conservation while keeping track of your good days on the water.


SB: Please tell me about the Snook & Gamefish Foundation and describe how it aids the fishing and boating community.

BF: The Snook & Gamefish Foundation began as a fundraiser for MOTE marine laboratory in Sarasota, Florida, but shifted its focus to raising awareness for anglers rather than strictly raising funds for NOAA. Today it partners with mariners and anglers by laterally transmitting info from them straight to NOAA via the Angler Action Program. The personal logs of boaters and fishermen directly aids the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) in its pursuit to better maintain the waterways each mariner uses. The Snook & Gamefish Foundation acts as a liaison between waterway conservation and human use to leave our waters in a better state than they are now for our future generations.

SB: In what ways do the personal logs of mariners and anglers directly partner with NOAA?

BF: The Snook & Gamefish Foundation has created the Angler Action Program, which is a data collection database where users log their trip information, which is used for state-level stock assessments. It allows mariners and anglers to be personally involved, and creates ownership in waterway management. The information logged by the anglers is used by the government to set laws, and the immediate, accurate reports helps avoid overfishing, but also doesn’t punish anglers with unnecessary closures or restrictions. It also helps us identify where habitats are damaged or water quality is poor, in which cases our foundation and NOAA can intervene to positively impact the boating experience across the board—whether you are fishing, diving, snorkeling, etc.

SB: Tell me more about the upcoming Ales for Anglers event March 29th in Boca Raton, Florida. How did the Snook & Gamefish Foundation become involved and what was the process of turning this concept into reality?

BF: Well it all started with a conversation I had with Sally, owner of BX Beer Depot in Lake Worth, Florida, last December. I love good beer as much as I love being on the water and Sally shared my sentiments. We were discussing how “beer fests” are kind of stressful now—packed with crowds rushing from vendor to vendor to get their money’s worth—and to me, a craft beer festival isn’t about rushing; it’s about enjoying. I basically said, ‘Someone should have an event like this …’ and I described a Florida-brew-only festival with live music and minimal crowds, and Sally added that she had the beer connections but she just needed a charitable organization to benefit. ‘I have a charitable organization!’ I piped in, and thus Ales for Anglers was born.

By the end of that night, we had a plan to combine local home-brews and talented Florida musicians to raise awareness and funds for the Snook & Gamefish Foundation, along with a handful of other noteworthy marine groups. Today, with the festival only a few weeks away, we have 10 environmental non-profit organizations with booths at the event, over 100 volunteers, and no promoters—making this a real grassroots community event. Although, I did have a woman from Germany call because she couldn’t buy a ticket online; I told her I would reserve one for her at the door … who would’ve expected that!

SB: How did you and your team choose the musicians and craft brews that will headline?

BF: We are featuring breweries from all over Florida’s coast—Pensacola, Jacksonville, Fort Lauderdale, and Due South in Boynton Beach has been overwhelmingly helpful, as many others have. They are all very excited to participate, as many live near the water. JJ Grey is a performer from Jacksonville who has a huge following, and he is on the board of our foundation. He was thrilled to help our cause and pair his musical influence with a great marine charity. Rock Brothers Brewery is a company that brings brewers together with musicians to create a “celebrity beer” and is featuring a “JJ beer” at the event, which will be really unique. We are going to have a lot of exclusive offerings like that, which should attract a decent crowd to relax and also learn more about what goes on underneath the water we all love.

SB: What are your personal hopes or expectations for the event’s inaugural year?

BF: First, I hope it becomes an annual event. Second, I want people to leave with a smile on their faces. Third, I want people who come for one thing to leave loving another thing. For example, if someone comes because they love craft brews, I want them to leave loving the musicians they saw and recognizing the importance of waterway conservation. I’m also really hoping not to lose money and to provide a comfortable, enjoyable environment. I’m very passionate about promoting today’s angler as the “conservation-oriented angler” and I hope our foundation and the 10 other non-profits at the event will encourage people to become passionate, also.

SB: What do you think participants of the Ales for Anglers event can expect? Are you excited for anything in particular?

BF: On the beer side of things, I think people should expect some incredibly unique and tasty choices. I really encourage everyone to come at the beginning for the free home-brew sampling at 2:30, because these aren’t amateurs brewing in their garage; these are brewers on the verge of breaking into the business, and they have well-crafted offerings made uniquely for this event and the cause it serves. I also think everyone should expect to be blown away by the musicians. They each have something really diverse to offer and JJ is one of the best, most engaged performers I’ve ever seen. I am excited for people to learn about the benefits of waterway and ecosystem conservation, and the balance between activity (whether boating or fishing or watersports, etc.) and conservation efforts. Most people think you either have to be a tree-hugger or an active mariner, but they really go hand-in-hand.

SB: How can boat owners become involved with the Snook & Gamefish Foundation and/or Ales for Anglers? Also, is there a way for individuals who are passionate about the water but do not own a boat to get involved?

BF: Boat owners who also like to fish (which is a large majority in the South)—no matter how frequently or infrequently—can immediately get involved by logging their boat trips on our Angler Action Program through the Snook & Gamefish Foundation’s website. A boater can input tides, weather, moon phases, sunsets, catches, and anything else about their trip to keep a personal log. It acts as a powerful tool that helps boaters (mainly fishermen) become more efficient, while also aiding in vital fishery information that the government and organizations use on a daily basis.

SB: How often do you frequent the water? Do you own a boat? If so, what is the name and make?

BF: I own a skiff boat and I try to fish and dive off it as much as I can with my wife and kids, but we boat more than anything else. We just enjoy days on the water together and try to make it out there as much as possible. We also love to charter boats or rent a pontoon on a lake, and we make it our family mission to visit as many places in and around Florida’s waters as possible. We are looking forward to lots of boating this summer!

SB: What is one of your fondest memories or favorite stories working for the Snook & Gamefish Foundation?

BF: I give a lot of talks and seminars about what we do and why we do it, and afterward people always share their personal fishing stories, which I enjoy. I think my favorite part is meeting the children who are positively impacted and see them connect with their parents through time on the water together. I also enjoy experiencing the paradigm of what a responsible fisherman and woman is, and I am proud of today’s anglers and boating community.

By Christine Carpenter, Southern Exposure March 2014

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Gumdrop introduces their brand new marine series of durable, weatherproof iPad cases with easy access buttons and an adjustable stand. The double layer of rugged protection, waterproof sealing clamps, port plugs, and quick-release boat mounts are designed for the roughest of seas and on-the-go land excursions. These impact resistant cases will fit the iPad 3 and 4, as well as the iPad Air. MSRP $149.95; gumdropcases.com

Southern Boating March 2014

Frigibar Bench-style Freezer & Refrigerator

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Frigibar’s  bench-style freezer and refrigerators have sleek looks and high-quality finishes to preserve your onboard perishables. The heavy-duty, top-opening units come in Ensign, Skipper, Captain, or Commodore models from 40″ to 80″ long to complement your vessel’s design. They double as seating and utilize fiberglass construction to withstand rust in salty environments, maintain zero-degree temperatures in direct southern sun, and have a porcelain-smooth finish. MSRP starting at $4,445;  frigibar.com

Southern Boating March 2014

Youth anglers can join the club in Maryland

There’s nothing like landing that first big one yourself, even when it turns out to be a little smaller than expected. Photo: Christopher Knauss

The next generation may be wired differently (maybe that should be wireless), but they still appreciate time with the older people, especially when it comes to fishing, boating and otherwise enjoying the great outdoors. To help create more outdoor adventures, Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has organized a fishing club open to all youth between the ages of 5 and 15. Membership is free and each new member will receive a Maryland Youth Fishing Club Patch. Special youth events are scheduled throughout state waters, and young anglers are encouraged to share their fishing stories and photos on the DNR’s Youth Angler’s Log. Members who submit a photo and short summary of their fishing trip to the log are entered to win a $50 Bass Pro Shop gift card. Winners are randomly chosen four times a year.

In addition, each month the DNR will select at least one club member who submitted a post to the log to be part of the youth component of the 2014 Maryland Fishing Challenge. The members selected were invited to attend the final event for a chance to win one of several mentored fishing trips at Sandy Point State Park in conjunction with the Maryland Seafood Festival. Complete information is available on the DNR website. dnr.state.md.us

Time to learn

Chilly months on the Chesapeake are a great time to visit the indoor boat shows throughout the region, and they are also a fine time to learn more about boating and fishing. Show organizers often schedule seminars presented by skilled local anglers and mariners offering practical advice. Local fishing clubs offer flea market events and seminar fundraisers. The Annapolis chapter of the Maryland Saltwater Sportfishing Association hosts its annual fishing expo in February at the Annapolis Elks Lodge, which features seminars by some of the most respected anglers and guides on the bay, as well as oodles of fishing tackle offered by local dealers. Another good way to get ready for warmer temperatures is to take an online or face-to-face boating course sanctioned by the U.S. Coast Guard or U.S. Power Squadron. For instance, Virginia offers a course recommended for students 12 years of age and older who want to learn more about the fundamentals of safe and responsible boating. According to the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF), a typical course lasts 6-8 hours with exam time depending on the class location and instructor. A schedule of courses is available on the DGIF website. dgif.virginia.gov

By Christopher Knauss, Southern Boating February 2014

Vintage Weekend 2013

A Rolls Royce is one of the many things you would encounter at the Vintage Weekend.

The Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo, Florida, hosts yet another Annual Vintage Weekend in grand style.

Having celebrated its 19th year this past December, the Annual Vintage Weekend is one of those must-attend events for admirers of classic conveyances by water, land and air. The private Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo, Florida, makes an exception to its members-only policy for this yearly four-day event held the first weekend in December and welcomes non-members to stay at the resort Inn with the additional purchase of an event ticket. It’s a rare treat to have access to the posh club’s 2,500-acre oceanfront location, which includes two championship golf courses, shops, restaurants, an airfield, and 175-slip marina just steps away from the Inn.

“Vintage Weekend was originally started to attract people to the resort on a traditionally slow weekend prior to the December holidays. Three Ocean Reef members each had an interest in vintage collectibles and attended events in other parts of the country, so they invited attendees to attend ours,” says Molly Carroll, Ocean Reef Executive Director of Communications. “This year we had more exhibitors than in the last few years, and we encourage people to register early starting in February for the December event.”

This was the first such event for Frank Gallagher, who brought his 1947 Piper Super Cruiser airplane. Based in Valkaria, Florida, Frank heard about the event through his membership with the Florida Cub Flyers Club. “I’m very impressed with Vintage Weekend’s good organization and how welcoming the staff is,” says Frank, who promises he’ll be back again in 2014.

Following the Thursday evening welcome party, Friday kicked off with a road rally of some of the vintage cars to Alabama Jack’s for lunch, a notorious and notable roadside haven for cold beer, conch fritters and all things deep-fried. Afternoon shopping and sangrias back at the Ocean Reef Fishing Village were a hit, as was the poolside reception Friday evening, where guests were entertained by mermaids in the pool and greeters costumed in Hollywood-inspired apparel, some of whom suspiciously resembled resort staff.

The 2013 Vintage Weekend fleet of cars, planes and boats totaled 128, including the oldest, a 1911 28′ Sterling boat. A return visitor—the 1949 37′ Rybovich Legend owned by Larry and Lynne Mullins—holds distinction as the oldest Rybovich still afloat and was originally built as Clary Jo for alleged Chicago mob boss Tony Accardo.

On Saturday most of the boats were open for viewing. Hundreds of automobile aficionados attended the spectacular Concours d’Elegance of vintage cars on the red carpet and heard the stories behind them. One of the most memorable—a 1963 Chevrolet Impala Super Sport—won the award for “Hottest American Love Story” and is owned by Derek Wachob. His father previously owned the car and proposed to Derek’s mother in it. He then sold it to buy a trailer for them to live in. Unbeknownst to his father, Derek finally found the car after a 10-year search, restored it, and surprised his parents, who rode in it on their 50th wedding anniversary during Vintage Weekend.

Airplane devotees were treated to a fly-over by vintage craft during an alfresco beach luncheon at Ocean Reef’s Buccaneer Island grill—aeronautic stunts and spirals thrilled the crowd—after which commentators gave more detailed descriptions at the airfield.

One of the most anticipated events of the weekend has always been the Saturday evening costumed cocktail reception and dinner dance at the Town Hall, and many went all out for the event’s “Vintage Weekend Goes to the Movies” theme. This was Ocean Reef members Bill and Maureen Goldfarb’s seventh year at the event, and each year they try to outdo the previous year’s costumes. “Every year we bring close friends and expose them to this great event that Ocean Reef puts on. It’s all about sharing the event with others,” said the Goldfarbs, who brought three couples from around the country and dressed in western movie-themed costumes. Another group dressed as some of Disney’s 101 Dalmatians and even rode to the Town Hall on the 1924 Ahrens-Fox NS4 Fire Truck owned by William Kinney, which won the People’s Choice Award.

The presentation of awards at breakfast Sunday morning was the final event of the weekend, highlighting the many new friendships that had been forged during the previous three days. The 1957 Chris Craft Polly Graf won the Spectator’s Choice Award and was seen again during Fort Lauderdale’s Winterfest Boat Parade. Chicago, Illinois-based owners J.R. and Dawn Davis are huge proponents of boating, and Polly Graf has been in the same family for 49 years. The John Trumpy Award went to Elegante, a 1964 Whiticar owned by Pat and Bill Anton, who gave credit to the crew for the boat’s pristine condition. “It’s all due to them,” Bill says, just one more example of the type of sharing Vintage Weekend always brings.

The 2014 Vintage Weekend is scheduled for December 4-7. For more information, contact Ocean Reef Club membership services at (305) 367-2611, or visit oceanreef.com.

By Liz Pasch, Southern Boating February 2014

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