1930-1960 Many of the Islamorada Fishing Guides Association (IFGA) founding Captains were in the Islamorada area, guiding before the IFGA was formed. They guided when they could find a client and worked various jobs in-between. For example, Dick Williams, Harry Pinder and George Brothers harvested lobster and sold them at 12-14 cents per pound. He also had George Hicks build his first guide skiff - 16 foot with 10HP Johnson in 1947. Jimmie Albright and Frankie Albright, and Bill and Bonnie Smith often towed their skiffs behind a larger boat to get to their fishing destinations. Many ran private boats between guide trips. It is true; many lived on grits and grunts in those days.The great early captains included Edney Parker, Leo Johnson, Everette Carey, Preston Pinder, Reggie Roberts, Edmund Albury, Johnny Russell, Harry Pinder, Buddy Grace, Walter Starck, Ellis Schires, Cecil Green, Rollie and Hollie Hollenbeck, Jack Roberts, Calvin Albury, Jimmie Albright, Jimmie Albright, Walter Starck, Buck Starck, Cecil Keith, George Hommell, Bill Smith, Lee Vandersaar, Henry Albury, George Pinder, Bill Knowles Sr., Cliff Ambrose, Jake Mueller, Dixie Knowles and many more.
Bonefish on average were smaller back then. More like the Bahamas, an 8-pound fish was quite large. Someone offered the guides a case of beer for every 8-pounder brought in. Jimmie Albright had cases of beer stacked up as a result. All bonefish were killed and many ate, especially the larger fish, which were easier to remove the bones.Some speculate the bonefish have gotten bigger because there are fewer fish and therefore less competition for the food. This theory is based on the principal of harvesting deer to ensure there is enough food for the strong to get stronger.
Over the years, the guides had to go further and further from Islamorada to find the fish. Each year, they would learn their way back further towards Nine Mile Bank. Bernard Russell was one of the first to find large numbers of bonefish on Nine Mile and discovered they were on average bigger fish than the bonefish caught near Islamorada. Two bonefish a day was good back then, but Bernard was catching six or more on Nine Mile Bank.
While there were many more fish in those days, but tackle, line and casting skills did not make the catching easy. Only bait casters were used and the guides attached a fairly large egg sinker to the line in order to throw some distance. Shrimp was the bait of choice. There was no mono, so braided nylon was the line of choice in the early days, with some guides using an expensive silk line to improve casting.
Additionally, many of the living early guides feel the flats are definitely shallower today. They could pole flats on low tides in the 50's using boats that drew 10 inches or more of water that are now dry during low tides.
Islamorada guides were the prime drivers behind starting the Islamorada Fishing Club. The first Board of Directors included legends such as Captains Martin Dewey, Bill Knowles Sr., Bill Smith, Cecil Green and Buck Starck.
In the very early 50's, the Club's membership literally wrote the rules and regulations for the Everglades National Park. Their recommendation was adopted almost word for word after being developed by the Albrights, Deweys, Hollebecks, Starcks and Lynns.
The original Islamorada IFGA was informally formed by Jimmie Albright, Cecil Keith, George Hommell, Bill Smith, Lee Vandersaar, Henry Albury, George Pinder, Bill Knowles Sr., Cliff Ambrose, Jack Mueller, Dixie Knowles and Rollie Hollenbeck, Hollie Hollenbeck - plus unknown others. FKFGA members, Captain Jimmie Albright was President of the Islamorada Fishing Club in 1956, followed by Captain Jake "The Fake" Mueller in 1957. Probably the biggest reason the pioneers of Islamorada Shallow Water Fishing started meeting monthly at Rollie Hollenbeck's house, involved getting their Captain Licenses. Jimmie Albright approached the Coast Guard Commander in Miami and secured his support. Study materials were supplied and the guides prepared for the test together. All of them got their Coast Guard Captain's License. Cliff Ambrose had a bit of a problem getting his license because he was blind in one eye. The Coast Guard finally gave him his license with restrictions, such as no driving a boat at night. The Coast Guard Commandant personally came down and checked Cliff's ability to see while driving a boat. The Coast Guard was supportive of Islamorada Guides becoming licensed Captain's and together they got the job done. The objectives of the Association were: - To set their rules - Rates - $25 per day, all needed a Captain's license. The rate had been $20 per day in the 1940's and as little as $5 a day before that. - Promotion - While not fully realizing it at the time, they were developing a significant future industry - Safety - there was no Coast Guard in the Keys - To work together and help each other
The IFGA remained an informal Association. Socializing together and adding qualified new members, they developed their businesses. These men wanted to fish every day, but were required to work many jobs during the slow times to make ends meet. For example, Cecil Keith drove a truck during the slow season for a few years. Others joined the group when they got their Captain's license such as Earl Roberts and Jack Brothers. There was very little hierocracy in those days. The Commandant Job was just a title, not a responsibility. Everyone was responsible.
Daily guide rates increased to $50 per day. At that time the Islamorada guides did not fully realize the supply of fish could be exhausted. Fishing was great. No one got near another Captain while on a flat because there was plenty of flats, plenty of fish and not many boats. Billy Knowles Junior's mother (June) was known for making a baked bonefish that you would not believe; however, many felt Cathy Williams prepared the best.
Safety was a major emphasis for the IFGA founders. There were no CB's, VHS radio's or cell phones. They told each other where they were fishing each day and they waited until each returned before going home.
Through out the history of the IFGA, active involvement in the Everglades National Park has been a key purpose for the Association's existence. The Everglades Park was established in 1947, and there has been constant change, most for the good, although slow to come to many IFGA members. Park Superintendents have been very accessible to IFGA leadership. From the beginning, the IFGA has provided input and wisdom to Park planners as changes have been implemented. Literally hundreds of meetings and public workshops have been attended by IFGA leadership over the years.
Hurricane Donna - 135 MPH sustained winds and gusts to 175 MPH. Almost all documentation and pictures of IFGA in the 1950's were lost. Fishing was good! It was not uncommon to jump 25-30 tarpon a day using 20 lb bait casters near Nine Mile Bank - The pattern of migrating fish in the backcountry was consistent and predictable. Always following the same banks on the same tides.
Others joined the IFGA, including Clarence Lowe, Earl Gentry, Al Lipton, Mac McNamera, Sid Bryant, Billy Knowles, Jr., Ralph Knowles, Jim Brewer, Eddie Wightman, and Roger Martin. Most of the fishing was for bonefish and tarpon. No angler wanted to fish for redfish or soap fish (snook) in these days. Hundreds of snook were often seen near Man O War Key and the Captains just kept on moving to their tarpon spots. A Captain could often have all of Nine Mile Bank to themselves. Different Captain's signed up for the Commodore role and helped keep the organization functional.
Ted Williams, Pete and Lynette Siman and Don Milligan Hawley developed basic ground rules and the concepts of scoring, conservation and sportsmanship for the Islamorada Gold Cup Tarpon Championship. At the start "The Gold Cup" was a spin, plug and fly tournament. According to Cecil Keith, "the real reason Ted founded this tournament was to help the guides obtain business." There weren't many people in the Keys at that time and the Guides needed the work. The prime fishing season was February and March. By bringing more attention to Tarpon fishing, the guides stayed busy through the end of June. Helping prolong the busy season was so many sports articles written about Ted Williams' fishing adventures, which captured the fancy of people all over the world.
The first Islamorada Gold Cup Tarpon Championship was conducted with coaching assistance from IFGA members - Jake Muller, George Hommell, Clarence Lowe and Jack Brothers. Fifteen IFGA guides and anglers participated the first year. Pete Siman guided by Jake Muller was the first year Grand Champion, with Ted Williams and Jimmie Albright catching the largest tarpon (96.5 lbs) and Din Hawley and George Hommell posting the most releases at 7.
IFGA Captain rates varied between $65 and $75 per day for guide services. Not unlike the past, the IGFA members tried to work together on everything. They would set mostly monthly meetings, hear some gripes, fix the problems and move on.
The IFGA continued with informal conservation efforts, social events and mutual education. Fishing etiquette between the guides was further established. Most members fished from Bud and Mary Stapleton's or the Islamorada Yacht Basin, with some members often tailoring further South
The Islamorada Gold Cup Tarpon Tournament is renamed the Islamorada Invitational Tarpon Fly Tournament. No longer could tarpon be caught using spin or plug. Only in one year did the Gold Cup name a Master Angler for catching at least one 70 pound tarpon in each of the types of angling. In 1967, Al Pflueger, Jr., guided by Captain Joe Stephens became the only angler to accomplish this feat. Tarpon anglers and the IFGA initiated some of the first catch and release practices through the Gold Cup. However, some think this tournament has been slow to continue their conservation leadership. Any tarpon brought in less than 70 pounds was penalized and the release trophy was almost as big as the Grand Champion trophy. Although the Guides Association has tried to get the minimum weight increased, it remains 70 pounds to this day. 1974 The Don Hawley Foundation By-Laws were established on March 26 at 1:07 p.m. The trustees were Carl Navarre, Michael Schamroth, Ben Hardesty, Don Wood Hawley and Frank Harding. The purpose of the Foundation was to disperse gifts to individuals in need who were connected with the Islamorada fishing industry, to charitable organizations, to education facilities and to further research in marine biology - specifically for tarpon. Proceeds from the Islamorada Gold Cup Tarpon Tournament helped spawn this foundation, however the proceeds goes elsewhere now.
Dick Pope Jr. organized and initiated the Don Hawley Fly Fishing Tournament. Proceeds were directed to the Don Hawley Foundation. The tournament remained an all-tackle tarpon tournament until Don Hawley passed away.
Fishing in the Florida Keys and Flamingo had been changing rapidly for several years. Even in 1975, many guides and anglers were thinking about the good old days when the fish were plentiful and people were not. Several young guides with long time IFGA members at their side, decided to renew and restructure the IFGA. Hank Brown was appointed Acting Commodore of the IFGA and in this capacity started a major effort to revitalize the IFGA. The "new" IFGA set a general membership meeting for December 13 at the Checca Lodge. The first order of business was to start re-developing common goals and elect officers for 1977.
Dec 13, 1976
Acting Commodore Hank Brown called the meeting to order. Members present included Hank, Rick Ruoff, Gary Register, Joe LePree, Steve Huff, Steve Cole, Roger Martin, Dave Wilson, Tom Jones, Eddie Wightman, Earl Gentry, Mike Collins, Forest Haynes, Boots Voight, Jimmie Albright, George Hommell, Cecil Keith, Billy Knowles, Dale Burke, Will Mead and Al Flutie. The Board of Directors was elected by secret ballot. Nominees were careful to include each marina. Rick Ruoff was elected Commodore. First Vice Commodore was Roger Martin. Tom Jones was elected Second Vice Commodore while Forrest Haynes was elected the Treasurer. The Board of Directors elected were George Hommell, Jimmie Albright, Cecil Keith and Earl Gentry. Hank Brown was unanimously elected the Secretary by a show of hands. Immediately the new IFGA went to work. That same night they discussed the plugging of Buttonwood Canal, the responsibilities of the elected officers and debated the IFGA by-laws draft. They agreed they wanted a greater voice in the Everglades National Park and other governmental agencies that affect the IFGA. Conservation was the key theme. Also discussed were the needs of members such as group medical insurance, boats, cars, life insurance, group rates for equipment and advertising. Rick Ruoff set a board meeting for December 27 and a general membership meeting for December 28. There was much to be done including deciding who would attend on behalf of the IFGA a public meeting about plugging Buttonwood Canal on January 11, 1977
. Dec 27, 1976 The Board was quick to bring organization and discipline to the IFGA. Rick took a strong leadership role and quickly set expectations pertaining to the importance of honoring commitments made to each other. Committees were established for membership, activities, finance, conservation and public relations. The Board agreed to meet the first Tuesday of each month at 7:p.m. followed by a monthly general membership meeting at 8 p.m. the same day. John Good, ENP Superintendent was invited to attend the general membership meeting the next evening. Hank Brown started the more organized conservation drive by the IFGA by giving a story to Key Noter about the IFGA stressing sport fishing and conservation. And of course, old business such as a Fish Fry was discussed. By the way, the fish fry was attended by 300 people at Papa Joes and netted the IFGA $310 or a buck a plate just as expected. Dec 28, 1976 Thirty members attended the General Membership Meeting. Volunteers for each committee came forth after the committee duties were explained by Ruoff. Each committee selected their own Chairman. Jimmie Albright for Membership, Boots Voigt for Finance, Al Flutie for Activities and Public Relations and Joe LePree for Conservation. After much discussion, it was agreed that plugging Buttonwood Canal was good and should help bring Coot Bay and Lower Whitewater Bay to their original state (no saltwater intrusion). However, it was agreed that the guides had to have access over the plug. Members were advised that ENP fishing permit applications were available but the members also agreed (28 for and 2 against) that Park Fishing Permits should only be made available to members that complete their catch reports as instructed. The association was walking its conservation talk. Facts are needed before much would or could be done about bag limits and commercial netting in the park. It was also reported that the IFGA Charter was completed and being sent to Tallahassee for recording. PERHAPS THE MOST IMPORTANT CHAPTER IN THE HISTORY OF THE FKFGA HAD BEEN LAUNCHED! 1977 The Associate Membership program was initiated. For $25 or more annually, non-members were invited to help the IFGA assure a fine future for South Florida Fishing. Life Time Membership was set at $500. A car pool was organized and members attended the Buttonwood Canal hearing in Miami on January 12. Name tags were prepared for each member attending. The IFGA supported the plugging but also recommended the lift that exists today. Millard Wells was commissioned to create the IFGA logo for patches, decals and stationary. The IFGA stated goals and purpose was refined. Licensed Captain, a requirement for membership in the by-laws was clarified to mean USCG Licensed Guide. Hank Brown and Jimmie Albright motioned that all IFGA press and news releases have approval of majority of board first. It was unanimously approved again showing solidarity and clarity as the IFGA took leadership roles in conservation matters. P.S. This same rule was adopted by the Board several times over the years, and wisely so. Eddie Wightman elected to Board of Directors when Earl Gentry retires. Posters designed and distributed at Marinas asking for all inedible fish be released and when a person poling a boat is sighted, avoid running too close. Bill Knowles, Roger Martin and Max Register appointed as IFGA Guides Committee to Gold Cup. The Spin Out Tournament started by Gary Ellis and Al Flutie donated $100 to IFGA from tournament proceeds.
The IFGA's critical fight to ban all netting in the ENP starts. New officers elected: Rick Ruoff - Commodore, Roger Martin - First Vice Commodore, Steve Huff - Second Vice Commodore, Boots Voigt - Treasurer, Hank Brown - Secretary, Eddie Wightman, Forrest Haynes, Cecil Keith, Wil Mead - Directors. Committee Chairs were Ron Wagner - Associate Membership, Al Flutie - Activities, Joe LePree -- Conservation, Mike Collins -Public Relations, Forrest Haynes - Membership and Grievance - Jimmie Albright. John Good, ENP Superintendent was requested by the IFGA to separate charter fishing guides catch reports from commercial reports. Petitions were distributed by IFGA members regarding creel limits on redfish and trout. The Everglades Protection Association, Chaired by Mr. Bill Pate, Jr. is formed and works closely with IFGA on ENP conservation issues. This group consisted of anglers and was supported by action and $ by the IFGA. Jack Brothers suggested IFGA members not sell the fish they catch. Most members agreed, thus starting another IFGA movement toward conservation and walking the talk. However, it should be remembered that many guides supplemented their income by selling fish in those days. The IFGA membership revised membership requirements from 2 years to one year regarding time guiding in Florida Keys and length of residency in Monroe County. Membership grows, including the addition of John Kipp, Dale Perez, Dick Gratwahl, Nat Ragland, Mike Hewlett, Carl Navarre Jr., Dewey Weber, Al Polofsky, John Quinn, and Rich Amritte. Associate membership grows to 174 Rick Ruoff named by Governor Askew to 9-person committee to represent recreational fisherman in the State of Florida.
New IFGA Officers elected and they were: Rick Ruoff - Commodore, 1st Vice Commodore - Steve Huff, 2nd Vice Commodore - Jack Brothers, Treasurer - Ken Knudsen, Secretary - Carl Navarre, Jr., Directors - Eddie Wightman, Forrest Haynes, Hank Brown and Bob Reineman. Committee Chairs were: Associate Membership - Boot Voigt, Fund Raising - Joe LePree, Conservation - Mike Collins, Membership - Forrest Haynes, Public Relations - Dave Wilson, Activities - Roger Martin and Grievances - Jimmie Albright. Associate Members up to 256. Over 30 Millard Wells prints presented to Associate Members that donated $100 or more that year. IFGA supported the ban on wire fish traps Members limit themselves to a limit of four redfish per day. Governor Bob Graham was made an honorary Associate Member of IFGA. Steve Cole arranged for three busloads of members and supporters to attend public hearings in Naples Florida regarding netting and bag limits within the ENP. Everyone wore red hats and rumor has it, were feeling "good" upon arrival. More buses were organized for hearings in Marathon and IFGA representatives spoke at various hearings held across the state. IFGA position - stop the netting and impose bag limits. IFGA supported bag limits of 20 fish per day per person and no more than 10 of any one species. They felt strongly that a proposed 6 year phase out of commercial netting was unacceptable because at the rate they were gilling out redfish and bonefish, the resource would not last that long. It was also important to change the rule that a netting permit applied to only one vessel and the owner had to be on the vessel. Currently a permit holder might have over 50 boats netting mullet in the Park. Petitions were prepared and members collected signatures at the Post Office and Trading Post that recommended reduced bag limits and banning commercial netting in the Park. Numerous letters were written by members of the IFGA with Board Approval to elected officials. Mass mailings were sent to Associate Members and County Commissioners seeking their support to ban netting in the Park and impose smaller bag limits. Started the discussion about the IFGA being more representative of Key Largo and Marathon guides as well. In December, it was agreed to change the name to Florida Keys Fishing Guides Association and annual dues remained at $25. P.S. Minutes show the vote was actually for a name change to Florida Keys Guides Association, NOT Florida Keys Fishing Guides Association. A first annual kids day planned for Feb 1980. Flyers were posted in schools.
The new officers were elected. They were Steve Huff - Commodore, 1st Vice Commodore - Forrest Haynes, 2nd Vice Commodore - Hank Brown, Treasurer - Kenny Knudsen and Secretary - Jamie Brody. Rick Ruoff, Dick Grathwohl, Eddie Wightman and Ernie Chapman were elected Directors. A new Attendance Committee was established with Roger Martin and Steve Huff in charge. Membership continues to grow with Gene Montgomery, Bob Montgomery, Arlin Leiby, Lee Baker, Hal Chittum and Micky McMahan to name a few. Debate continued on members selling fish. Forrest Haynes made motion that any FKFGA member that sells fish be dropped from the membership and it was seconded by Hank Brown. Hank felt that if members sold fish the FKFGA had no ground to stand on during public hearings. Some felt selling fish caught on the ocean was okay, but not the backcountry. Others were very opposed at this time. The motion failed. FKFGA WINS battle to stop netting in the Park. One boat per permit during phase out and phase out reduced from six years to five. John Good retires as ENP Superintendent - Jack Moorhead is in. 253 Associate Members - 55 regular members. Continued social events - dinner and movies, fish fry's, kid's day, etc. Continued conservation leadership with tarpon killing by recommending to tournament directors - limiting weight to 80 pounds with severe penalties if underweight and extra points for releases over five. Took stand against shrimp frame nets being used on bridges. Commercial shrimpers were dominating recreational fishing space and more important wasting resource such as crabs, juvenile lobsters and tropical fish. We started the process of changing existing laws dip nets. A crocodile habitat was established by the park for a period of 4-6 years, closing waters to all vessels. The FKFGA took no stance on this issue, not realizing at the time that four to six years would become 23 years and counting. 1981 Steve Huff - Commodore, Boots Voigt - Treasurer, Mike Vaughn - Secretary. Board considered proposing to membership only two general membership meetings per year in conjunction with a social and general call meetings only when needed. Participation was lacking. Again proposed to Gold Cup that the tarpon kill limit go to one fish per day rather than two. Opposed the proposed use of a flying gaff by the IFGA. Fifty-Seven members. 1982 At January general membership meeting, 17 members were present. Elections were discussed but due to lack of interest, it was decided to form a steering committee to meet only as needed: Commodore - Rick Ruoff, 1st Vice Commodore - Forrest Haynes, 2nd Vice Commodore - Eddie Wightman, Treasurer - Boots Voigt, Secretary - Mike Vaughan, Directors - Jamie Brody, Hank Brown, Roger Martin and Steve Huff. Associate members stand at 142, down 100 from 1983. Twenty-Two of 46 members attended the November General Membership Meeting. A fish fry/movie dinner was held on Dec 14 at the Islamorada Fishing Club at a cost of $5 per person. Kid's day continues and guides continue to donate tackle. Sent a letter to law enforcement regarding stab netters using Clorox in the Lower Keys. 1983 Membership elected Mike Collins - Commodore, Hal Chittum - 1st Vice Commodore, Mike Vaughn - 2nd Vice Commodore, Joe LePree - Secretary and Al Polofsky - Treasurer. Directors elected were Steve Huff, Rick Ruoff, Boots Voigt and Eddie Wightman. Kid's day continues 1984 Board members elected were Mike Collins - Commodore, Rick Ruoff - 1st Vice Commodore, Sid Bryant - 2nd Vice Commodore, Croft Ashmore - Treasurer and Hal Chittum - Secretary. Directors are Eddie Wightman, Kenny Knudsen, Steve Huff and John Kipp. Kid's Day continues Associate Membership continues to lose momentum. No associate membership chairman focus and most of work pertaining to banning netting in Park and bag limits is done. Association buys its first typewriter for the Secretary. 1985 Board members elected were Sid Bryant - Commodore, Mike Collins - 1st Vice Commodore, Doug Hill - 2nd Vice Commodore, Hank Brown - Secretary and Ron Winters - Treasurer. Directors elected were Steve Huff, Eddie Wightman, Ken Knudsen and Joe LePree. Organized and sponsored a benefit dinner for Capt. John Emery, raising $18,487. John was not a member of FKFGA as a Dade County resident, but was an outstanding member of the profession. Mike Collins, FKFGA member selected as voting member of Don Hawley Foundation Board. First time guide voting member. Formally supported passing of salt water fishing license with income going to the improvement of marine fisheries. Supported limit of two redfish per day per angler. Members Steve Huff, Hank Brown and Harry Spears who finished 1st-3rd in Don Hawley commit to never guide in another tarpon kill tournament. Hank destroys his prize gaffs with a saw. NETTING IN PARK CLOSED FOREVER after eight-year battle by FKFGA 1986 Board members elected were Mike Collins - Commodore, Joe LePree - 1st Vice Commodore, Boots Voigt - 2nd Vice Commodore, Hank Brown - Secretary and Sid Bryant - Treasurer. Directors elected were John Sutter, Eddie Wightman, Rich Ammirati and Steve Huff. A special Board of Advisors was created, consisting of Rick Ruoff, Bob Montgomery, Mike Vaughn, Hal Chittum, Roger Martin, Ron Winters and Mike Hewlett. Kid's Day continues, again at Plantation Yacht Harbor. Organized benefit dinner for Jimmie and Cathy Albright helping defray his costly medical treatment. Raised $24,000. Increased dues from $25 per year to $50 annually. The Don Hawley Tarpon Tournament becomes an all-release event. 1987 Mike Collins is again elected Commodore with Roy Crabtree elected as Secretary. Other members of the Board included Joe LePree, Hank Brown, Eddie Wightman, Steve Huff, Bob Montgomery, Sid Bryant, John Kipp and John Sutter Strongly advocated stricter bag limits. FKFGA wanted maximum of 10 fish per day with only five of any species unless already smaller. Tarpon kill ban gaining momentum and being supported by the FKFGA Don Hawley Tarpon Tournament's first year as all catch and release. . Mike Ehlers and Ben Taylor join FKFGA. 1988 Mike Collins was Commodore and other elected members of the Board were Eddie Wightman, Hank Brown, Sid Bryant, Steve Huff, Mike Ehlers, Bob Montgomery, John Kipp, Randy Towe, Joe LePree and Roy Crabtree. Membership dues revised from $50 annually to $50 annually or $100 every five years. Lobbied for no tarpon kills but settled for a planned permit system offering up to 1,000 permits per year. Tim Klein accepted as a member. The Redbone Series is started by FKFGA member - Gary Ellis. The FKFGA helped get the tournament started and each year, several members not only guide in the series, but donate one of their day's pay to the fight against cystic fibrosis. 1989 Commodore Mike Collins and Secretary Mike Ehlers were members of the Board that included Joe LePree, Bob Montgomery, Sid Bryant, Hank Brown, Steve Huff, Eddie Wightman and Davie Wilson. Park Superintendent, Mike Finley attends January meeting to discuss sea grass die off. They also shared PWC are officially banned within the Park. Several new and old members were voted in, including Gary Ellis, Craig Brewer, Ed Cale, Dick Hagood, Chris Barron. Barry Vieh becomes the first female member of FKFGA. Pat Cavanaugh of Silver Eagle Products offers to sponsor a one-day tournament similar to old Spin Out with proceeds to go to the Don Hawley. This was the start of the Swamp Guides Ball. A coastal clean up day is planned and over 1000 pounds of trash are picked up the members. 1990 The officers of 1989 remained in place in 1990. Swamp Guides Ball Tournament started. It was felt the guides should be more proactive at helping themselves during times of need by raising money for the Hawley. The first tournament committee was Mike Collins, Mike Ehlers, Hank Brown, Gary Ellis, Joe LePree and Bill Knowles. Members were asked to fish the event and donate the proceeds or donate a day for the auction. All monies to go to the Hawley Foundation Guides Account. Jimmy Lozar joins. Mike Collins is elected Chairman of Board - Don Hawley Foundation Letters to editors are writing encouraging people to protect the flats and not run their boats over them. Letters are written to Park Superintendent again requesting bag limit decreases, but frankly, there is much more concern over the lack of fresh water circulating the Park and causing sea grass die off and unusual summer kills. Mike Ehlers procured six water-testing kits to take water samples and tissue samples for dead fish so the FKFGA could do their own samples. Barnes, Peterson and Buchanan Keys were targeted for a Coastal Clean Up by the FKFGA. The association formally supports the Marine Sanctuary and asks for representation on any oversight board. New members include Mike Romano, Mike Guerin, Mike LePree, George Wood, and Jim Bennett. George Hommell was granted lifetime membership to the FKFGA. Over 1000 letters responding to FKGFA survey on Jet Ski's. Over 65% wanted an entire ban. Paris Bryant has been doing a great job with the associate membership program. The Board offered an increase from $100 a month to $150 for her efforts. For about the 15th year in a row, the guides are told if they don't fill out there fish reports the Park is going to crack down and not issue them permits. 1990 Board members included Mike Collins, Eddie Wightman, Sid Bryant, Joe LePree Bob Montgomery, Davie Wilson, Steve Huff, Hank Brown and Mike Ehlers. The Swamp Guides Ball was formally given its name. 1991 Board members were essentially the same as 1990 with addition of Dick Hagood as Secretary. Eddie Wightman and Mike Collins attended a meeting supporting closure to motorized boat traffic from Broad Creek to Newport Beach from the shoreline out to 4 feet of water. Letter sent to Park Superintendent reminding him that now as we proposed 4 years ago, that the FKFGA recommends that bag limits for fish be cut in half. The Swamp Guides Ball netted $8,500 which was donated to the Hawley Foundation. The DNR requested the FKFGA to provide 12 live bonefish and approximately 100-150 dead bonefish for research. The FKFGA advised them to contact the MET in hopes that their weigh stations could collect the samples, thus avoiding any extra killed bonefish. 1992 The officers and board consisted of Mike Collins - Commodore, Mike Ehlers - 1st Vice Commodore, John Kipp - 2nd Vice Commodore, Sid Bryant - Treasurer, Dick Hagood - Secretary and Directors - Mike Vaughn, Mike Romero, Chuck Nolan and Craig Brewer. A new emphasis was put on committees to accomplish the goals of the FKFGA and to more equitably distribute the work load. Committees Political Action, Associate Membership, Public Relations, ENP, Financial, Special Events and Lower Keys Liaison. Associate members back up to 294 current paid with 50 past due. Financial statements from FKFGA sent to all Associate Members. The FKFGA establishes an office for $300 per month but later felt maintaining this office was not feasible. Participation in this year's Swamp Guides Ball was poor and members were urged to improve attendance in 1993. 1993 Committee members were Brewer's, Hagood's, and Barry Vieh. Richard Ring announced as new ENP Superintendent. Florida Keys Fishing Tournaments Inc. (Jim Sharpe) advertises a $50 discount on guide trips. An upset FKFGA withdraws sponsorship of two tournaments and directed Mr. Sharpe to direct any requests for inclusion of local area guides to our PO Box. P.S. The Swamp Guides Ball committee had further problems with Mr. Sharpes' organization (now called the TDC Fishing Umbrella) in 2002 when the Director, (Capt. Jim Sharpes' daughter) stated the Swamp Guides Ball funding for 2004 would be in jeopardy if we don't get in line with the her wishes. The SGB Director's (Jim and Sherri Trice) withdraw FKFGA applications for TDC funding for the 2004 Swamp Guides Ball. The TDC gave us $1,400 in 2003, but the attitudes of the TDC Fish Umbrella Director and the bureaucracy to obtain the funds were unacceptable, especially given the small grant and the politics involved. Litigation was considered against Mr. Don Causey, editor of The Angling Report for disparaging remarks about Keys Guides. Stuart Grossman prepared a letter for the FKFGA demanding a full retraction for the many false statements make in the newsletter by Mr. Causey. Mr. Don Causey prints a retraction. Committee report outs became required again during general membership meetings. Group health insurance is pursued yet again, with no results, primarily because there was no one to collect monthly premiums. The 1993 Board was the same as '92 with the exception of Barry Vieh replacing Chuck Nolan as a Director. Gary Ellis and Redbone assumed responsibility for annual associate membership cook out. It was decided that non-board members would not be allowed to stay during the entire board meeting since the Board often discussed confidential matters such as Hawley Funding Applications. Moved by Hagood, seconded by Romano and passed unanimously. Swamp Guides Ball nets approximately $13,000 for the Hawley Gold Cup's first year as a catch and release tournament, but still dragging tarpon to the bow to strap them in order to estimate weights. This practice remains today. 1994 The membership elected Mike Collins - Commodore, Dick Hagood - 1st Vice Commodore, Craig Brewer - 2nd Vice Commodore, Barry Vieh - Secretary, Sid Bryant - Treasurer and Steve Huff, Joe LePree, John Kipp and Matt Pribyl as Directors. New members included Bruce Stagg, Joe Ray and Mike Farmer. FKFGA continues to support Fishery Commission's direction to make killing tarpon illegal without a special permit and a letter was sent to the Gold Cup organizers stating the FKFGA is opposed to killing tarpon. $1,500 donated to save the Birds. 1995 Directors included Mike Collins - Commodore, Sid Bryant - Treasurer, Barry Vieh - Secretary, Dick - 1st Vice Commodore, Dick Hagood, John Kipp - 2nd Vice Commodore, and Directors, Craig Brewer, Matt Prybil, Joe LePree and Mike Guerin Members agreed to reduce their own Snook Bag limit of one per day - 24-34 inches. New members included Bruce Wilson, Bill Wert, Mario del Toro, and Gary Rehm. Swamp Guides Ball nets $12,000 with half going to the Hawley and half to the Wild Bird Center. Of the $12,000 over $6K was raised from an OMC motor that was auctioned. Collins authorized by Board - $300 per day for his commitment to groups he serves as a representative of FKFGA. Park disallows guides (while on charter) a bag limit. FKFGA supported change. FKFGA decides not to require members to carry a specific amount of liability insurance on boats, after strong opposition and logic by Steve Huff and others. By-Law's formally amended to reflect changes in membership requirements and annual dues. Tarpon can only be killed with a permit. 1996 Board members include Mike Collins- Commodore, Barry Vieh - 2nd Vice Commodore, Dick Hagood - Secretary , Chuck Nolan, Craig Brewer, Matt Prybil, Gary Rehm, John Kipp - 1st Vice Commodore, and Sid Bryant - Treasurer. Sixth annual Swamp Guides Ball won by Capt. Bob Reineman and Tim Knowles, edging out 48 teams with 2 reds, 2 snook and 1 bonefish. Net proceeds exceed $13,000. 1997 date set for Feb 8. 1998 Board Mike Ehlers -Commodor, Craig Brewer -Vice Commodor, Rick Moller -Secretary, Barry Vieh -Treasurer. Directors, Mike Collins, Tad Burke, Rick Miller, Mario Del Torro, Dick Hagood. 1999 Board Members -Mike Ehlers -Commodor, Craig Brewer -Vice Commodor, Rick Moller -Secretary, Barry Vieh -Treasurer. Directors, Mike Collins, Tad Burke, Rick Miller, Mario Del Torro, Dick Hagood. Fish Till You Lose, presented by FKFGA member Paul Tejera, has its 5th Birthday. All proceeds go to the Keys Children Shelter. FKFGA donates $1,000 to the Florida Keys Wild Bird Center as many of the birds were injured from fishhooks and line. Ken Cohan and Greg Poland join. Mario del Toro chairs the Swamp Guides Ball. 2000 Elected officers were: Mike Ehlers - Commodore, 1st Vice Commodore - Craig Brewer, 2nd Vice Commodore - Gary Ellis, Treasurer - Barry Vieh, Mike Collins - Secretary and Directors - Rick Miller, Mario Del Toro, Rich Moeller and Tad Burke FKFGA assumes caretaker role to protect seagrass by joining the Sea Grass Outreach Partnership. Mark Cockerham and Craig Brewer win the Swamp Guides Ball. Mario del Toro is Chairman of the Tournament. Fifty boats were entered - much more than recent years. Mario del Toro is Chairman of the Swamp Guides Ball Guide rates increased from $375 a day to $400. 2001 Board Elected - Mike Ehlers -Commodor, Craig Brewer - Vice Commodor, Tad Burke -Secretary, Rusty Albury - Treasurer, Directors Gary Ellis, Rick Miller, Mario Del Torro, Mike Collins, Rick Moller FKFGA Member, Tim Klein selected as member of Islamorada's Near Shore Water Regulation Citizens' Advisory Committee and focuses on public outreach, education for boaters, small channel markings and protecting shallow water flats. Kid's Day presented. Mario del Toro is Chairman of the Swamp Guides Ball. Association chooses not to take a stand on commercial sponging. 2002 Board Elected - Tad Burke- Commodore, Craig Brewer - Vice Commodor, Rusty Albury - Treasurer, Mark Johnson- Secretary, Directors Gary Ellis, Mike Collins, Mike Ehlers, Rick Miller, Skip Soule 12th Annual Swamp Guides Ball nets over $20,000., all donated to Don Hawley Foundation. Winners were Jim Trice and Tommy Collins with 19 snook, 1 redfish and 1 bonefish. Mike Ehlers was Chair and Jim/Sherri Trice Directed. Fifty-Seven teams participated. Associate Member program becomes a low priority. Kid's fishing day presented. FKFGA sponsors High School Marine Biology Student on Field Trip. FKFGA members and leadership attend ENP General Management Plan public hearings - opposed to closing key critical channels but not opposed to designating abused flats as non-combustible motor zones - poling or electric motor only. Volunteered to help with enforcement by being eyes and ears. Fish and Wildlife Commission reduces Snook Bag limit in Monroe County to one per day - the number the FKFGA has been advocating and practicing for several years
2003 Board Elected - Tad Burke - Commodore, Rusty Albury - Treasurer, Mark Johnson - Secretary, and Directors Skip Soule', Rick Miller, Craig Brewer, Gary Ellis, Mike Ehlers, Mike Collins FKFGA member, Rick Moeller joins Islamorada's Near Shore Water Citizen Advisory Committee. Swamp Guides Ball nets over $23,000 all donated to Don Hawley Foundation. Winners were Paul Tejera and Dan Longman with 22 snook and 6 redfish. Only the second year of 13 that all three species were not caught by at least one team. Skip Soule' was Chair and Jim/Sherri Trice Directed. Fifty-One teams participated. Tad Burke and Mike Ehlers have several meeting with ENP personnel involving needed changes in Park pertaining to flats protection and the 20-year general plan that is being developed. Money donated to Park to replace no-motor-zone buoy's marking Little Madeira Bay. Associate membership program becomes lower priority given resources and time available.
SUMMARY HIGHLIGHTS: The IFGA, later renamed the FKFGA: - Has existed for almost 50 consecutive years - Has led the effort to professionalize the guide profession and develop the shallow water fishing industry in the Upper Florida Keys. - Has been involved in ENP conservation issues CONTINUOUSLY o Net Ban o Bag Limits o Permits within the ENP o Data Collection for ENP and Department of Marine Fisheries o Wild Bird Protection and Care o PWC usage in the Park and the Sanctuary o General Management Plan - Teamed with the Don Hawley Foundation to identify guides that need support during times of need. - Major leadership role in stopping the killing of tarpon. - Played major role in the protection of seagrass, teaming with Governors Office. - Significant voice in setting bag limits in State of Florida, always strongly recommending limits for members below what the state required - most members refuse to harvest any number of game fish at this time. - Been a constant voice about etiquette while fishing in shallow waters. - Played major role in banning wire fish traps and frame nets for shrimping off bridges. - Played major role in major restrictions being imposed on PWC. - Major player in development and maintenance of Lignumvitae Aquatic Preserve. - Strong supporter by actions and volunteer time of keeping our waters free of debris - Coastal Clean Up Days. - The Association occasionally goes in hibernation unless key critical concerns related to protecting a Monroe County Shallow Water Guide's existence, customs and way of life pop up OR when the resource upon which the guides earn a living is endangered. When required, the "FKFGA BEAR" comes out of hibernation and takes an organized, thoughtful leadership role on the issues.
The FKFGA has done a great job bringing consensus and organization to Monroe County Fishing Guides while at the same time, not infringing upon the personal opinions of individual members. This was and remains the key challenge to the Association. The Association's ability to balance the opinions of individuals and at the same time be a driving force for all members is their key to success. Very few volunteer organizations of highly individual entrepreneurs have survived for 50 years.