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How You Can Make a Difference in Your Fishery, with Capt. Benny Blanco

Description: This week, my guest is Capt. Benny Blanco of Islamorada, in the Florida Keys [37:38]. Benny talks about his life in the Keys and about how he came to realize that the fishery on which he made his living was threatened--and how he learned to make a difference. The Everglades will never be completely pristine again, but with people like Benny involved, it can regain much of its former glory. And it's not only the Everglades.
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Podcast Transcript:

Tom: Hi, and welcome to "The Orvis Fly-Fishing Podcast." This is your host, Tom Rosenbauer. And this week my guest is Captain Benny Blanco of Islamorada in the Florida Keys. And we're gonna be talking about the situation of the Everglades, but we're also gonna be talking about how one person, or one guide, or a group of person can make the difference when you have threats to a fishery. I think it's a lesson for us all listening to how Benny has been dedicated to improving the water quality in the Florida Keys. And we can all learn from Benny's experience. So, if you're often wondering, "What can I do if there's a threat to my river, or my lake, or my pond?" there are things you can do. And Benny's got some great advice. So, hope you enjoy the podcast.
And also you wanna go fishing with me? I'm hosting a trip to Three Rivers Ranch in Warm River, Idaho, which is right on the Henry's Fork and also a couple of small streams located right on the property. It's the oldest Orvis-endorsed lodge. It's been in the program since the very beginning. The ranch has been owned by one family since the turn of the 20th century. The food is awesome. The guides are terrific. It's one of my favorite places in the world. And I think this lodge just keeps getting better and better every year. So, I'm hosting a trip October 1st through 7th, good time of the year to be out there, fewer crowds, good blue-winged olive hatches, water temperatures are cooling down. And so if you're interested, contact Orvis Travel. You can find the contact information on the Orvis website. There's a couple of spaces left. And so if you're interested, come fishing with me. Give Orvis Travel a call.
All right. Let's do the Fly Box. And the Fly Box is where you ask some questions, or you make some comments, or you offer tips that you wanna share with other listeners. And sometimes I read them and play them on the air. And if you have a question for the Fly Box, you can send it to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. You can either just type your question in your email, or you can attach your voice file, less than two and a half minutes long, please. The longer ones get a little rambling. I'm the one that does the rambling around here. And I haven't had a lot of phone calls to play. I've only got one phone call in this Fly Box. So, would appreciate you attaching voice files with your question. Keep them short and sweet if you can. Describe the situation, and then ask your question. And I'll try to answer it if I can.
This podcast wouldn't be the same without your questions. You know, I rely on you to tell me what kind of information you want so that I can get the right guest on the program. And also it just makes it very special when we're all together asking questions and sharing information. So, please do. I read all of the emails and listen to all the phone calls. I don't answer them all, but I do read them all and listen to them all.
All right. So, let's start the Fly Box. The first question is from Rick. Short question that I guess has been answered that I just haven't gone back far enough in the podcast to hear. "We've all broken off flies and fishes' mouths. And sometimes, during the podcast, it's made out to be no big deal. My question is, how long do hooks take to rust out of fish's mouth? Is there much of a mortality rate? And how soon do fish go back to feeding despite having a hook, and maybe a tippet hanging off its jaw? Thanks as always for everything you and Orvis do."
Well, Rick, I have answered this before. But I had a couple of questions on this topic this week, so I thought it's time to kind of reinforce it. First of all, usually you don't have to wait for a hook to rust out of a fish. What happens is when you hook a fish and you break it off, or sometimes if you hook a fish deeply and you don't wanna handle the fish for a long time because it's way down in its mouth and its gullet, and, you know, you think you're gonna be doing more damage trying to get the hook out than just cutting it off, so you cut off the fly, leave it in the fish, what happens is the area around the place where the hook is in their festers and the tissue softens and the hook slides out. And if you're using barbless hooks, it's quite common for the hook to come out very, very quickly. The fish just shakes it out eventually. For a barbed hook, they don't stay in there that long. But, you know, even if it does, it doesn't seem to bother the fish that much. I mean, it's probably annoying having a hook sticking out of your mouth. But they go back to doing what they do.
I have caught many fish with other people's flies in them. And, you know, if the fish is still active, and I know I have a little time, I'll remove the other hooks. And sometimes I keep them. Sometimes it's kind of interesting to see what other people have hooked a fish on. And if not, if they're hooked deeply, then they'll just leave it in and they'll eventually come out. But I've actually hooked a fish, broken it off, and gotten my fly back the same day. So, it depends on the fish and depends on how traumatic the experience was, but they may feed again the same day, an hour, or two, or three, or four hours later. It may be the next day. But they will continue to feed even with a fly in their jaw and a tippet hanging off there. Again, it's probably not a pleasant thing for the fish, but it's annoyance rather than a life-threatening situation. And, yeah, maybe some of them do die if they're hooked deep and you leave the hook in them. But, you know, we never know. But I wouldn't worry so much about it. Most of the time the fish get the hook out fairly quickly, and it's much better to leave a hook in a fish than to spend a lot of time handling it. I hope that answers your question.
Here's an email from Sean. "I love listening to your podcast on the way to work. I've picked up lots of tips along the way. Calling in from Western North Carolina. I like doing a lot of small stream fishing. How do you fish with friends on a small stream? I've been alternating frog hopping with friends, but it never seems to be fair for one or another as we work upstream. Do you tend to fish with friends knowing you'll miss a lot of fish, or space yourselves out and maybe not be as social in the river?"
Well, Sean, there's lots of ways of doing it. Generally, you know, two people is about max. Three is really a crowd on a small stream because you can't figure out how to separate yourselves, and you never know when the other person has fished the water that you're going up through. So, I do it one or two ways. One is to just alternate and fish together. So, one person hangs back, and, you know, it's good to have somebody to pick your flies out of the trees when you get hung up, somebody behind you. Of course, you want to be behind someone because you're usually working upstream. And the person isn't fishing can take pictures or just watch. Sometimes you'll learn a lot by watching the other person. And then you switch. And you can switch by pools. You can switch by fish risen. You can switch by fish caught. It all depends on how many fish are there, how active they are, how you wanna play the game. You can also switch by the clock, although that never seems to work out well and you hate looking at your phone or your watch when you're fishing a small stream. So, I don't do it that way. Usually, we do it by fish hook, but that's when we're fishing a small brook trout stream where the fish come fairly fast and furious. But you can do it any way you want.
If you do separate and fish different stretches, you have to really agree on who's gonna fish where and where you're gonna get out and leapfrog around the other person. Sometimes, you know, what the upstream person can do is to hang a handkerchief for something on a stick where it's visible where they start fishing so that if you're working upstream you know when you've hit the water that somebody else has fished and then you're gonna have to get out of the river and take the handkerchief, get out of the river, go way above the other person, then tie the handkerchief or whatever, a little piece of flagging tape. Make sure that you take the flagging tape. Make sure you don't leave it there. But, you know, you can do it any way you want. But three is really a crowd on small streams. Two people is much better. And it's a lot of fun. I do enjoy watching someone else fish. And that's when I take most of my pictures. When I'm not focused on fishing, it's a lot easier to take pictures. So, anyway, hope that helps.
Here's an email from Craig from Grand Rapids. "I'm a relative beginner, but I wanted to share a tip or tips from my first few seasons for making the most of getting time on the water. We've all got limited time, so we don't wanna waste time when we get a chance at getting our feet in the river. I find that being prepared to go always makes it easier to actually go. So, I always clean up my gear when I get home, put things back in their places, and prep my bag, boots, waders, rod, etc., like I'm about to go again so that when I can go fishing, all I have to do is throw my stuff in the car and go to the river. I try to keep my rod, a hemostat, and a small box of flies in the car too so that even if I stumble for a few moments on a pond that might have a bluegill, I can throw my line in the water for 15 or 20 minutes."
"Being willing to try these warm water species helps expand your opportunities a lot. When I load the car for an actual fishing outing, I have a little mantra of sorts. Before I close the tailgate, I recite the gear I will wear and use it as if I'm about to walk away from my car and into the water. Something like this: waders, boots, net, sling bag, rod, hat, sunglasses. I once showed up on the river and forgot my boots at home. After instituting this method, this hasn't happened again. So, this little preparedness drill prompted a question. I've been listening to your podcast, and I can't quite get it straight on the opinion about keeping gear in a hot car. There is some variation over the years, and I'm not sure which recommendation is most up to date. As long as things are out of the sunlight, is the heat of a car in the middle of the summer a problem for fly line or leaders and tippet? Doesn't seem to cause problems for flies except for rubber legs and squirmy worms. Those tend to break more easily, I've learned. And obviously, the rod itself isn't a problem. Hoping you can set this question straight once and for all."
All right, Craig. Well, first of all, that's a great mantra that you have. And all of us have gotten to the river and forgotten a reel or waders or wading boots. And if you're someone who can't memorize that mantra, it's not a bad idea to have a written list that you keep in your car and then just check it off when you go, because we've all done it. And it's annoying. Hopefully, you have a buddy that's got something you can wear or use. But, yeah, if you're by yourself, it can be really annoying.
Regarding the hot car, I've said it many times. And I don't think I've changed my mantra on this. It doesn't matter. There are two things that you don't wanna leave in a hot car. One is the chocolate bar that you put in your fishing vest because that's gonna melt. And then when it goes back to a solid form, it's gonna have what's called bloom, and bloom makes chocolate, it's like a whiteish residue on the chocolate. It doesn't taste very good. It makes it kind of chalky. And it doesn't look very good. So, be careful of your chocolate bar.
The other thing is gel floatant. Gel floatant can liquefy in a hot car. And if you haven't really, really sealed the top of that gel floatant, it can get all over everything and stain things. Not that a stain pack or fishing vest is a bad thing. It shows that you've got some time under your belt. But those are the only things. It's not gonna hurt your leader. It's not gonna hurt your fly line. It's not gonna hurt your tippet. It's not gonna hurt your reel. It's not gonna hurt your waders. It's not gonna hurt your wading boots. Hot cars, you know, this stuff that we have these days is meant to last, and it's gonna be able to survive no matter how... Unless your car gets to be about 450 degrees, it's not gonna hurt any of that stuff. And I don't think cars are gonna get to 450 degrees. Maybe in Phoenix in August. I don't know. But, anyway, I think you're safe. So, don't worry about that. Just watch the chocolate bars and the gel floatant, and you'll be all set.
Here's an email from Kell [SP] from Boston. "You answered a couple of my questions about trout fishing this past fall, and I really appreciate it. Your willingness to share your insights and experience have made me and countless other listeners out there better anglers and more knowledgeable advocates for conservation. Today, I'm sending in a question about saltwater fishing. As a fellow New Englander, you know that this time of year brings amazing opportunities to fish for striped bass. This spring, I purchased a 9wt combo and had been targeting stripers both by boat and in the surf. I've tried out several of the flies that you and Orvis suggest in your 'Striped Bass on a Fly' YouTube video, like clousers, poppers, gurglers, etc.
During a recent session where I enticed a few hits on my popper, I had an idea that stemmed from trout fishing. What about using a popper dropper for stripers? The popper is a great attractant in the right conditions. So, I was wondering if it would make sense to drop a small minnow worm or eel fly beneath it. Maybe the striper refuses your popper, but could that attractor pattern make it curious enough to take a smaller, more subtle dropper fly? I imagine that you will encourage me to go out and experiment, which is something I'm excited to do, but I'm curious if this is a common saltwater technique or one that you have tried in the past. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on this. And thanks again for everything you do."
Well, Kell, I have to admit, I have to confess that I've thought of this so many times, and I haven't done it. The reason is that most of the time I'm flats fishing in shallow water for stripers, and they don't take a popper very well or a gurgler. They will occasionally take a gurgler. But, you know, I'm usually fishing sinking flies and casting to individual fish. However, you know, if you're fishing rips or you're fishing deeper water you're prospecting, I think it's a great idea. And honestly, I haven't tried it. A couple things I worry about. The main thing is, is including an extra knot in there. You know, you got a dropper and you got that attached to your hook. And, you know, you never know when that 40-inch striper is going to take the lower fly, and then you worry about that second knot. But I think it's a great idea. You have to have a big enough popper or gurgler to suspend some sort of fly. So, the fly that you put below that is gonna have to be a neutrally buoyant fly and fairly small just so you can cast it in the wind. And that's another issue with stripers is the flies are bigger, you usually got wind. And two flies is gonna make your casting a lot more difficult. But I do think it's an idea. And, yeah, unfortunately, I'm gonna recommend that you experiment with it. I know they do, they use that for sea trout and redfish a lot. They'll use a popper with a drop or fly. In fact, even with spinning gear, they use a popper with a shrimp behind it. So, it's definitely a good idea. And I have to confess, I haven't done it. So, I'm looking forward to hearing your results of a popper dropper with stripers.
Here's an email from Lenny. "I've been listening to the podcast for a while now, and really enjoy the content. I look forward to every new episode, and especially appreciate the installments dedicated to specific trout conservation projects throughout the country. I'm a fly fisher from Maine and spend most of my time fishing in the big north woods of Aroostook County along with the occasional visits of the Rangeley region. And it is great to be able to try out tactics and tips on these waters that I gather from this show. My question relates to fly sizes. Throughout my time fly fishing, I've always wondered why we fish dry flies that are so much smaller than the insects we're actually trying to imitate. The average fly box, including mine, is full of size 14, 16, and 18 dry flies for insects like mayflies. When I see the actual mayflies that I am presumably trying to imitate, they're bigger than anything I see in my box. I'll sometimes fish still water right out in front of our family cabin and the adult flies on the window screens in the mornings are up to 2 inches long. I have heard that as dry fly tires, we should always trend our flies smaller than our actual target bug species since the nature of the water surface will magnify the fly and make it seem much bigger. This logic makes sense as far as it goes. But wouldn't that mean that the water is also magnifying the actual bugs, and they would appear larger still? And wouldn't that mean that the more accurately sized patterns would represent a perfectly appropriate appearance? Thank you for all you do for the fly-fishing community and for the conservation of fish we love."
Well, Lenny, you have an unusual situation, and most anglers don't have that situation. What you are experiencing are large mayflies probably in the Hexagenia genus. They're called Hex. And they live in large lakes, silty rivers, sandy rivers, and they're the largest, believe it, the largest mayfly in the world. But they're unusual. And they don't occur in a lot of trout streams. You're lucky enough that most of your lakes in Maine have these flies. But most mayflies that people see on lakes and rivers are gonna be size 14, 16, and 18. What you need, what you need to do is get yourself some Hexagenia or hex dry flies and fly shops do sell these to imitate those larger mayflies. Now, the fish may take the smaller fly, but in order to track those fish, you're gonna have to get some bigger dry flies. And that's a luxury that most of us don't have. So, you know, if you fish other streams in Maine, you're gonna find that the mayflies, and the caddisflies, and the stoneflies, most of them are much smaller than those flies you're seeing on the screen.
And the idea of fishing a fly a little bit smaller than what you see on the water, I don't think that that's actually due to any magnification of the water's surface. Because you're right, the natural would be magnified too. I think it's the fact that when we see flies in the air, they're moving around, and they look a little bigger than when they're just sitting in your hand or sitting on the water. Or maybe it's our imagination is making them look bigger. But if you see what appears to be is size 16 of mayfly flying through the air hatching, probably an 18 is gonna be better for the most part just because they look bigger. They look bigger to us. So, you need to get out a bit more, and you're gonna find lots of those smaller mayflies once you get away from those lakes in Maine. And you're lucky to have those big hexes, and I would urge you to get some big wolfs or some big hex flies. And I think you can go a little smaller than what you actually see on your screen. But you're gonna need something bigger than a 14 to imitate those. So, I hope this helps and clears it up.
Here's an email from Ben from Seattle. "Love the podcast. I've been fishing for about six months now, and I've already fallen deep down this rabbit hole. Wanted to offer some beta for the Yellowstone Area right now. I was fortunate enough to honeymoon in that area just last week and found fish galore. My experience was that they weren't rising on very delicate things very well. Could be a presentation issue on my part. But the dry droppers were deadly. I was able to get them to smash hoppers, ants, beetles, bees, etc. I had one real cool hookup where a cutthroat did a subtle eat on my nymph and then smashed the ant pattern above. All smiles on my end when I got it to the net, and she had the nymph in one side of her mouth and the dry in the other. There's a plethora of terrestrials about. And within a couple minutes on the bank, you should be able to get a good size and color references for what is there. Hope this helps. My question has to do with fishing wide sections of rivers. I fish a lot of 20- to 30-foot-wide river sections and seem to be able to read that water pretty well, but I find myself intimidated when faced with something like an 80-foot-wide section with relatively calm water. What's the best way to attack these wider, more meandering stretches? Thanks a ton."
Well, Ben, thank you very much for that report. As I've heard from other people, and as I suspected, that the fishing after the floods is coming back well and that the fish are alive and healthy. So, that's really great to hear. Regarding big rivers, there's kind of a platitude that goes around that says, "When you fish a big river, just divide it into smaller sections and fish it like a small stream." That doesn't work most of the time, especially in a big flat pool like you're talking about. You have to get a good broad view of that big flat pool and then fish it like a small stream. So, there's a number of things to look for on a big flat piece of water. And it's difficult to read that kind of water. It's absolutely a very difficult thing to do. And it's one of the most difficult things in trout fishing when you're faced with a large river and a big flat pool. So, here's a couple things to think about. One is to fish the head and the tail of the pool. Those are places where food is concentrated. And that flat stuff in the middle is gonna be tough to read and tough to find fish. And it has a little bit slower current so you're more likely to spook the fish and the fish is more likely to get a good look at your fly. So, I always go to the head or the tails of big pool like that.
Second thing is to look for fish rising. You know, walk up and down the pool a little bit, look at it from the head down to the tail. If you can, there's a path along the bank. Don't get in the water and wait around because you're gonna probably spook fish but walk the bank and look for some rising fish. Often, you'll find some fish rising. And other things to do. One is to look for the bubble or the drift line. There's gonna be a line of foam, or debris, or often insects, that's gonna traverse down through the pool. And it may go from one side to the other. It may be down the middle. It may be hugging one bank. But if you look for that foam, that's where the fish are gonna be feeding. They're not gonna be feeding in places where the current isn't bringing food to them. It's a dead zone. It's a desert. So, look for that bubble line. It's often very apparent, particularly later in the season. The fish are gonna be pegged to that bubble line.
And one final thing that you can do in a big pool like this... Well, there's two final things. I forgot one. One final thing is that trout prefer to feed in water that's about 2 to 4 feet deep. So, if this big pool has lots of deep water, look for the shallower spots. Look for the bars. Look in the tail of the pool where it starts to shallow out. Look at the shallows at the head of the pool. If the pool is really shallow throughout, look for the deeper slots. Look for the darker water. Look for places where that foam line coincides with the deeper pockets, and it usually will.
And then finally, look for some structure. The structure may not be immediately apparent but look for little riffles or little swirls on the surface that indicate there's a larger rock on the bottom that might hold fish. Look along the banks. Look for little points and projections where the current hugs one bank. There'll be little bumps, and projections, and bays, and those are gonna be much better than along a straight bank. So, banks are often a really good place to look for fish in a big pool like that. So, there's a number of things. It's gonna vary with every pool. But, you know, you have to get a good overview of that pool before you start, you know, dividing it down into small stream areas. So, get a good overview first, look at the whole pool. And I'm sure you'll be able to find some fish with a little bit of practice.
And here, finally, is our only phone call. And Alex, ordinarily, your message is over three minutes long and I wouldn't have read it. But since it's the only phone call I got this week, I'm gonna play it because there's some good stuff in there.
Alex: Hi, Tom. This is Alex from Fort Worth, Texas. Now, I had a couple questions for you, hopefully, that you can answer these and I'll end up listening to the answers in the future episode. Anyways, before I ask the questions, I wanted to say thank you very much for explaining and suggesting the Trilene knot. I've always used the improved clinch knot, and I had quite a few failures. And I realize now it's because of the difference between the diameter of the tippet and the wire size of the hook. Since I switched to the Trilene knot, I haven't had a failure. And it's been great. And it's made my time more enjoyable. So, thank you for that.
So, my first question for you is, so when I'm setting up a dry dropper rig, a lot of times I'll set up three different flies going down. I think I've done four once, but it got a little too complicated. But when I do that, I've set it up where I plan failure. By that, I mean I'll start out with the leader or whatever tippet and the knots that I use. I'll select knots or the tippet size in a successively weakening structure so that if I catch a rock, or a branch, or a decorator tree, or even hook on a big fish, that it will break at the lower end instead of all at once at the upper end. And so I'm kind of planning this failure so that I would only lose one fly or two flies instead of all two, three, or four. Do you suggest this, or do you think I should just go for broke and go ahead and plan them all? And if I fail or if a knot fails it fails, or if the line breaks it breaks, instead of planning something to be weaker than I should or than it otherwise has to be?
Second question I have for you is about setting hooks in still water. So, I know you're supposed to set the hook in the direction downstream in moving water. However, in still water, what direction should I be setting the hook? Should it just be straight up as if I'm lined up directly downstream? I just can't seem to find anybody who has a definitive answer on that. And I just wanted to know your thoughts.
Finally, one day I was fishing, I actually had an outstanding day, it landed about 50 to 60 rainbow trout in one afternoon. Now, on that day, when I did that, probably about 20 of those were foul hooked. I was running an indicator and three flies underneath it. One of it was a dry fly. I think it was a stimulator. The middle fly was some kind of junk fly, like a squirmy wormy or a mop fly. And then the bottom fly was a beaded like nymph, a Copper John, or a Prince Nymph or something, or a chironomid, something like that. But I did notice about 20 of those were foul hooked. And, you know, I felt bad. You know, I just tried to land them as quickly as possible, remove the hook, and let them go. I just didn't know if you had an idea of why that was happening and how I could prevent that in the future. I feel awful whenever it's a foul hook. I know it happens to everyone. But if there's a way to minimize that, I'd love to change what I'm doing when I'm either drifting or setting the hook. So, hopefully, I can make the trauma of landing a fish to be less stressful on the fish itself. Anyways, God bless you. Thank you so much for the program. And I'm really hoping that I hear you answer these questions in the future episode. Thanks, Tom, again. Bye-bye."
Tom: So, first of all, I'm glad the podcast has helped and I'm glad the Trilene knot is working for you. It's a great knot. Regarding setting knots in successively weaker structure, you know, I wouldn't do that because you never know which fly a fish is gonna take. So, I would just use the knots that you trust, use the stronger knots, but on your lower sections, maybe use one tippet size smaller. That'll give you probably a little bit better presentation. And if you do get hung up, you know, you're gonna probably only lose one fly. So, I wouldn't purposely go with weak knots, but you might wanna use lighter tippets on the dropper flies. Regarding setting hooks in still water, you know, it's really the same as you would in a stream. And setting the hook downstream, yeah, if you're euro-nymphing and you got a tight line to the fish, it's great for setting the hook, you know, at the right angle downstream. But, you know, often, if you're fishing dry flies, or swinging wets, or fishing a nymph with an indicator, the angle that know, in other words, if you've got a longer line and you're not in direct contact with the fly, it doesn't matter what direction you set the hook because the line is still gonna go in a straight line anyways regardless of whether you set to the side or downstream or upstream. You need to tighten that line. That's the thing, you need to tighten that line. And usually, a lift of the rod tip is the best thing to do.
And the same in still water. Just, you know, if you're fishing a dry or a nymph, usually just raising the rod tip with a straight line, with the rod tip pointing right at the fly is the best way to set the hook. And then if you're fishing streamers, a strip strike is better. So, you know, if fish are actively chasing a subsurface fly, a strip strike generally works better because they're coming at you. And if you raise the rod tip, you're probably gonna pull it out of their mouth. Whereas if you strip strike, if the fish misses the fly, you're not whipping the fly out of the water and you're gonna get a better hook set. So, dries or nymphs, just raise your rod tip. Streamers, use a strip strike.
Regarding this foul hooking. You know, I hate to tell you but if you use three flies, you're gonna foul hook some fish. You might wanna consider, if you're really foul hooking fish, and especially since you caught, you know, 50 or 60 trout in a day, maybe you wanna go to a single fly. You know, it sounds like you were very successful. You had plenty of fish. I think probably the best thing to do would be to go to a single fly. If you got three flies in line and fish takes that upper fly, usually the biggest fly, and spits it out quickly, invariably you're gonna foul hook a fish because your other flies are trailing along its body. Or when it turns, you're gonna catch them. So, I wouldn't use so many flies. Three flies is awful lot, and usually, you can get away with two.
And then the other situation, if you really wanna fish multiple flies and you're foul hooking fish, there's two things you can do. One is to make sure that the section that...if you're tying your flies in line, all in the same line, with clinch knots or whatever, Trilene knots, whatever, you wanna make those distances between each fly longer. And I like to go longer than the body length of the largest fish that I think might be in there. So, if it's a lot of small fish in a small stream, you know, maybe 10 inches is good. If you're fishing in a bigger river and some of the fish might be 20 inches, you wanna have at least 20 inches between flies. But you're still gonna foul hook some fish there. One of the best things to do is instead of tying those flies in line, which I expect that's what you're doing, tie them on separate droppers. You're much less likely to foul hook a fish when you've got those other flies standing off the center line of the main part of your leader. Much less likely to foul hook them. So, fewer flies, use separate droppers, and I think you'll stop foul hooking so many fish.
All right. That is the Fly Box for this week. Let's go talk to Captain Benny Blanco about how one person can make a difference in a fishery. So, my guest today is Captain Benny Blanco. Benny's based in Florida Keys in Islamorada. And Benny, you've based your life on the health of the Florida Keys. And you've been at the forefront of really the grassroots movement along with the science organizations like Everglades Foundation and [inaudible 00:38:03], and also Captains for Clean Water, which is a grassroots organization. But you've really been a voice for the resource. And actually, you just starred in a film that just premiered called "Follow the Water." And in this film, Benny and Simon Perkins, the president and CEO of Orvis, and Hannah Perkins followed a drop of water from the very headwaters of the Florida Keys outside of Orlando, down through the river system, down through Lake Okeechobee, and then through the agriculture area into the Everglades. So, it's a great overview of the issue. And to actually see these places, I think, really brings it home to people.
So, you can see that film on YouTube. It's called "Follow the Water." You can see it on the Orvis site. Hopefully, if you get any kind of Orvis communication, you've already seen it, because we're gonna blast it out there like crazy. But, Benny, I wanna talk to you today a little bit more about the personal issues here. So, tell me about how you first recognized the problem and the fact that you had to do something about it.
Capt. Blanco: For sure. Thank you so much for having me on, Tom. I can't thank you enough for lending our cause a voice, for giving me the opportunity to speak about what's going on. To Orvis, for allowing us to shoot this film and tell the real story. I mean, I learned something. I grew up and lived my entire life in the Glades. And it was the first time I ever got to really follow the water all the way down through the system which I learned was fun.
Tom: Cool.
Capt. Blanco: And so I'm hopeful that this video will teach people who have no understanding of the Everglade system something, and the people who've been in and around it, you know, the critical components that will help you understand the entire program completely. It did for me. For me, it is very personal, Tom. You know, I built my entire life around the health of Florida Bay. You know, when I was young, I specifically decided to be a guide in Florida Bay because it was in the Everglades National Park. And, you know, it's a national park, it should be protected. You know, what could possibly go wrong? And here I am, you know, 24 years later, literally fighting for the fate of Florida Bay and the Everglades tooth and nail. And we are very much at the point that if we don't do something now, we may lose it forever.
And I'm so grateful for organizations like Everglades Foundation, Captains for Clean Water, for helping us spread the word in such a manner that we are able to reach the populace. And that's been the change. You know, that passion for the place that we love, taking it to a senator's office, to a congressman's office, expressing that passion in only a way a fisherman can truly express the passion for what they love, and it's translated into real progress. You know, for the first time ever, we've got record funding from the feds, record funding from the state, prioritization for projects that we desperately need to get water south. Today is a new day. And I'm so excited to be able to say it's not just hope, that it's actually a light at the end of the tunnel, and we're starting to see that fruition now.
Tom: Yeah. I mean, this, according to what I've heard, will be the largest restoration project in history in the United States.
Capt. Blanco: Yes, sir. No, in the planet.
Tom: In the planet. Wow.
Capt. Blanco: The largest restoration project ever undertaken. Yes, sir. And we have...
Tom: And to get that done, navigating Florida politics is quite an achievement because we all know Florida politics is different. Well, it's different.
Capt. Blanco: For sure. Anyone who has a social presence was well aware of what happened in February this year, and how the Florida Senate tried very hard to sneak a bill through that would've, you know, really crushed everything, all the progresses we've had over the last five, six years. And we are at a stage in an organizational level of captains that we were able to capture, catch that issue early, confirmed by the specialist at Everglades Foundation. And we mobilized overnight. Everybody saw it and we had to fight tooth and nail. They told us we were crazy. They told us we didn't know what we were talking about. And in the end, after a month of fight, 50,000 emails were sent, 50,000 signatures were signed on a petition, you know, so many calls and hearings. And the governor, just three weeks ago, finally vetoed the bill. Because as a community, the entire outdoor community stood up, stood strong and wouldn't take no for an answer. And here we are looking at the light at the end of the tunnel for Everglades' restoration because we were educated and able to mobilize so quickly.
Tom: And I don't think this would've happened. I don't think this bill would've been killed without a bunch of captains yelling and screaming. You know, this is real grassroots stuff. And you guys changed the world. And that's pretty amazing.
Capt. Blanco: For sure. I've never been more proud than that day when everybody showed up. You know, we've been fighting for six, seven years. And the first time we went to Tallahassee, there was three of us. And we fought two years later and tried to get everybody there. And there was eight of us, you know. To have, you know, a couple hundred guides show up at the drop of a hat in Tallahassee, you know, some 400 miles away is pretty darn incredible. And I don't know how to describe it, but it really felt like we saved the Everglades that day. And it very well could be that that day was the turning point.
Tom: I think so. Of course, it's gonna be a continual fight for sure. But you guys will be on top of it. So, let's talk about how you first became aware of it and what caused you to just throw up your hands and say, "I have to do something about this," instead of just sitting around and complaining about it, and changing jobs or whatever.
Capt. Blanco: For sure. Like I said, I built my business in Florida Bay, and my client base became sight fishing maniacs. That's all they wanted to do was sight fish, and that's all I wanted too. And Florida Bay is the mecca for sight fishing. It's where saltwater fly fishing was born. You know, something like 70% of all the permit and bonefish records exist, you know, just crazy numbers. Flip and Stu and Ted Williams. I mean, the list is incredible. And it was all there in Florida Bay. And, you know, over the course of my career there, I watched degradation happening, slowly here and there, and didn't quite understand it. Just really kind of wrote it off as it's just part of the process, a phase. And, obviously, somebody else is fighting for it because it's the Everglades National Park. You know, somebody's fighting for it.
And in 2015, we had a drought, a pretty bad drought. Predominantly soft wind all summer, which pushed dead grass into the bay. And it was kind of a perfect storm of scenario, of situations, circumstances that caused a hyper-salinity event to happen. And hyper-salinity, for those that don't understand what that is, it's when water becomes too salty. And in many cases that summer, we saw measurements twice the salt content of sea water in Florida Bay. And it creates like a petri dish, a petri dish of algal blooms that just consumed the entire bay. And overnight, we saw nearly 50,000 acres of seagrass disappear, literally flowed up from the bottom and just drift away. And that destroyed everything in Florida Bay. There was no sight fishing. The fish left immediately. The bait died or left. And it was just a... You know, I watched the place that I was inextricably connected to die, and I watched my business really crumble in front of my eyes.
And so I lost my mind, and I went to the very first, the next meeting I could get to, which happened to be a subcommittee hearing in Tallahassee. I flew up with a couple other guides from the Keys, and I sat next to this long-bearded guy from the West Coast with a funky hat on. And he was screaming, "You know, we don't need these discharges. We don't need this water from the lake." And my guys were screaming, "We need more water in the south end of the lake and in the south end of the system." And long story short, it was Daniel Andrews and Chris Whitman who were sitting next to us, and we all quickly realized that we were all fighting for the same thing. That it wasn't just the Caloosahatchee that was being destroyed. It wasn't just Florida Bay that was being destroyed. It was the entire system. And that we desperately needed to look at it as one system. And that year, Captains for Clean Water was born. That year, I very explicitly remember on the flight back to Miami to marathon, calling my wife and saying, "I need to buy another sport coat and a bunch of button-up shirts because I need to be spending a lot of time up here."
And I wish it wasn't that way. You know, Tom, I wanna be a guide. I'm a guide. I don't wanna be a TV host. I don't wanna be in Tallahassee lobbying for this stuff. I wanna guide. And it became evident in those early years that we weren't gonna get any help. This was gonna be a straight uphill battle. But that no one else is gonna fight for it like we were. You know, the scientists kind of throw facts on a board and they expect people to understand it. And that doesn't work. You gotta go in there with your fist up and ready to knock somebody out if necessary. And that's kind of what we do. We go there, we lay our passion on the table, and we don't take no for an answer. We have nothing to lose except everything we love. So, when you get to that point, when you realize that the fishery, the land, the sport that you love is at risk of not being there tomorrow if you don't say something, it doesn't become a question of whether you say something. It becomes a question of how loud you can get.
And I think that's what we've done here. And because of that, we're seeing progress. But that 2015 year was the year that I decided that I could, as a guide, as a steward of the Everglades, as a steward of the place that I love, that I could no longer allow anyone else to fight that fight on my behalf. That I had to be there at every opportunity, whether it was manufactured opportunity or presented opportunity. I needed to be there and ready to battle in any form or fashion that came up. And I'm really proud to say that the entire community, over the last five years, has changed from that mentality that I had prior to '15 to what it is now, and showing up in Tallahassee at a moment's notice and doing whatever's necessary to make sure that our legislators know that if they don't help us save this place, we will vote them out.
Tom: Now, Benny, this should be a model for anyone who cares about a fishery, whether they're a guide or just an angler. I mean, I sit in a boat with guides, or I fish a river with someone who fishes it a lot and they complain about this environmental problem or that environmental problem. But often they don't take any action on it. And you did. And you have a wife, you have young kids. How many kids do you have?
Capt. Blanco: I have three daughters.
Tom: Three daughters. How did you balance this and keep a job? I mean, being a guide is hard work and constant work, and sometimes seven days a week. How did you make this balance?
Capt. Blanco: Yeah, I wish I could tell you. First of all, there is no balance. I wish there was. I am just absolutely blessed with four women in my house who understand how important it is to me, to my community, to their livelihood, my livelihood, to us. And they know that I'm doing it because...that I feel like we can make a difference. And they support me completely. So, the balance, in that respect, was really a gift from them to me. And, you know, I get asked that all the time. You know, who's paying me to be in these places? And, you know, my daughters are paying. My family's paying, you know, and my grandkids are paying in advance. But it's a payment that I'm willing to give up now because I know that if we wait any longer, it won't be here. And I think that would be a larger travesty. You know, there very well will be a conversation with one of my grandchildren in Florida Bay, 15, 20 years from now, and it'll go one of two ways. Either we're gonna look at a bay that's completely destroyed and I'm gonna tell him, you know, stories of what it used to be, which is what you hear everywhere you go now, or it'll be a story of how an entire industry got behind, you know, this worthy cause and we fought to protect it and look at how beautiful it is.
And so that's the reason that I fight so hard. And that's the reason that balance isn't necessarily so important right now because we're shooting for balance for the future. You know, as far as balancing guiding and the days, you know, dedicated to speaking up and traveling and doing all those things, like, that's also not a balance. You know, I guide at every second that I can so that I can support my family. And then at every opportunity that I'm able to speak up, I do. And in the end of the year, some years, it's not so bad. And other years, I take a large hit and we're trying to get creative with how we pay for things and do the best we can. And it just is what it is. But the number one thing is that I'm not missing an opportunity to speak up and further the progress here because it's too important not to.
Tom: Well, that is a beautiful and eloquent thought. And it's a lesson to all of us.
Capt. Blanco: For sure. You know, I wanted to go back to something you said, Tom. You know, I experience the same thing when I go visit places. And I sit for a second with guides in their areas, and I absolutely understand what they're going through. Prior to '15, I did. You know, I was watching degradation, and I figured somebody else was fighting for it. And everywhere I go, the only thing I hope to leave is that the impression to those guides that no one is going to fight for it like you will. So, whether they're fighting for it or not, it's not enough. You have to use your voice. You have to speak up. And everybody has a voice. It might be just your family at home. It might be your close knit of friends. It might be your 10 followers on social media. It also might be 30,000 followers on social media, and it might be, you know, an English club or something. But everybody has a voice and if we all use our voice, then it won't be long before you see change. But what absolutely will not change is if you sit in your boat every single day and don't do anything.
So, becoming a steward, empowering the entire industry, every single person in this industry to realize that responsibility to the resource and to the industry is crucial.
Tom: It sure is, and it works. It can work.
Capt. Blanco: Yes, sir.
Tom: It can work. So, Benny, things are looking good. I mean, I'm more enthusiastic and positive about this issue than I had been since we first started, you know, back when Orvis was involved, back with SERP plan back in, what was it, 2010.
Capt. Blanco: Yeah.
Tom: And I'm more positive and enthusiastic about what could happen in the Keys and in both estuaries on both coasts, and in the Everglades. What do you see as things we need to watch out for? What are some speed bumps that we might encounter?
Capt. Blanco: Yeah, that's the million-dollar question. You know, the sugar industry is very smart. They have a legion of lobbyists who find very creative ways of getting things done regularly. And their game of smoke and mirrors, and delay tactics, and moving of priorities, it's all becoming very clear to the average person now. And so the future speed bumps are gonna be very much the same of what we've seen over the last 50 years, and what we saw in February. It's gonna be backhanded bills. It's gonna be delay tactics for openings, for permits. And all I can tell you is that as long as we remain engaged, as long as we continue to educate the people around us and speak up, and don't look at, you know, one good summer as an answer that the water's fixed, and keep that high-level awareness and engagement, then they will never be able to stop us, if we do that. This year was the perfect example of that. You know, in the Caloosahatchee and the St. Lucie, we've had three years of no discharges, of light discharges, and good water. We have grass regrowing. We have fisheries rebounding.
And it's easy to sit back and just look at the last three years and think, "Wow, we've done the work. And we're on our way to restoration and we're doing fantastic." And then sugar slides that bill in there at the last second of the last day so that it could be heard three days later thinking that we wouldn't catch it, and no one would go through. But we remained diligent. We remained aware, and we caught it and then mobilized immediately. And the entire industry rallied around it, and we shut it down. So, you know, those speed bumps are gonna happen. They're gonna be just like that. And as long as we remain engaged and aware, then we've proven that we have the ability to shut it down, to mobilize quickly, and to just continue to grow our movement through those efforts.
And so I wish I could tell you exactly what it's gonna be. But I can tell you, it's gonna be creative. It's gonna be well thought out. It's gonna be, you know, a very good sneak attack, and we're just gonna have to be ready at a moment's notice to just jump and knock it out, and just keep our eye on the ball. And like you said before, hopes are high right now. We have so many big projects that are seeing funding and permitting. And I mean, it's a very exciting time. If you've read any of the books about the Everglades or seen any of the movies about the restoration fight over the last 30 years or so, to understand where we are right now is pretty darn incredible.
Tom: It is.
Capt. Blanco: We're literally writing the history books right now.
Tom: Hey, Benny, I wanted to ask you about the estuaries, about the St. Lucie and the Caloosahatchee. You said that they're rebounding, and the seagrass is coming back. Is that partly just seasonal changes or weather patterns? Is it some of the mitigation measures that have been put in place? Is it a mixture of both? What's your take on that?
Capt. Blanco: Yeah. So, it is definitely a mixture of both. We've had some pretty favorable conditions to not have discharge issues. But we've had several very close calls where they've needed to dump water. And because we've done so much work, because we are active and I'm sure you've seen a few of the call to actions over the last few years, you'll see 15 texts from me and an email begging you to sign a petition or send an email, and all of a sudden, the Army Corps finds a better way to discharge the water somewhere else or hold it in another pond and doesn't hit St Lucie and doesn't kill the grass progress. So, we've had three years of fighting on and off to make sure that that happens. And we've also had some pretty favorable conditions.
And because of that, those two estuaries are completely different than Florida Bay, in the sense that they're always rebounding as long as we don't put that fresh water in their system. Whereas in Florida Bay, we desperately need that fresh water over extended periods of time in order for it to even start to rebound. And it's also about timing in Florida Bay. In Florida Bay, you can't just send us a bunch of fresh water in the rainy season. It really doesn't help much. We need to have fresh water in the dry season, which is why all these restoration efforts is so important. And Florida Bay just takes a long time to regenerate. So, down here, you know, we're looking at long-term whereas Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie, they could rebound in a matter of three or four summers.
Tom: I've heard that the bonefish population in Florida Bay is really coming back. You see more young fish and people are seeing a lot more bonefish. Are you seeing the habitat improve in Florida Bay as well?
Capt. Blanco: No, unfortunately, we have not seen a tremendous amount of rebounding. We've seen, you know, partial rebounding here and there. The biggest problem in Florida Bay is that we have this, like, never-ending silt plume that kind of happened after we lost all of our grass in '15. The silt, for the layperson, is, you know, what makes up the bottom in Florida Bay. And it's like dust, basically. And because there's no root system, there's no grass to clean it up and there's no root system to hold it down, any wind event, which could be 10 knots of wind, churns it up and stays in the water column and it just kind of gets flushed in and out with the tides. And the problem with that plume is it sits in the water column between the grass and the sun. And anybody who's tried to grow grass in their lawn knows that it needs to have sunlight in order to synthesize and to grow.
And so we have this like domino effect of we lost the grass, then we have a silt plume. And the silt plume doesn't allow the new grass to regrow fast enough in between the wind events. And so, it's unfortunate that we don't have that kind of habitat regeneration in Florida Bay. But the good news is the fisheries are fairly strong. We get new recruitment classes of bonefish every year that come out of the Caribbean. I don't know how much you know about the bonefish populations, but, you know, the larvae, the bonefish hit the Gulf stream and they come from Mexico, Cuba, Belize, and those fish hit our freshwater brackish estuaries in the Everglades, they find some habitat and they grow here. So, the habitat's crucial for them. And so we have great recruitment classes every year, but we don't have a quite enough habitat for them to sustain. So, it's this balancing act of lots of young fish that don't necessarily make it to be big fish yet. But we've got that cycle of starting where if we can start to regenerate the grass and we have this new recruitment classes coming, then we could have a very healthy bone fishery, you know, in 5 to 10 years.
Tom: Okay, good.
Capt. Blanco: So, it's know, we're very hopeful.
Tom: Yeah. And, Benny, another thing, for people who haven't been following the nitty-gritty of this issue, because it is complex, why exactly does the sugar industry so threatened by this restoration project?
Capt. Blanco: That's a very great question, man. This one's bothered me from the beginning because, at the beginning, I felt like if we could just have an educated conversation with them, that we ensure we could find some middle ground and they could be a hero. And, unfortunately, they don't see it that way. You know, it's for a lot of reasons. They are fairly greedy as far as the industry goes. They wanna make every dollar they can make. They have federal protections for costs and crop sales. So, you know, long story short, at the end of a season, if they sell, you know, 2 million barrels short of what their total crop production is, the federal government buys [SP] it from them anyways. So, literally, every inch of grass that they could harvest is money. And in order to have a successful harvest, if anyone who's ever grown anything knows, they have to have good water supply. And so they use Lake Okeechobee as their personal irrigation pond.
And so they wanna control that water at all costs. And that's why they fight. They wanna make sure that they always have enough water in the lake for their crop. Even though there's never in the history of the sugar industry in the State of Florida, ever been a situation where they haven't had enough water. There's always enough water for everybody. They just don't wanna share with anybody and they wanna maintain control.
So, it's a little bit about money, and a little bit about ego, and a little bit about power, and they like all of that. And they do not care about the Everglades. And for decades, we pandered to the agriculture community because they were a huge economic driver for the state. But that's all changed in the last 25 years. You know, we are a tourism-based economy. Period. You know, something like 10 times as much economic force as the agriculture industry in the State of Florida. So, we have to protect our environment if we wanna have a future here. And they just don't see it that way. So, we are on opposite sides of the spectrum, and they're never gonna see it. I mean, I don't wanna say never. You know, maybe there's a time when they realize they could sell the land for a profit and get out clean. And maybe that'll come someday, but right now they're fighting tooth and nail for every drop of water they can retain.
Tom: And water that goes into the sugar cane fields doesn't get to the Everglades?
Capt. Blanco: Absolutely not. Nope. At that point, it's full of nitrogen and phosphates that would absolutely destroy the Glades. And so we are building these storm treatment areas that can treat that water, but it just doesn't work that way. We have to be able to retain water from the lake and treat it through a natural process before we send it into the park. And it's counterintuitive to send that water to a farm field and then have to take out, you know, five times nutrients before we send it south. And honestly, they're not willing to deal that way. They wanna control the water, and they don't wanna give us any.
Tom: Yeah. So, one of the biggest parts of this project is to build reservoirs that take the Lake Okeechobee water, which is high in nitrates and phosphates anyway, and treat it and then send it south into the Everglades after it's been removed naturally by plant growth.
Capt. Blanco: Exactly. Right. So, when you see the film... I encourage everyone to see the film. Again, I spent my entire career here in the Glades, and I've spent the last six years fighting tooth and nail to protect it. And I learned a ton putting this together. So, one thing that's very evident, when you watch the film, is you see the water flow from Shingle Creek in the Kissimmee Lake, into the Kissimmee chain of lakes, into Lake Okeechobee. It's very powerful the amount of water that's actually available up there. Now, it's flowing south. And then you get to the EAA, the Everglades Agriculture Area, which is where sugar is predominant, and it's basically like a dam. Like a complete stopping point. The water doesn't flow anymore south. And just south of that area is the park, is Everglades National Park.
And so that's our stopping point. And that reservoir is that link. It's that crucial link that connects the lake and the water that we need from the lake, and then the ability to treat it so that we can drop it into the Everglades like it's supposed to be. And that's the most important thing that you can take away from the film is understanding how that water needs to get from the lake to the Everglades. And by doing that, by connecting it, and by building this reservoir and all the infrastructure that needs to happen between the reservoir and the park, we are also eliminating the discharges to the St. Lucie River and to the Caloosahatchee. So, we're saving three major fisheries with one basic move. And it's definitely the best bang for our buck as far as ROI, the return on investment, for the Everglade's restoration projects because it actually will affect all three fisheries.
Tom: And won't this positively affect the water supply to south Florida, too, their drinking water supply?
Capt. Blanco: Oh my God. For sure. So, the Everglades National Park supplies drinking water to 9 million people in South Florida. And that's through the Biscayne Aquifer which exists directly under the Everglades and under Dade County. And that aquifer, the health of that aquifer, is absolutely tied to the health of the Everglades. When the Everglades has influx of fresh water, when the water's clean, when the Everglades is doing what it needs to do, that aquifer is healthy. It pushes back on saltwater intrusion. All of the wells are filled with clean, fresh water. And there's plenty of water supply for everybody. When we're in a drought and the Everglades is unhealthy, the Biscayne Aquifer is in dire straits, and we have these major restraints on what we can use our water. You can't fertilize. You can't water your lawns. You can't take showers from 9:00 to 11:00. It's crazy how quickly everybody has to make a major adjustment in order to accommodate the water issues. And it's all tied together. All we have to do, and we've been saying this since day one, is clean that water and send it south. And everybody's in a better place.
Tom: Yeah. Everybody except the sugar plantations, right?
Capt. Blanco: Well, even they would be in a better place because we'd stop bugging them so much.
Tom: Yeah. Right. You'd leave them alone.
Capt. Blanco: Yeah. Exactly. So, it's a very good point. And that's how we can engage the communities around the fishing, and angling, and outdoor communities that we desperately need. We need everyone's voice.
Tom: Yeah.
Capt. Blanco: You know, it's important that the people in the State of Florida understand that they're connected to the water, connected to the Everglades, connected to this restoration project, whether they understand it or not. And they have the responsibility to speak up forward, too, because it will absolutely affect them in the future if we don't fix it now. And if more people outside of our industry understood that, I think we could see some progress pretty quickly too.
Tom: Yeah, I think so. I mean, you've had pretty good support from the tourism industry there and the real estate industry, right? They've really recognized that healthy Everglades is good for their business.
Capt. Blanco: For sure. It's pretty evident. And, you know, rather than in 2018 when we had dead fish on every beach and green algal blooms on every river, and, you know, the property values dropped, we lost all kinds of business over the summer, no one wants to see that again. So, you know, you see that one time and all of a sudden, the tourism industry is all about how they can help us. And all the realtors are wearing captain's hats.
Tom: Yeah. Good. Good.
Capt. Blanco: So, that's kind of where we have to be. Everybody's gotta be on the same page.
Tom: Yeah. Yeah. Well, when you talk about tourism, and drinking water, and a healthy Everglades, it touches nearly everybody in Florida.
Capt. Blanco: That's right. It definitely does. And Simon makes a great point in the film, and he talks about it all the time when we speak about it, this isn't just about the Everglades. It is about the Everglades, but it's not. It's all eyes on what we're doing here, all across the country, all across the planet. You know, every fishery's dealing with some type of environmental issue or another. And no one really understands how to do it. And they're seeking hope, they're seeing what we're doing here and realizing that they can fight for what they love, the places that they love. And it's possible to save it and fix it. And they're seeking that hope through us.
And so this is about the Everglades, no doubt, but this is really more about our entire community, our outdoor community, hunters, fishermen, people who love the beaches and the water, and vacationing in tropical places, standing up and speaking up for these places that they love, in general. And everybody, it's just our first step. You know, it's the biggest restoration project and it's proof that we can do it everywhere else. And so I think that's a better selling point than just saying, "We should save the Everglades." I think this is more about our culture changing and the fishing and the hunting communities realizing that we are really conservationists at heart and that we are the ones, the stakeholders who are gonna be the ones who save all these places.
Tom: Yeah. I think you guys are exactly right. I think this is gonna give hope to people all over the world who are facing issues like this.
Capt. Blanco: For sure. I hope so.
Tom: Well, that is awesome. And Benny, I wanna thank you for taking the time to share your passion. And I urge everyone to watch that film, "Follow the Water," because it's a beautiful film, and it will really bring it home and really help you understand this complex problem. Does a really good job of showing the whole ecosystem and how it's all tied together.
Capt. Blanco: There's no doubt. I appreciate you having me on, Tom. I'm a huge fan. I don't think there's anybody in the industry who's not a fan of Tom Rosenbauer. And I don't know if you remember, but I think, I know that you were my first call, I don't know, four years ago, five years ago when I first decided that I was gonna put a show together and try to educate some of the masses. And without hesitation, you wanted to get involved and put me in touch with the right people. And, you know, I've been with Orvis ever since. And I think people in the industry can learn from guys like you who absolutely understand the responsibility that you have to the industry from an educational standpoint, from the ability to use the platform that you've created to educate people and to inspire people to do the right thing and to speak up. I think we would do better if we had more Toms in the industry. And I just appreciate you and for having me on today. I really do.
Tom: Well, you know, Benny, it's really the culture at Orvis. I mean, I've been there 45 years. And since the day I started Orvis, part of the company DNA was that you protect what you enjoy. And that was instilled in me by Lee Perkins, Simon's grandfather, who I worked for for many years. And it's always been part of who we are, you know. It's part of our job. We realized it's part of our job. And, you know, Orvis is not a huge business despite what a lot of people think. And we can't raise the kind of money that is needed for a lot of these projects. But as Phil Monahan, the editor of our blog "Orvis News," always says, we got a big megaphone. And we like to use that megaphone.
Capt. Blanco: That's right. Well, major kudos to Lee and Orvis for recognizing that responsibility and being the example for the entire industry. And I think we're gonna see a lot more of that corporate responsibility realization in the next couple of years. We're already seeing it in several places. And it's really been the difference in the last one to two years, and our effectiveness in reaching policymakers and the people that make these decisions. When I go to Tallahassee and scream and yell, "It's effective," and they listen. But when Orvis, YETI, Costa, Mercury, Hell's Bay, all these major companies show up and say, "You know, it's affecting our business to the tune of X million dollars," people do more than listen. They start pushing buttons.
And so I'm grateful for Lee for setting that groundwork, for passing it down to very educated Perkins family members. And that now that Simon's there and Tom is doing what Tom does, that, you know, we've created this machine of setting the example for the industry. And I'm just grateful to be a part of it.
Tom: Well, we are honored to have you on our team, Benny.
Capt. Blanco: Likewise, my man. Likewise.
Tom: All right. Well, thank you, Benny. And we've been talking to Captain Benny Blanco of Islamorada. And, you know, if you want a good day on the water and you can find him...if you can find him on a day when he isn't dressed in his suit and tie up in Tallahassee, you should look him up.
Capt. Blanco: I appreciate that.
Tom: What's your website address, Benny?
Capt. Blanco: My website is the show address. I actually took my personal site down. The show address is
Tom: Okay, Okay.
Capt. Blanco: Yes, sir. And you can read all about what's going on with the Everglades, what we're doing with the show, and you can reach me there for sure.
Tom: Where can people see your show?
Capt. Blanco: You can see my show on Waypoint TV, which is a streaming and Smart TV option. It's downloadable on Roku and Apple TV and a bunch of places. And it's actually in a Base program in a lot of places. We're also on "Fox Sports South," which I know is not available in a lot of places up north. But the Waypoint app you can either download on your phone, on your smart TV, on your computer. And it's very easy to access all of our episodes. And every one of our episodes is meant to educate. We travel all around the southeast of the United States to all the major fisheries and tell the real science stories about what's going on with the water. We fish with some of the most educated stakeholders in those areas. And, you know, you get to watch some pretty epic fishing for some world-class fish, at the same time learn about what's going on so that you can get educated and get involved.
Tom: It's a great combination, and it's a great show.
Capt. Blanco: A hundred percent. Yeah, thank you.
Tom: And you are one busy guy. Gee, you are a busy guy.
Capt. Blanco: For sure. Please don't talk to my wife.
Tom: Oh, no. Make sure you spend some family time. I know you do. I know you take your family out on the boat quite a bit, so.
Capt. Blanco: For sure. For sure.
Tom: All right, Benny. I want to thank you very much. And appreciate you taking the time.
Capt. Blanco: Thank you, Tom.
Tom: Okay.
Capt. Blanco: Thank you, Tom. Anytime, my man. Have a great day.
Tom: Yep. You, too. Bye-bye.
Capt. Blanco: Bye, buddy. Bye-bye.
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