Dominick Montanaro remembers when freshwater giants patrolled the
waters of his old neighborhood near Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.
“The canals there used to be crystal clear,” says the
owner of M&M Pools in Satellite Beach, Fla. “I would see
tarpon that were 7 or 8 feet long swimming in some of those
waterways. You’d see snook just rolling around —
you’d see all kinds of great fish.”
Thirty years later, however, the view is quite different. Though
they still access the ocean, many of the inlets of South Florida
have been heavily developed, and the use of fertilizers and
pesticides has only exacerbated the impact on the local
The result is an erosion of the area’s natural habitat
— an ecosystem that supports native plant and animal life
that once thrived in this tropical paradise.
“You go down there now and there’s nothing swimming in
those canals,” Montanaro says. “At least, nothing
you’d want to catch and eat.”
But Montanaro, a board member and past president of the Florida Swimming Pool Association, has never been one to occupy the sidelines. About a year ago, he joined an
effort to create a new generation of coastal stewards. Called
Anglers for Conservation, the Satellite Beach-based organization
promotes local fishing education, habitat restoration and
conservation science as a means of preserving the natural
The group was founded in 2007 by Rodney Smith, an accomplished
sport fisherman and publisher of Coastal Angler Magazine.
He also happens to live a few doors down from Montanaro on
Florida’s east coast, and the two have been friends for many
So there was little hesitation when Smith approached Montanaro, a
former city councilman and longtime member of multiple community
boards, about becoming involved.
In addition to serving on the group’s board as secretary,
Montanaro is chairman of its Hook Kids On Fishing program. The
program hosts activities for kids and parents to learn basic
catch-and-release fishing skills, as well as how to properly care
for local canals, streams, coastal areas and wetlands. It includes
clinics on casting, conservation, fishing habitat and biology,
knot-tying, release techniques, and fishing with professional
guides. Free rods, reels and tackle boxes also are frequently
“When it comes to preserving our waterways and our fisheries
— unless you can impart this knowledge to the younger
generations, they’re not going to have any appreciation for
it,” Montanaro says.
Indeed, in late September the group held its third annual Punta
Gorda Hook Kids On Fishing event at the local Fisherman’s
Village, a harbor-side shopping mall, marina and resort.
Moving forward, Montanaro foresees taking Hook Kids On Fishing
coast to coast. He and fellow board members have been developing
standards and policies to establish it as a national program. For
example, interested participants soon will complete an application
that includes details such as sponsors, permits, facilities, access to fishing guides and educational components.
The goal is to have that packet in place by January 2011, Montanaro
says, adding that membership and visibility statewide remain top
priorities at the moment.
And while he’s having fun with the young organization,
there’s little doubt as to Montanaro’s principal
“I’ve always had an appreciation for our
environment,” he says. “So it’s definitely
personal. We’re all advocates for our industry, and I’m
trying to be an advocate for what we do here with Anglers for