Farewell to a Friend
The angling and conservation community lost a true champion with the death of Florida Sportsman publisher Karl Wickstrom, 82, on June 25.
For nearly 50 years Wickstrom headed the magazine, which he founded as Florida and Tropic Sportsman in 1969. The publication quickly became the leading source for information on all things outdoors in Florida, but it was Wickstrom’s dedication to marine conservation and angler access to healthy fisheries that continues to influence fisheries and habitat management initiatives far beyond the Florida state line.
Through the decades as publisher of Florida Sportsman, Wickstrom fought and won a number of legal battles to benefit Florida marine resources and recreational angling, garnering numerous awards along the way. He was co-founder in 1984 of the Florida Conservation Association (now CCA Florida) and a benefactor of many other marine resource organizations, including the Florida Oceanographic Society in Stuart, the Rivers Coalition, the Martin County Anglers Club and a long list of others. His magazine voiced the concerns of recreational interests in countless disputes with fishery managers over allocations and access to waters, often winning decisions in the court of public opinion with his editorials in the magazine.
Wickstrom also worked to achieve game fish status for redfish, ending commercial sale of the species in the state, and fought ceaselessly for the rights of recreational anglers subject to management policies that often favored commercial fishing interests.
Perhaps his biggest victory in the name of marine resources and recreational angling came in the early 1990s, when he mounted the Save Our Sealife Initiative to end the destructive use of gill nets in Florida waters. The movement came to be known as the Net Ban, and Wickstrom was key in the campaign to amend Florida’s constitution to that end. In 1994, the amendment passed with 72 percent of the popular vote. In the years following, Florida’s fisheries rebounded dramatically, and that success provided a model for coastal states around the country.
While Florida Sportsman and Salt Water Sportsman may have been viewed as competition in the publishing business, that never eclipsed the reality that when it came to fisheries, conservation and wise management practices, we were all always on the same team.
SWS recognizes and honors his contribution to our sport. His like will not be seen again soon, and his legacy and vision provide an enviable model for the challenges that lie ahead.
TIRELESS ADVOCATE: Wickstrom fought many battles for anglers and conservation.