Ladies Day canceled, World’s Richest fate to be determined: Local fishing captains suffer dire losses but message remains unchanged – go fishing

April 3, 2020
By Marcy Shortuse

Executive Order 20-91, Section 3 “Essential Activities states: “For purposes of this Order and the conduct it limits, “essential activities” means and encompasses the following: Attending religious services conducted in churches, synagogues and houses of worship; and participating in recreational activities (consistent with social distancing guidelines) such as walking, biking, hiking, fishing, hunting, running, or swimming …”
Note: As of press time on Thursday we were unable to get a clear answer as to whether charter captains were considered “essential” service workers under Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Executive Order 20-91.
While fishing is listed as an essential activity, the parameters of essential services did not include
any information regarding those who help people conduct their “essential activities.”
Confusing? You bet. We will let you know if we get a confirmation on this. In the mean time, catch
‘em up any way you can.

While the Boca Grande Area Chamber of Commerce has canceled the Ladies Day Tarpon Tournament this year – which had been scheduled for May 9 – and the fate of the World’s Richest Tarpon Tournament has yet to be decided, there is still one way you can get some free groceries and still stay within the law with the new “Safer at Home” Order – go fishing.
The majority of the Boca Grande Fishing Guides’ Association captains are still out on the water. Numbers of scheduled charters have plummeted, but there are still a few die-hard anglers who won’t give up their passion for anything. 
While Executive Order 20-91 took their clientele from little to less in a short period of time, the majority of captains we spoke with still hope people get out on the water as much as they can.
“Fishing has been pretty good,” said Jill Chatham, first mate for her husband, Capt. Dave Chatham. 
“Our family has gone out and our daughter got a tarpon, and another girl from our family got one, too. We have some clients who say they would walk here to fish with us if they have to; we still have a few people to take out on the water. Being on the water is therapeutic, it’s healthy.” 
Chatham said she thoroughly cleans each boat after each charter, even more so now. They are perfectly happy, though, when a client comes and wants to do a “once over” themselves with cleaning products.
Capt. Sandy Melvin is still running trips, too, and he is also taking extra care to make sure his clients are comfortable with a level of hygiene that suits them.
“When I greet my clients, the first thing I do is make sure we all hand sanitize,” he said. “I let them know everything – all rods and reels and equipments – are cleaned up. I wear my buff around my face, not only for the sun but to make sure I’m not coughing or breathing on anyone. We have minimal physical contact on the boat, and we’re in the great outdoors. Most of my clients have already been sheltering in place and we know they’re using common sense. We’re also very self aware of any physical contact, and I make sure multiple times during the trip that we use the hand sanitizer.”
Capt. Waylon Mills, a charter guide and president of the Boca Grande Fishing Guides Association, said he has been staying at home more lately because the majority of his clients are from out of state, and because he’s watching out closely for his family …  but that doesn’t mean he isn’t encouraging people to get out there and fish if they are comfortable in doing so. 
People who have their own boat and are just taking the family out for some fishing, have to have little to no contact with other people, he said. From the driveway to the boat ramp, the only thing you might have to touch that didn’t come with you from home is a piling when you tie off or push off.
“With the vast amount of miles of water in our state, there’s no reason you can’t go out and have a great day fishing, while still being careful and relatively isolated,” Mills said. “And it’s definitely one of the best ways to get out of the house and avoid getting stir crazy.”
Melvin can be reached at (941) 628-2177. Chatham can be contacted at (941) 270-1527. Mills can be reached at (941) 697-3452.
Stay tuned for more information regarding the World’s Richest Tarpon Tournament. The Chamber of Commerce board of directors is supposed to meet on April 15 to determine if and when the tournament will be held.