In 1922, my grandfather, Jacob, brought his family to Miami Beach when my father, Leon, was two months’ old. Jacob built the first apartment-hotel on Miami Beach where Joe’s Stone Crab’s garage is today.
My father spent his childhood on South Beach swimming and fishing off the former South Beach Pier and the jetty on Government Cut.
One day without realizing it due to his young age, he later learned he had spent the day fishing on the pier with none other than Al Capone who owned a home on Palm Island.
My father was an attorney and always involved in politics and someone’s campaign, but he never lost his love for fishing. In fact, he loved fishing so much, he was nicknamed “Fish” when he was a child. He used to take me with him on boats from Miami Beach, Dinner Key Marina, the Keys, and other areas around South Florida. I remember looking for Turkey Point as a landmark when making our way back to shore. We would drift, troll and anchor in shallow waters and look for the Gulfstream and seaweed to fish for dolphin who like the shade underneath. I would bait live shrimp and whole ballyahoo and cut and bait mullet and squid depending upon what we were trying to catch. I was pretty good at casting, but was not a good sailor, so much, and still am not!
We would go out with one of his friends and his son, one of whom was the late Congressman Dante Fascell and his late son, “Deej.” We fished off piers, too, and I fondly remember fishing off the pier in Naples with my father’s childhood friend and son who is now my oldest friend and closest thing to a brother that I have. We are only five weeks apart in age.
Some of my fondest memories of spending time with my daddy were on those fishing excursions. I have been talking about holding a fishing tournament in Sunny Isles Beach practically since I took office. Finally, we have set aside funds in our 2015-2016 City Budget to hold a fishing tournament on our very own Newport Pier. The particulars of the tournament have not been finalized yet, but I anticipate that people of all ages will participate and compete within age groups. Personally, I would like to see a parent/child division. As our pier is ADA compliant, the competition is also accessible to persons in wheelchairs.
It is my hope that the up-coming fishing tournament will become the first of many and an annual event. It will be heartwarming to see participants make loving fishing memories of their own.