Stories From Afield • Updated Mon, Nov 6, 2023
Captain Steve Friedman's journey from a fishing guide to an environmental advocate highlights his deep love for nature, his dedication to protecting Florida's delicate ecosystems, and his desire to represent the interests of the Florida Keys community. Friedman's experiences working directly on the water and witnessing the impact of environmental issues have shaped his political perspective and fueled his campaign for clean water and sustainable fisheries. This article will explore how Captain Steve's passion for fishing led him to become a voice for change in the Florida Keys.
Captain Steve's love for fishing blossomed during his childhood days spent angling for bass, crappie, and catfish on the serene lakes of the Midwest. After finishing graduate school and working as a Chicago paralegal, Friedman began feeling dissatisfied. He decided to make a life change and move out to Colorado. Finding it difficult to find jobs as a land-use planner, he took a job as a fishing guide in Vail, viewing it as a temporary arrangement. Little did he know that the experience would change his trajectory as he discovered the joy of being immersed in nature, guiding clients with varying fishing expertise, and witnessing their appreciation for the sport. It was a turning point that cemented his love of being a guide and ignited a desire to share his knowledge and enthusiasm with others. This passion eventually took him to Southern Florida, where he started his charter business, A Fishing Guide, LLC, with an ethos to educate and enhance his clients' fishing abilities.
"Once someone puts a fly rod in your hand, and you start to get into it, all roads will eventually lead you to the Keys."
Steve Friedman's journey into politics was not a predetermined path but rather the result of his deep passion for fishing and his firsthand experiences witnessing the environmental challenges faced by Florida's waterways. Friedman's understanding of the ecological challenges facing southern Florida began in late 1999 while working in Stuart, Florida, early in his guiding career. There, he witnessed the consequences of discharges from Lake Okeechobee, severely impacting the water quality and devastating local fish populations. These ongoing issues sparked his interest in the connection between fishery health and clean water.
This interest came to a head in 2015 when Friedman experienced a massive seagrass die-off in his home fishery of Florida Bay, where he owns and operates his business. Excessively salty water killed vital plant life, creating a ripple effect that affected fish populations and disrupted the ecosystem's delicate balance. This event motivated Friedman to delve deeper into environmental conservation and the science behind it.
Driven by his desire to protect the waters that sustained his livelihood, Friedman became actively involved in various organizations and initiatives. He got involved with the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuaries Advisory Council, aiming to understand the rules and regulations governing marine sanctuaries and actively contribute to decision-making processes. Captain Friedman also served as Commodore for Florida Keys Fishing Guides Association for 6 years. The FKFGA, one of the oldest conservation organizations in the state of Florida, comprises dedicated professional fishing guides. These passionate members are steadfast in their commitment to preserving and protecting the fisheries and diverse natural resources of the Florida Keys and Everglades. He also participated in workshops and meetings regarding the Everglades National Park's general management plan, offering valuable input as a stakeholder who relies on natural resources.
As Friedman's involvement in environmental issues grew, a broader concern began to emerge – the lack of adequate representation for the interests of Florida Keys residents their local economy. He observed that some politicians voted against bills that would advance Everglades restoration projects, prioritizing campaign donors' interests over the community's well-being. Recognizing the need for change, Friedman realized he wanted to step up and be a voice for the environment and the people of Florida.
In 2018, Friedman launched a campaign for Florida's House District 120, running for his seat focusing solely on the issue of clean water, as his experience had taught him how interconnected it was with every other issue on the ballot. Though Captain Steve Friedman did not win this race, he continues to engage in politics, advocating for a cultural shift regarding fishing practices and regulations. He emphasizes the need to educate people about responsible fishing practices, catch limits and the interconnectedness of marine ecosystems. He also stresses the importance of electing leaders who prioritize environmental concerns over short-term gains, seeking leadership committed to preserving the Florida Keys' natural beauty for future generations.
Steve Friedman advises young people interested in becoming fishing guides to stay passionate and humble, encouraging them to continue seeking knowledge and learning the "rules of the road" specific to each fishing location. Steve also underscores the importance of being politically engaged and environmentally conscious as a fishing guide. Steve believes that that advocating for the preservation of fisheries is crucial, the fishing industry is facing challenges, and it is essential to raise awareness among legislators, local officials, and the public about the issues impacting fish populations and habitats.
Today Captain Friedman is back to focusing his time guiding, finding joy in sharing his love for fishing with people from diverse backgrounds, whether they are experienced anglers or novices. When on his boat with clients, Captain Steve actively commits to making every person stepping on board a better angler. He strives to impart his knowledge and skills, ensuring his clients leave with enhanced fishing abilities. He takes pride in educating them on the intricacies of fishing — believing that a fishing trip is not just about the catch, but encompasses the entire experience, especially the water. With his wealth of knowledge, genuine passion, and dedication to his clients' enjoyment and growth as anglers, a trip on the water with Captain Steve Friedman promises an unforgettable and informative adventure.
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