As Florida continues to emerge from the wake of Hurricane Ian, which devastated parts of the state’s west coast last month, the recovery effort continues daily. From the reopening of the Sanibel Bridge earlier this week to the on-going clean-up in Fort Myers, progress continues at a break-neck pace, bringing hope for a quick return to normalcy to even the hardest hit areas.
“While Hurricane Ian has impacted our community, our destination and our spirit remains strong,” says Ray Sarracino, Communications Director for the Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau.
It’s exactly with that can-do spirit in mind that the National Professional Angler’s Association (NPAA) recently established a fundraising campaign to support local relief efforts in Southwest Florida. The non-profit organization has been lobbying its membership to contribute to the relief fund and to support fellow angling professionals as they work to get their lives and careers back on track. Additionally, NPAA has announced it fully intends to go ahead with its Annual conference scheduled for Fort Myers in early January.
“Hurricane Ian is already fading from the memories of those who were not immediately impacted, but the historic storm’s rath is still being felt by those in the areas that were most devastated,” says NPAA president, Patrick Neu. “This is especially true for the guides/captains, marinas, and local retailers that all depend upon the aquatic resources for which, Southwest Florida and the Fort Myers area is so well known. Recovery will come, and fairly quickly, but these sportfishing related businesses in the area need our help right now!”
According to Neu, there are two ways to help if you are not from the region. First, he says, is to not cancel your plans to visit the area. The second is to donate to the Go Fund Me CampaignNPAA has established. Neu pledges NPAA will work directly with organizations in the hardest hit areas around Fort Myers to make sure donations reach those in the sportfishing community who desperately need our help.
Past NPAA Conference keynote speaker, Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris. (2023 NPAA Conference keynote speaker to be announed soon!)
Following his own advice, Neu assures that NPAA’s 2023 Annual Conference is a full go for January 6 through 8 at the Holiday Inn Fort Myers Airport /Town Center, which fortunately did not sustain any major structural damage during the storm and has since fully reopened. Registration is currently underway, and the event is quickly reaching its maximum limit of 200 attendees.
“The upcoming NPAA Conference is a great opportunity for any angler who fishes for a living to learn how to do it right from some of the most successful professional anglers in the country,” states Neu. “Featured speakers like Gerald Swindle, Jay and Jason Przekurat, and Bobby Lane will talk about the business side of angling, not how to catch fish! This is a business event, not a fishing show, and all presentations will cover how to “Control Your Own Destiny” both on and off the water. The focus is to benefit your bottom line as a professional angler.”
The Annual Conference is a key component of the NPAA platform, which exists to help members grow their professional angling careers and run successful industry businesses. The event will also host a Benefit Banquet for the Future Angler Foundation (FAF), which introduces millionsof potential new anglers and boaters each year to the thrill and fun of sportfishing and boating.
NPAA Executive Director, Pat Neu talks about Future Angler Foundation’s passionate grassroots efforts to recruit and educate boaters and anglers.
Sarracino believes Fort Myers will be ready and waiting for the conference to commence. “We look forward to welcoming The National Professional Anglers Association to our community. We appreciate their commitment to us. Rest assured that we will do everything within our power to ensure their experience will be a great one.”
Neu has no doubt that forecast is on target, and Neu remains certain NPAA members and supporting partners will turn out in force. “We’re already nearing a sell-out at this event,” he states. “Partly, I believe, because many anglers from across the country realize this community needs their support. Every dollar spent in the area will help move the needle. I know personally that many who are coming will also be spending time on the water with local guides and captains. To that end, we are already working up a list of local captains who have openings during that early January time frame.”
Patio view of the 2023 NPAA Conference host site at Holiday Inn Fort Myers Airport /Town Center.