latest news

  • 12/16/2016 8:34 PM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    For-hire pilot project underway; measures approved for mutton snapper; 
    scoping options for red snapper 

    Federally permitted charter vessels in the snapper grouper, dolphin wahoo, and coastal migratory pelagic (mackerel and cobia) fisheries along the Atlantic Coast will have the opportunity to electronically report their fishing activities, including landings and discards, beginning in mid-2017. Mandatory reporting for the federally permitted charter vessels will begin in 2018. That's the intent of the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council after it approved measures to implement the reporting program during its meeting this week in Atlantic Beach, North Carolina. If approved by the Secretary of Commerce, the reporting requirements proposed in the For-Hire Electronic Reporting Amendment are expected to improve the accuracy and timeliness of data available for management and stock assessments, allow better monitoring of landings and discards, and allow managers to more accurately assess the impacts of regulations on the for-hire industry in federal waters.

    Currently for-hire charter vessels, commonly referred to as "6-pack" vessels for the number of customers they are allowed to carry, are considered part of the recreational fishery for data collection purposes and there are no logbook reporting requirements. Getting a handle on the amount of fish harvested and sometimes even more importantly, the number of fish released by offshore recreational fishermen is a daunting task. Estimates are made using data collected through a combination of dockside intercepts, telephone surveys and most recently, mail surveys - all conducted through NOAA Fisheries' Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP). Data from federally permitted charter vessels are currently included as part of the MRIP along with data estimates for private recreational anglers.

    The new reporting requirements are expected to affect approximately 2,000 charter vessels with Federal For-Hire Permits. Federally permitted headboats or "party boats" that carry more than six customers are currently required to submit weekly electronic reports through the Southeast Region Headboat Survey. The For-Hire Reporting Amendment would also change reporting deadlines for headboats to improve timeliness of reporting.

    "We realize that implementing a reporting program affecting nearly 2,000 charter vessels will take time," said Mel Bell, Chair of the Council's Data Collection Committee and representative for the SC Department of Natural Resources' Marine Resources Division. "Having a voluntary program in place for next year will provide an opportunity for NOAA Fisheries to address any reporting system issues and allow charter captains the chance to become familiar with the reporting system," explained Bell. "We intend to keep reporting as simple as possible by providing a platform that will allow captains to complete electronic reports while offshore or at home on their computers and avoiding duplicative reporting requirements."

    The Council received an update on a pilot electronic reporting project currently being conducted in partnership with the Atlantic Coast Cooperative Statistics Program and the States of SC, GA, and FL. A total of 24 charter vessels from North Carolina to the Florida Keys are participating, using onboard tablets to test software and ease of reporting. The project also involves testing a dockside validation mobile app, an electronic measuring board, and a mobile app for law enforcement. The Council is pursuing additional program funding for outreach and training relative to implementation of the for-hire reporting requirement.

    After reviewing public comment and much discussion, the Council requested that staff develop a white paper to begin outlining information on limited entry options for federal for-hire permits in the snapper grouper fishery. The Council's Snapper Grouper Committee will continue discussions during its 2017 meetings. The Council decided not to pursue limited entry for Dolphin Wahoo and Coastal Migratory Pelagic for-hire permits at this time.

    Mutton Snapper, Red Snapper, and Other Actions  

    The Council approved Snapper Grouper Amendment 41 for review by the Secretary of Commerce. The amendment addresses management measures for mutton snapper and includes regulations to designate April through June as spawning months, retain mutton snapper in the 10-snapper aggregate bag limit and set the mutton snapper bag limit at 5 per person per day year round, specify a commercial trip limit during the spawning months of 5 per person per day with a trip limit of 500 pounds during the "regular season" (non-spawning season months), and increase the minimum size limit for mutton snapper from 16 inches to 18 inches total length. 

    Discussions continued on options for the red snapper fishery. The fishery remains closed in federal waters. Additional management measures or modifications to current management measures are needed to reduce the large number of dead discards contributing to the stock's overfishing status as the stock continues to rebuild. The Council will solicit public input during a series of in-person scoping meetings scheduled for January and February 2017.

    Public hearings will be held in conjunction with the January/February scoping meetings on allocation measures for yellowtail snapper. The Council had initially included both yellowtail snapper and dolphin in a joint amendment to address allocations after the commercial fishery was closed for both species in 2015. The Council will continue to address allocation measures for dolphin during its March 2017 meeting. In addition, the Council approved Visioning Amendments for public scoping with measures for both commercial and recreational snapper grouper fisheries as a part of the Council Vision Blueprint for the Snapper Grouper Fishery. Scoping for the Visioning Amendments will be held via webinar. Schedules for the public hearings and scoping meetings will be publicized as they are finalized.

    The Council decided not to move forward with a proposed change to the fishing year for Atlantic cobia, noting the efforts of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) to develop a complementary management plan to allow additional flexibility for state management considerations. The fishing year change may be addressed at a later date if necessary. The ASMFC is currently soliciting public input on proposed measures.

    The next Council meeting is scheduled for March 6-10, 2017 at the Westin Jekyll Island, Jekyll Island, Georgia. Final committee reports and other materials from this week's meeting are available from the Council's website.  Read further details and see images and other related meeting links by viewing the December 2016 Council Meeting Round-up Story Map.

    The December 2016 Meeting Report is also available from the website.

  • 11/03/2016 12:39 PM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    A Time for Thanks
    by Captain Charlie Phillips

    November is a month that revolves around several big dates, Election Day (which can’t get here and be gone soon enough) Veterans Day and of course Thanksgiving. In the spirit of the last one, I wanted to strike a different tone for this months From the Crow’s Nest piece and give thanks.             

    I am first and foremost thankful to live in the greatest nation this world has ever known. During my time in the service, I had countless opportunities to travel abroad to different lands, seeing new cultures and meeting new folks. While I did see some beautiful and amazing sights, and encountered some wonderful people along the way, there is no place like home.

    Growing up in rural Silk Hope, North Carolina, my folks gave me a 22 rifle, a fishing pole, a four wheeler and the freedom to roam the dirt roads, terrorizing the squirrels and fishing every pond that was in our zip code. I was given the ability to learn life’s lessons in a wonderful community full of hard working Americans who were the definition of the quote, “It takes a village to raise a child.” To me this time was the groundwork of where I learned what hard work, work ethic and community meant. It’s the gold standard for me still today and I am so very thankful for this foundation as I get older and a bit wiser. 

    I am thankful that I had the opportunity to serve our great nation, to be in the company of heroes, and to learn what selfless service, discipline, and warrior spirit really mean. I am thankful I was able to return home when my time was done, with the freedom to live where I chose, worship how I felt best, and work in the field I wanted. These freedoms are so many times taken for granted as they are so basic to us in this country, but we should never forget there are millions in this world that will never have an inkling of what we have today.

    I am thankful for meeting my wife Laura, who helped, encouraged and pushed me to fulfill my dreams of obtaining my USCG Masters license and opening our own charter fishing business down in the Everglades National Park. I started my business off in the crème de la crème of the fishing world, living in Everglades City in the heart of the Everglades, knowing now the passion and mystique that so many others feel when they think of the Everglades and 10,000 islands I realize how sacred a place this is and am thankful to call it home. I am grateful to have a good fishery that still challenges me each day. Great customers who are loyal to our business and feel much more like fishing with a friend than with clients and a community that embraces the importance of guides, fishing and tourism.

    I am thankful to the founders of the FGA who over 25 years ago had the vision to see the importance of joining voices and coming together for a greater good. Ensuring the resources we all love and cherish are available long after we are gone. I am thankful for Captain Pat Kelly welcoming me into the Florida Guides Association in 2008 when I first come to work a show booth. He and Mrs. Pat have worked tirelessly the past 20 years to ensure the FGA stayed viable and relevant so that we, the next generation of leaders can steer the ship into the future and continue the legacy of the best professional guide and captains group there has ever been. I am thankful that he, and the other leaders, had the faith and belief  to invite me to step into a leadership position when I first was honored to join the board.

    I am thankful to all of you that support the mission of the Florida Guides Association. Our captain and guide members each are here for their own reason, but your membership provides the opportunity for the FGA to represent not only our industry, but also our recreational friends, neighbors and customers as well.

    I am thankful of your faith in your leadership to represent you, and your patience as we grow the FGA into the future. In the past few years we have come from 80 guide members to over 200, a wonderful achievement that’s totally due to your faith, loyalty and belief in the mission of the FGA. We still have miles to go though, as we all know, that 200 guides is barely scratching the surface of those who carry the title Capt. in the Sunshine State. With your help, I hope one day see that number soar well over the one thousand member mark.

    I am thankful for the current leadership and active members of the FGA who selflessly volunteer their time to attend meetings, work shows, help teach kids and take the time to spread the word of who the Florida Guides Association is and what we do. You are the best commercial the FGA could ever have, and the fact that you give your time freely shows that what we are doing here is worthwhile. 

    I am thankful to have had and have the pleasure of steering this great ship we call the FGA. It’s an honor I do not take lightly and lose sleep wondering if I am doing all I can to serve our members, protect our resources and ensure our ability to enjoy the fisheries we all love continues into the future. 

    I am thankful for those of you that take the time to read this editorial each month, and even more for those that send feedback, positive or negative as it helps me get the pulse of who you are, and what you find important. Every month as I search for inspiration on what to write, its knowing so many out there see the importance in what the FGA is doing that inspire the idea to write the next sentence. You, are the backbone, the heart and soul of the Florida Guides Association and for that we are all so very thankful.

    And finally, I am thankful, and always a little amazed, that we get to take people fishing for a living. We pay our bills, keep the lights on taking strangers in search of a fish each day. If that’s not something you can be thankful for, then I don’t know what to say!! 

    I wish you all a wonderful month. Remember to thank a veteran on the 11th and save some turkey for me on Thanksgiving. Hope to see you on the water.

    Capt. Charlie Phillips

  • 10/03/2016 3:28 PM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    I am at my best, at my happiest when I am on the water. It’s the place that never fails to amaze me, never fails to show me something new, lets me experience something fresh. Taking guest out each day is a blessing that can hardly be expressed in words. How lucky are we that get to do this… and get paid for it on top of that? It’s the dream of so many, the reality for a very small few. But the life of a charter captain is not all monster fish, happy customers and generous tips. Nope more often its long days, broken stuff, and internal panic as you try to find fish that were just here yesterday!!

    For this months “From the Crow’s Nest” piece, I wanted to touch on the topic of the “romantic” title of being called a Charter Captain and Professional Guide and what we can do to make our businesses and the FGA even stronger.

    Up at 0400, out the door by 0430. Boat launched and in the water by 0515, gear placed, everything wiped down and ready for guest 0545. At the bait shop by 0600, back at the dock and waiting for my guest by 0630. Guest arrive 0645 and we depart, back to the dock at 1500, clean fish and shake hands with everyone. Guest depart by 1600, wash the boat, gas the boat, rig tomorrows gear and load back on trailer and back home about 1730. Only a 13.5 hour day.

    I am going to bet, that this is pretty typical for most of our FGA Guide Members out there. Of course there are some variations to the schedule as many are running double trips, net bait before the guest arrive etc. etc. but the basics are pretty much the same. The days are long, the work is hard and the rewards are earned each and every trip. But for a great many of us, there is nothing we think is better in this world. We love the work, we love the challenge, we love the guest and we love pursuing the fish. It’s a primal thing I think, our desire to hunt, to out-think, to outsmart a wild creature, and add to that, taking someone with us who has never even been on a boat or held a fishing rod in their life and with our guidance and experience is able to have a shot at success, man that’s as good as it gets!!

    But every day is not roses and sunshine and unless you are running someone else’s boat, the price to play is high and going up each and every year. From filling the gas tank, to icing the box, new rods and reels, boat registrations, CPR and First Aid classes, outboard repairs, charter insurance, slip fees the list goes on and on and on. And going back to that 13.5 hour day and just using a random average full day rate of $700 divided by those 13.5 long hours’ converts to $51.85 per hour.

    Now to the average person that may seem like some very high wages for simply taking folks fishing but that’s gross not net of course, and all that stuff I just mentioned has to be taken out and paid for. Fuel is usually the biggest daily expense, followed by bait and ice and gear and on and on. If you cut that $700 in half for expenses and divide again by the 13.5 hour day now we are at $25.92 per hour. Again to someone working a 9 to 5 on the hill a pretty high rate for taking folks fishing each day, but don’t forget guides don’t get sick days, they don’t get pension plans and benefits packages. AND even the best of the best will have days where no one books a trip.

    Carrying the title of Captain/Guide for those that run their own charters, means being CEO and chief toilet scrubber all at the same time. It’s a lifestyle, and not for everyone. Only a small majority make it in the industry for a variety of reasons. Great fisherman are not always great guides as it’s not what you can catch, but what you can teach you guest how to catch. Those that don’t know their cost, don’t usually make it, and those that don’t save up for slow times don’t make it. Also I have found those that don’t constantly find an edge that separates themselves and their business from the pack will struggle.

    When I started my charter business years back, I joined the Florida Guides Association solely for more visibility and exposure. Over the years that has changed, but at the time the website listing was a big help in getting my name out. From there I started attending every show the FGA set the booth up at. While it cost me in gas and a day off the water, I quickly found that booking trips with folks that stopped by a show was far easier than over the phone or via an email.

    These are easy ways that every FGA member can utilize their FGA membership to try and work on increasing their trip count. If we have a booth, as a member you can participate and represent the FGA and pass out your business cards and talk with attendees about your fishery and business. You also are encouraged to send us fishing reports to showcase what’s the hot bite in your area, again an easy and free way to present yourself to all the readers of this newsletter. Our Facebook page is another, for all you social media gurus, post of video of a happy customer, send us a picture and we will share it and help you promote yourself.

    Few ever take advantage of these opportunities and I find that a puzzling thing. All of us catch fish, have boats and fishing rods, again it’s what you can do to increase your charter business a little ahead of your competitor. For me, I will never turn down an opportunity that presents itself. Don’t get me wrong, it’s never at a good time, and will often result in lost sleep and extra work, but I want to be here 20 years from now and nothing good is ever easy. If I have an opportunity to write an article, assist with a show or attend an event, I am your guy.

    The FGA wants to see you succeed, for with your success comes your continued support of the FGA mission. We cannot do what we do without you, and we are working very hard to be a help in running your business. All the shows and events the FGA attends are to not only promote the FGA to new guides and captains but also to let the recreational sector know that when they seek a guide, it should be a FGA guide. And in 2017 we will start for the first time attending shows in other states for the sole purpose of telling the recreational sector who we are and why they should seek out an FGA guide for their next trip.

    As the President of the Florida Guides Association, I never forget that it is OUR association. As a guy who has personally struggled, scratched and clawed to secure his personal business a secure footing for the future, it’s very important to me that as a large professional association we do all we can to help in any way we can our members be successful in their business. Quoting a favorite song lyric, “when you get where you’re going, don’t forget to turn back around, and help the next one in line” is one of the best examples the responsibility we all have in guaranteeing the next string of Captains and Guides have the opportunities we do today. You old salts teaching the rookies, and you rookies taking the time to listen.

    The job we have is a tough one, very few of us will ever be rich, very few will ever be famous or a household name. But my gosh, doesn’t it seem like a dream sometimes when the seas are calm, the fish are chewing and clients are smiling? As a matter of fact, “living the dream” is my unofficial motto.. As long as people are calling you Captain and Guide, the FGA will be here to support you. For 25 years we have been the leader of the industry and with your continued support we will only grow.

    Thank you for all you do out there each and every day. Thank you for the hard work, thank you for taking guest out each day and doing all you can to help them find success, and getting them back to the dock safely and responsibly. Thank you for your support of the Florida Guides Association. As always any feedback is always welcomed and if I can assist with anything, don’t hesitate to ask.

  • 10/01/2016 3:40 PM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    We are often asked, “What is the role of NOAA Fisheries (NOAA) in managing protected species?” The answer is complex as NOAA participates in a variety of management activities. Here, we will take a look at how the agency protects endangered smalltooth sawfish while working towards its recovery.

    NOAA listed the smalltooth sawfish as an endangered species in April 2003, after scientists determined that the species was at risk of extinction. The main reasons for the decline of this species were bycatch mortality and habitat loss. The listing triggered several required actions for NOAA under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), including designating critical habitat and developing a recovery plan. A recovery plan was published in January 2009, after years of development and input from the public. It was then followed by a final rule to designate critical habitat in September of that same year. The combination of these three documents (listing rule, critical habitat rule, and recovery plan) provides the groundwork for the conservation of this species.

    NOAA has a two-pronged approach to conservation under the Act, (1) stop further declines in abundance (protect), and (2) increase abundance to historical numbers (recover). The first objective (protection) is largely conducted under Section 7 of the ESA. This section tells federal agencies to use their authorities to promote conservation and to find out whether any action they authorize, fund, or carry out has the potential to affect protected species. This includes federal activities like issuing in-water construction permits for docks or marinas (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers), setting water quality criteria (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency), and developing management plans for public lands (National Park Service). If any federal action has the potential to affect smalltooth sawfish (or any other ESA-listed species) or its critical habitat, that agency is required to consult with NOAA before any action moves forward. These consultation periods can last from several weeks to several months depending on the complexity of the action. Through this process, NOAA is able to work with federal agencies to minimize and avoid negative effects to protected species. If impacts are unavoidable, the process provides a way for the agency to monitor any critical habitat loss or mortality associated with individual projects.

    An example of the Section 7 process can be observed in the waters you might fish around Everglades National Park. In this case, the National Park Service drafted a management plan to care for the park and its resources, including the chickees. Because in-water construction activities associated with building chickees could affect smalltooth sawfish, the National Park Service entered into consultation with NOAA. During the assessment we agreed with the park’s decision that although the actions associated with the management plan could affect smalltooth sawfish, that they were not likely to adversely affect the species. With consultation complete the National Park Service put their management plan into action and can now repair chickees without further NOAA approval.

    NOAA is involved in a number of other activities associated with recovering smalltooth sawfish. This started with forming a multi-agency team that developed the recovery plan. The plan has served as a roadmap for sawfish recovery by identifying three main objectives for recovery: (1) minimize injury and mortality from human interaction, (2) protect and/or restore sawfish habitat, and (3) increase abundance.

    NOAA and its partners are engaged in ongoing efforts to minimize injury and mortality from human interaction. These efforts include working with the commercial fishing industry and raising awareness in the recreational fishing community. We have started a variety of outreach programs aimed at reducing injury and mortality, including an assortment of outreach products to encourage safe handling, safe release if caught, and reporting of any sawfish catches. The reports of any encounter (capture or sighting) are crucial for NOAA to track the status of the population and its recovery.

    To track progress in achieving recovery objectives 2 and 3, NOAA supports and participates in a number of research projects. These projects provide information on habitat needs, population abundance, and the response of sawfish to recovery actions. Some research projects are conducted by NOAA personnel while others are led by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission or universities. All agencies conducting research on sawfish must go through a rigorous application process to secure the necessary permits to sample and handle a protected species. The information collected from these projects is used in monitoring the status of the population as well as making management and recovery decisions.

    Now that we’ve presented a brief overview of how NOAA protects smalltooth sawfish, you might find yourself asking “how can I become involved?” First, if you capture a sawfish, leave it in the water and release it as quickly as possible. To safely release sawfish we encourage fishermen to cut the line as close to the hook as possible. This reduces the possibility of injury to both themselves and the animal. Before release, estimate the length of the sawfish and look for tags on the dorsal fins. Then, we ask fishermen to report their encounters (1-941-255-7403 or—both sightings and incidental captures. We use your reports to help track recovery progress.

    Some fishermen have expressed concern that reporting encounters will result in the closure of favorite fishing locations. NOAA has already listed the species and designated critical habitat and neither of these actions has resulted in any closed fishing areas for recreational anglers. Your encounter reports will only be used to track recovery and steer research efforts, which will ultimately benefit the species and the areas in which you fish. We are confident that NOAA and recreational anglers can work together to recover smalltooth sawfish so future generations can experience the thrill of encountering such a unique animal.

    For further information about the biology of sawfish, safe release guidance, and reporting please see our website at sawfish.

  • 10/01/2016 2:06 PM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    September 26, 2016 For Immediate Release (Tampa, FL) For the 24th year, the Florida Sportsman Magazine will host the Florida Sportsman Expo at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa, October 8th and 9th, 2016. 

    Previous attendees to the Florida Sportsman Expo will find many changes, as well as exciting additions to the show: - Concealed Carry Permits for $39.95 in advance and $49.95 at the door. Register in advance at 

    - The DEMA "Be a Diver" pool will be at the show. Attendees may try out SCUBA diving with certified instructors. Participants must bring their own swim suits, but dressing rooms, towels and all the newest diving equipment (including wetsuits and fins) are provided. Guests can try out diving for Free. 

    - National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP®) style Tournament for school age students - Free kids’ Fishing Derby with the FWC 

    - Indoor Mobile Archery Range and Inflatable BB Gun Range New to the Florida Sportsman Expo will be a seminar stage for Ladies in the Outdoors, featuring top names from around the state, including: Brittney Novalsky; Capt. Alissa Vinoski; World Record Holder and Diver, Cheyenne Lee; Female Bowfishing sensation, Brooke Thomas; Chasten Whitfield; Pam Wirth; Christina Weber; Meli Brock; Sydney Sewell and more. 

    Back on the list of activities is the popular " Riggin’ it Right Academy" presented by SeaTow with room for up to 60 anglers at a time while Florida Sportsman staff give hands-on instruction on properly rigging baits and lures. For those interested in Fly Fishing, free fly casting and fly-tying instruction will be presented on a stocked pond. 

    Celebrities and guides, such as Reel Time’s Capt. George Gozdz and Florida Sportsman’s, “Rick Rylis, along with Host Dave East” from Best Boat, take the stage to offer tips on trophy fish and game. Enjoy seminars from Capt. Chris O’neill, Capt. Sergio Atanes, Larry “Fishman” Finch, Trophy Taker Outdoors’ Lee Cepero and Pete Petriw, D.O.A’s, Capt. Mark Nichols and more great speakers. Guns will also be available to buy, sell, or trade. 

    Attendees can learn how to effectively throw a cast net or fish from a Kayak or spend time with Manufacturers like Shimano, Fin-Nor, Daiwa, Temple Fork, Quantum, and others and learn what new products and features to expect in 2017 on the New Manufacturer’s stage. The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) will display exhibits of interest to boaters and hunters as well as the Florida Sportsman Grand Slam Tank, a 500-gallon mobile saltwater aquarium. Kids will be kept busy and can win free prizes with the FWC’s “Fish ID” contest. 

    “We’ve re-vamped our seminars and stages this year, and have a lot of new presenters,” said Dave East, Host of Best Boat, “From an introduction to Bowfishing for women, to fishing from a kayak, to spearfishing from a World Record Holder, we have speakers on topics for just about everyone.” 

    Tickets at the Florida State Fairgrounds box office are $8 for adults. Kids 12 and under with a parent are free. Show hours run 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 8th and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 9th. For a discount coupon and more details visit 

    Press Contact & Interviews: Dave East, Host of Best Boat, 772 828-1358 cell #

  • 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.

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