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As soon as Hurricane Ian blew across Florida and back out to sea, the angling community jumped into action to help out those who lost everything. Tackle companies created dropoff areas where people could donate water, generators, gas cans and food. Nonprofits such as Captains for Clean Water and the International Game Fish Association jumped into action to raise money and gather donations.

Living in Florida, I’m always moved by the outpouring of support to help those recover after the storm but it’s the individuals I see on social media raising money and volunteering their time and muscle to make a difference that reaffirms my belief in the goodness of people.

A friend of mine, Capt. Bill D’Antuono, grew up and still lives in Naples, Florida, where he runs a spearfishing and sportfishing charter business. His house sits on a canal, with a dock in the backyard where he keeps his Contender. Before the storm, Bill moved his boat to higher ground but Ian flooded his house and all of his possessions inside were lost. The photos he posted broke my heart. It was just a year or so ago that Bill and I were having a beer on the dock behind his house, filleting fish after a day of red snapper fishing.

Capt. Bill D’Antuono, top right, with a group of volunteers who have been gathering and distributing goods to those impacted from Hurricane Ian.

Capt. Bill D’Antuono, top right, with a group of volunteers who have been gathering and distributing goods to those impacted from Hurricane Ian.

After the storm, Bill sprung into action and set up a GoFundMe account. He raised more than $20,000 in less than a week. He began working with others in the area to round up ice, propane, fuel, tarps and distribute the goods to those in areas hit the hardest including a retirement community that was still underwater several days after Ian made landfall. “These 140 residents were in tears when we arrived and have no power or sewer,” Bill posted on his Facebook page. “The residents were sleeping in lawn chairs … and still do not have power or cell service so they are stranded.”

Another buddy of mine, longtime fishing writer and podcast host, Joe Cermele, posted some gorgeous topwater flies he created that he was putting up for auction to raise money for the IGFA’s Worldwide Anglers Relief Fund (WARF). A fly-tier named Josh Mills had come up with the idea to auction handtied flies using the hashtag #fliesforian. Folks who want to get involved can simply bid on the flies and once the highest bidder proves that he or she sent the money to WARF, the flies go in the mail. It’s a brilliant way to use social media and fly-fishing for good.

These custom topwater flies tied by Joe Cermele are up for auction to raise money for hurricane relief. To bid, jump on Instagram and search the hashtag #fliesforian.

These custom topwater flies tied by Joe Cermele are up for auction to raise money for hurricane relief. To bid, jump on Instagram and search the hashtag #fliesforian.

Marine artist and Florida resident Dennis Friel also put his talents to good use, creating a performance longsleeve shirt that he is offering for sale with all proceeds going directly to hurricane relief efforts. This program mirrors the one that Friel put into action after Hurricane Dorian devastated the Bahamas. After Dorian, Friel started selling shirts and raised over $40,000 in just one week. To purchase a 'Stronger Together' shirt, click here

Artist Dennis Friel is offering shirts with this custom design to raise money. Click here to purchase.

Artist Dennis Friel is offering shirts with this custom design to raise money. Click here to purchase.

The areas most impacted by Ian, including Fort Meyers, Naples and Sanibel, are recreational fishing hotspots and many guides not only lost their homes, they lost their livelihood.

Florida-based Salt Life is also offering a Hurricane Ian influenced shirt to help fund relief efforts through the American Red Cross. All funds will go directly to helping those in Florida who are in need. The shirt is available online, and will also be for sale in the company's Florida retail locations. The company said it has also sent thousands of items to Salt Life team members on the ground in Florida to distribute to those in need.

Salt Life has set up a microsite to field additional donations from customers for American Red Cross. That site can be accessed here

Proceeds from the sale of this Salt Life shirt will go to the American Red Cross.

Proceeds from the sale of this Salt Life shirt will go to the American Red Cross.

“It is hard to put into words the scale of devastation and destruction caused by Hurricane Ian in southwest Florida,” said IGFA President Jason Schratwieser. “While the rebuilding process after a disaster such as this takes time, the IGFA, Costa, and our partners in WARF are working hard to ensure that we provide the captains and guides in this area financial support until they are able to get back on the water.”

The IGFA and its partner, Costa Sunglasses, created WARF in 2017 to provide financial aid to charter captains, guides, and outfitters in the wake of major natural disasters. To date, WARF has distributed a total of $225,000 to recreational angling associations in Florida, Texas, Louisiana, Puerto Rico, Belize, Louisiana, the Bahamas and Montana.

In addition to Costa, several other industry leaders have pledged their support to WARF relief efforts including AFTCO, Bonefish & Tarpon Trust, Jose Wejebe Memorial Foundation, Yellow Dog Community & Conservation Foundation and others. The IGFA welcomes and encourages participation from brands and organizations wishing to get involved in the relief efforts following Hurricane Ian.

If you would like to donate to WARF, go to igfa.org/warf, or purchase Costa #OneCoast apparel in support of recovery efforts at onecoast.net. As anglers we share a common bond, a brotherhood if you will, and it’s wonderful to see the community working together to help each other out. 

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