Anyone who lives near or on the ocean knows the risk of doing so. Those who take the risk, know what it is to look at the beautiful, sparkling clean water of the tropics. From Key West to Key Largo represents the furthest south of the United States, some 100 miles strung together with many island chains, represent perhaps the most beautiful part of the United States.
Those who fish in salt water claim it to have some of the greatest species of salt water fish literally found anywhere. Glimmering 2-5 ft. flats represent a flyrodders dream for bonefish, tarpon, trout and permit. With the continental shelf some 3 miles off shore, game fish such as blue marlin, white marlin, swordfish, tuna, dolphin, and wahoo literally provide world class fishing. The Florida Keys is beautiful. It is a friendly, laid back place that was vividly written about by Hemmingway and many of the world’s top anglers. It is on the bucket list of every fishermen but also available is the world class diving and snorkeling as well as all of the watersports such as sailboarding and kayaking. Compared to many parts of world, the Keys offers the best of the best of anywhere while not being subjected to terrorism in a foreign place or subjected to so many corrupt governments to take residence.
The Florida Keys did not have as great of a disaster as what you might have read or seen on the news, we all know that if it bleeds, it leads. It goes without saying, that if you lost everything you own including your house, it couldn’t get any worse. The truth however is that there were many parts of the Keys that were not terribly affected. At an eyeball, I would say about 35 percent of the Keys were really slammed, mostly confined to where the eye wall crossed.
The greatest single asset that one of the most beautiful places of the United States has is its people. At its core are its captains and mates that represents one of the greatest charter fleets of boats servicing flat, reef, and off shore fishing. As a general rule, this represents the youth of the Keys and although there are many old salts like myself, there are many charter captains and mates that have new families and have started their lives in the Florida Keys. These are the men and women who know all of the intricacies and secrets of the surrounding waters. These are the people who unlock those secrets of the surrounding waters and who guides visiting tourists to them. So many home owners and boat owners in the Florida Keys started to see the hidden gem of the Keys the first time they chartered from this group. Therefore, it can be said with great accuracy that almost every business in the Florida Keys in one way or another is tied to the ocean and that the ocean and the bays literally run through the veins of those people who live here.
The greatest tragedy of Irma is that no matter how hard FEMA tries and no matter how hard our government tries to provide relief from tragedy, it is not enough. Many people in the Keys do not live on credit. Everything they own they have worked for day by day. Very few charter captains and mates will ever become rich. At best, they will earn a living but oh how they smile when you make that perfect catch and catch your first bonefish and it is incredible to see their joy when your son or daughter catch their first fish. For all of you who have ever been to the Florida Keys, for all of you who will someday fulfill your bucket list by coming here, please help me bring immediate and direct relief where it is most needed.
The Florida Keys plays a very special part in every American’s life. Please help it survive and let its greatest asset stay in the Keys, its local people. If you can help, please donate to the charity of your choice.
Captain Tred Barta