Rudy Watt, left and in foreground above, and Neal Stark enjoy a fishing trip in Sawgrass Park, fishing for large-mouth bass on Tuesday, April 9. Rudy caught the first fish. He is a veteran with PTSD, and the fishing trips are part of his recreational therapy. He goes on fishing and scuba-diving trips with other veterans but has formed one of his closest bonds with Stark, a hairdresser and competitive angler.
The trip begins with a high-speed ride on a black flats boat, deep into the wilderness of Sawgrass Recreational Park in Weston. The captain picks a spot, anchors and then digs into one of the boat’s many hidden compartments to select the bait, settling on two “wacky worms.”
The two fishermen set up the fishing rods, crack a few jokes and talk about strategy — “When you feel him tug that line a couple times, point your rod right at him and hit him, hit him good.” They begin casting, looking for bass and anything else that might bite.
It’s illegal to take lobsters out of season or out of traps that don’t belong to you. But Keys State Representative Holly Raschein (R-Monroe County) says the issue is that the penalty for stealing three lobsters is the same as stealing 300.
Proposed changes at Everglades National Park have put anglers at odds with environmental groups. The park's draft general management plan, which includes several variations (or "alternatives"), is currently up for public comment. This Sunday is the deadline to weigh in on proposed measures, which include prohibiting traditional boating in about one-third of Florida Bay.