Welcome Relief GLENN LAW
It’s been a brutal hurricane season to put it mildly. Double whammy. Texas first, then with round two, the Caribbean and Florida got walloped.
Here in Central Florida, we’re up and running, but the rest of the state, which got raked from stem to stern, remains in varying stages of recovery, particularly South Florida and the Florida Keys. While we’re certainly concerned about Texas, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, when disaster strikes, we first look close to home when it comes to offering assistance.
As well, there’s not a saltwater angler worth his fluorocarbon who does not hold the Florida Keys in special regard. Whether participatory or aspirational, that string of islands occupies a singular place in our sport.
There’s been no end to the news clips and disaster-porn videos disseminated by the media, but in truth, firsthand reports coming out of the Keys are both heartbreaking and heartening.
So we checked in with our friends. And we found a remarkably fast rebound effort, and in the face of undeniable challenges, they’re all determined to fish their way out of it.
Cudjoe Key, one of the gems of the lower Keys, was ground zero for Hurricane Irma when it came ashore as a Category 4 storm on September 10. Damage and devastation spread outward along the island chain from there.
The Florida Keys officially reopened to visitors on October 1. The fish fared well and were exhibiting typical post-hurricane behavior. The bite was on, for those able to get out and take advantage of it.
Capt. Andrew Tippler on Cudjoe Key high-tailed it to Alabama with his boat ahead of the storm, then returned for the cleanup, and he’s back in business.
“We’re pretty resilient here,” he said. “Things are starting to look up, They’re moving faster than we thought they would.”
The good news, he said, is that after a storm, the fishing gets better. He’s referring to the disruption created by Hurricane Wilma in 2005. “Bonefishing was awesome, and there were muttons and grouper all over the reef, looking for a new home.”
Capt. Beau Woods, also on Cudjoe, reports he’s had enough of driving a chain saw and is ready to go fishing. “Anybody wants to go, tell ’em to call me — I could use a cash injection right about now.”
Accommodations are still a challenge. Cudjoe-bound anglers are staying in Key West, a short drive away.
In Key West, cruise-ship passengers were walking Mallory Square 10 days after the storm, and according to Tony Murphy, better known as Key Limey, at the Saltwater Angler, captains are looking for charters and the fish are hungry.
The upper Keys really took the brunt of it, he says.
In Islamorada, the iconic Lorelei and other bayside establishments are open, but the ocean side didn’t fare as well. Bud ’n Mary’s is hustling to open up, and Islamorada public relations people urged us to report that the great white shark replica that hangs outside has survived, but Irma’s roundhouse knocked out a couple of teeth.
On the west coast of Florida, Capt. Ken Chambers working out of Goodland says Marco Island looks a mess, but it’s up and running.
“Fishing is fantastic,” he said. “We’re slaying them: snook, tarpon, it’s as good as it’s been all year. It seems Mother Nature is giving back what she took. Just like after Wilma, the fishing gets a boost.”
Miami took on a lot of water due to storm surge, but lasting damage was localized. Capt. Ray Rosher, who’s been fishing since shortly after the storm, said Miami Beach, Bayside and Crandon Marina fared well, but Coconut Grove and Matheson Hammock marinas, with southeast-facing approaches, did not.
And Capt. Bouncer Smith is also operating. With characteristic pragmatism, he said, “The best thing people can do to help is come fish. Book a trip now, even for the spring, and send a big deposit.”
South Florida is down but not out, and the best relief we can offer is to go fishing.
How’s that for a win-win proposition?