Though more has been reported from the Keys, Everglades City and Chokoloskee, on the northwest side of Everglades National Park, were among the hardest-hit communities. The recreational fishing industry, on which much of the local economy depends, was devastated. Many boat captains lost their homes, boats and/or gear. Those able to start up again saw much of their fall business evaporate during post-Irma closure of the National Park and the lack of functioning hotels in town.
To help the South Florida recreational fishing industry get back on its feet, Maverick Boat Group and the nonprofit Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida have announced recovery grants to 12 recreational fishing guides in Everglades City and Chokoloskee.
The majority of funding has come from the Maverick Boat Group, manufacturer of Cobia, Pathfinder, Maverick and Hewes boats. Founder and CEO Scott Deal has been working with the Foundation and several organizations to distribute funds throughout the South Florida fishing community.
“We knew we wanted to do our part and help our friends in the fishing community, and the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida provided us a perfect way to know that our dollars would go where they belong,” said Deal.
One charter captain spoke for many on receiving a grant: “I thought had made my last trip in Chokoloskee. These funds allow me to get this year’s National Park permit. The storm took everything we had. But this grant and the help of some of my long-time angler customers is allowing us to start again.”
Foundation CEO Andrew Walker expressed his appreciation for the Maverick Boat Group’s generosity, calling it hard to over-estimate how much of a difference such assistance makes. He thanked Scott Deal and his colleagues at Maverick Boat Group for their compassion and foresight in making these gifts.
Walker also emphasized the importance of continuing assistance for south Florida and the Keys, noting it will take years for the region to recover fully. The Foundation has also been raising Irma-assistance funds to support staff of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission who lost their homes. In all, more than $130,000 has been raised by the Foundation for these twin needs.
The Maverick Boat Company was founded in 1984 by Scott and Troy Deal, two brothers who were devoted light tackle fishermen, to build the best shallow water skiff on the planet. It became the Maverick Boat Group after acquiring Hewes Boats in 1989, creating Pathfinder Boats in 1998 and acquiringCobiain2005.Fromitsearliestdays,MBChasbeen dedicated to giving back to the waters and fish that fueled the founders’ passion, and in 2006 Scott Deal was given the Coastal Conservation Association of Florida’s first lifetime achievement award.
The Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and other public and private partners to conserve Florida’s outstanding fish and wildlife and to provide outdoor recreation and education opportunities to Florida’s youth. More information can be found at www.wildlifeflorida.org.