“To capture the fish is not all of the fishing.” – Zane Grey, Tales of Fishes
Fishing is so much more than just catching fish.
It’s also about the experience – the adventure, the thinking and the thrill of the chase that is all wrapped up into a great time on the water. Therefore, it is no accident the TRCP has held our Saltwater Media Summit in Florida for the past three years.
If you want to talk about saltwater fishing and the importance of conservation, then Florida is a perfect backdrop. If you also want experience great fishing and get folks out on the water seeing these issues first-hand, then the “Fishing Capital of the World” is the perfect playground.
In fact, the Sunshine State is the center of the universe when it comes to saltwater recreational fishing. According to statistics from the American Sportfishing Association, Florida sees nearly 2.4 million saltwater anglers per year. This activity injects approximately $6.8 billion into the economy and accounts for more than 65,000 jobs.
The TRCP hosts these gatherings of media members each year for three main reasons: (1) to identify and discuss pressing conservation issues, (2) develop and strengthen key relationships and (3) ultimately tell the story about the importance of conservation and the link it has to our ability to enjoy the thrill of fishing.
While all are important, developing the relationships and forming bonds through a shared experience has the most lasting impact. To bring folks down to Islamorada, put them in a boat with rod in hand and have them experience the great, well-managed resources Florida has to offer is irreplaceable. The folks at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Visit Florida, and the Florida Keys & Key West recognize this and rolled out the red carpet to the TRCP and our summit attendees. Nothing stays with you more than good memories, and those were abundant on Florida Bay last month.
Which brings me to my own fishing memories forged at the media summit: I had the good fortune of fishing with Dave Mezz, deputy editor of Garden & Gun magazine. That morning, we made a long run past numerous flats and mangrove islands to find a most spectacular display of tarpon busting pilchards on the surface.
As we anchored, a Spanish mackerel jumped into the boat and landed in our live well. It took only one toss of the cast net for bait and we were in business.
On his very first cast, Dave was hooked into his first-ever tarpon. The fish put on quite a show…we had never experienced anything like it. After a few more pilchards, I too had the joy of feeling that great jolt of electricity on the end of the line – my first tarpon as well! Never had I felt such speed as the line ran off the reel. The acrobatics of the fish are pure joy and only make you want to catch another one.
After a few more hookups but unsuccessful fights, we moved farther into the creeks as the tide continued to drop. We cast our baits into the mouths of the emptying creeks and let them swing out into the main channel. Pretty soon, we both felt the subtle thump of the snook. This fish was an equally delightful fighter and had his own unique tactics for evasion. Once near the boat, he too put on an aerial display and tail walk trying desperately to throw the hook. To our good fortune, both Dave and I landed our first snook ever this morning as well.
The TRCP Saltwater Media Summit was a rewarding event for many reasons. We made new relationships, discussed some critical issues and furthered the message of conservation for these important fisheries. But when I tell the story years from now, it will begin as the day I caught my first tarpon and snook. Now that’s fishing!