by Gritter Griffin
The competitive redfish season is winding down and the race to qualify for the 2020 Redfish World Series is reaching a boiling point!
Two of the tours are complete (Power Pole & Rudy’s) and the ten qualifiers from those tours are set. But, across the rest of the country, the redfish competition is in a state of chaos.
Most especially the IFA.
On no other tour is the action as hot and the scramble as intense as it is on the IFA circuit! There is a total of EIGHTY TEAMS with a chance to make it to the Top Seven in the RWS final rankings for the IFA because any team with a single point – and that’s a total of 80 teams – has the potential to jump up in the rankings with a win or high finish in the IFA Championship in Venice, LA October 18-19.
Currently, the IFA team of Danny Sheldon and Kyle Craven seem to be safe with their dominance of the IFA circuit. They have a 34-point total with an 18-point advantage over second place. Hank Edwards and Ian Mathews are in pretty good shape as well holding on to the second spot with 16 points. Mason and Melissa Lincoln are all alone in third with 14 points, but they have nine teams right behind them in the 4th position with 10 points. Then there are Thirty-Nine more teams holding down the 5th – 9th spots in the current standings. The IFA Championship will surely tell the tale for the mad scramble to the Top Seven IFA spots that will receive the 2020 RWS invitations.
Over on the Elite Redfish Series there are currently 35 teams vying for the Top 8 spots in the RWS rankings. Paul Dufrene and Travis Land are currently in first place in the RWS rankings with 14 points followed by Jeff Rogers and Luke Landry with 12 points. Nicky Savoie and Shane Pescayare holding on to third with 11 points followed by five teams tied at 10 points.
But none of the Elite Series teams are safe yet since there are two more events to go before that series is complete. SO, it is likely that the Port Lavaca Event and the Elite Redfish Series Championship at South Padre Island on October 4-6 will be major deciding factors in the final RWS rankings for the Elite.
The Saltwater Angler Redfish Series has one event to go and the top spots are packed tightly here as well. Mike Maule and James Alexander are holding on to the number one spot with 12 points followed by Mason and Melissa Lincoln in second with 8 points. Chuck McKinney and Tony Gagliano are in third with 7 followed by Patrick Tabor and Jason Geigenmiller rounding out the top four. It’s anyone’s game on this new tour and the last leg of this three series trail will determine the Top Three teams that earn the RWS 2020 invitation.
But wait, there’s more!
The Southern Redfish Cup is a three-event trail that kicks off September 7th in Georgetown, SC and wraps up on December 7th in Port Royal, SC. The Top Four from this tour will earn invitations to the 2020 RWS and it is likely that this tour will be also utilized by some of the bubble teams as they try to earn their way in via the RWS Wild Card rankings which require points from more than one tour.
The success and validity of the RWS National Ranking System, with a few tweaks yet to come for 2020, appears to be working exactly as planned and the future of competitive redfishing looks brighter than ever.
by Gritter Griffin
The Redfish World Series tournament and Redfish Festival have grown exponentially since their inception just a few months ago.
I had hoped that we could just have a nice tournament. I had hoped that we could find a way to host it in such a way that the participating anglers would be treated like the celebrities they are. I had hoped that we could find local support and assistance with the events. I had hoped that the anglers would embrace the idea.
Now, all that and so much more has come to pass with the support and notoriety growing daily. The St Bernard parish government has been nothing short of extraordinary in their support of the events. Without their excitement and belief in what we are building we could not, and would not, be where we are today.
It is important to me that we recognize the hard work, dedication, and skill that goes into becoming one of the top performing teams in the country.
I have been out there competing for over 20 years and the fatigue, the heartbreak, the expense, the time away from home, the long days on strange waters – all are still pretty fresh in my mind. Dedication should be rewarded. Passion should be recognized. Skill should be celebrated.
And, we are going to just that!
The Captains’ Banquet is going to be the initial thrust in the campaign to make the competing anglers feel special. The entire civic center auditorium will be decorated like a ballroom. White linen tablecloths, gold chairs, designated seating, a catered meal with servers, open bar, and attendance by high profile political figures as well as the sponsors of the RWS will make this a very special event in itself.
The finale will be nothing short of spectacular. On the main festival stage on Sunday afternoon, when the first ever World Champions are announced, the celebration that is planned will be absolutely stunning! I am hoping the anglers that are not in the Gold Division will stick around to see it all happen and celebrate the championship with their competitors, fans, families, and festival crowd.
The buzz surrounding the first RWS is making its way throughout the industry. More and more companies are hearing about the tournament and calls are already coming in regarding sponsorship in 2020. And, I believe after the first one is documented and circulated across various media platforms, the interest will be even higher.
Genesis Garrett, 11, releases one of 300 adult redfish donated to red tide recovery efforts by Duke Energy's Crystal River Mariculture Center
by Jessica Wells
Eleven-year-old Genesis Garrett has been fishing for redfish in the Gulf of Mexico since she was a toddler, but on this day, instead of taking fish from the water, she put one in. Genesis and her dad, Zachary Garrett, joined Duke Energy and Coastal Conservation Association Florida at Brasher Park in Port Richey, Florida, to release 25 adult and 2,000 juvenile redfish.
Genesis Garrett, 11, releases one of 300 adult redfish donated to red tide recovery efforts by Duke Energy's Crystal River Mariculture Center.Genesis smiled as she shuffled a release bag and a 2-foot-long redfish into the Gulf.
Her fish was one of about 300 adults and 16,000 juvenile redfish that Eric Latimer and his team raised at Duke Energy’s Crystal River Mariculture Center. Their goal is to help replenish the redfish population after one of the most devastating red tide blooms in Florida history.
Red tide is a naturally occurring bloom of dinoflagellate (algae) that typically lasts a few days or months in late summer to early fall. The most recent bloom began in October 2017 and lingered until early 2019, the longest since 2006. It killed hundreds of tons of manatees, sea turtles, fish and other marine life.
Eric Latimer and his team raised 16,000 juvenile redfish and 300 adults, like this one, that are six to seven years old
Eric Latimer and his team raised 16,000 juvenile redfish and 300 adults, like this one, that are six to seven years old.It affected not only wildlife but an economy that relies on tourists who visit southwest Florida to fish. At the height of the bloom, Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission issued a mandatory catch-and-release order that extends to May 2019 in several counties to help protect two of the state’s most popular sportfish: snook and redfish.
Latimer, who manages the mariculture center, was watching this on the news last summer when he had an idea. He knew he had plenty of healthy redfish, so he called Brian Gorski, the executive director of Florida’s Coastal Conservation Association, and pitched his idea to partner on a release when the water was safe.
Gorski was immediately interested.
“I said, ‘Heck yeah, what do I need to do?’”
While Latimer and his team raised thousands of redfish and received permits from Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, Gorski and the Coastal Conservation Association arranged release events in eight counties hit hardest by red tide: Charlotte, Collier, Hillsborough, Lee, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas and Sarasota.
Eric Latimer looks on as Brian Gorski shows spectators what the juvenile redfish look like before they're released into the Gulf of Mexico
Eric Latimer looks on as Brian Gorski shows spectators what the juvenile redfish look like before they're released into the Gulf of Mexico.The first release was in Pasco County on Feb. 5 and the last, March 19 in Charlotte County. They chose locations, like Brasher Park, that were lined with mangroves and other hiding places, so the 4-to-6-inch fish could avoid predators and increase their chances of survival. The adults, like the one Genesis released, were much bigger at 6 to 7 years old. They are anywhere from 20 to 32 inches long and weigh between 3 and 8 pounds. Each was released by hand and tagged so that anglers who catch the fish can call the number on the tag and report where they caught the fish and its details so researchers can record how the fish are doing.
Gorski said they’ve been asked if 16,000 redfish will make a difference.
“The answer is we don’t know,” he said, “but one redfish is better than none. It’s one redfish at a time, and it’s a step in the right direction.”
Though it seems small, one redfish really can make a difference. A female redfish can spawn up to 2 million eggs at a time. Assuming half of the adult redfish released are female, that’s a lot of potential new redfish each year.
“It’s a big deal, not just in the number of fish,” Gorski said, “but the cost associated.”
The Crystal River Mariculture Center team from left: Cynthia Embach, Eric Latimer, Justin Branch and Rhett Gehring
Duke Energy estimates the donation was worth $150,000 in supplies to raise the fish at its mariculture center, a hatchery that cultivates and releases several species of fish into the Gulf each year. While the monetary value is sizable, Latimer said it doesn’t take into consideration the care and ownership that he and teammates have for the fish and Florida’s wildlife.
Latimer, who’s been at the center since its beginning in 1991, said he’s always looking for ways to work with others from growing eelgrass to replenish Kings Bay to working with Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission on scallop restoration.
“We can’t do initiatives like these by ourselves, so partnering is the right move,” Latimer said.
Rhett Gehring and Genesis after releasing the redfish at Brasher Park in Port Richey, Florida.For Coastal Conservation Association, Gorski said, the project has been true to its founding mission: the protection of redfish. Its most notable accomplishment was banning commercial fishing of redfish in the Gulf of Mexico. Last year, coupled with other red tide recovery efforts, they started the Release them for Tomorrow campaign to encourage anglers to release the fish that they catch.
Why? So there are enough redfish for the next generation of anglers, like Genesis, to enjoy the sport and nature.
(This article first appeared in the March 2019 issue of "Illumination" - a Duke Energy publication.)