Florida Keys sportfishing captain Mike Weinhofer hasn’t seen any charter clients since COVID-19 forced widespread travel bans and business closures. But he’s still fishing — and giving away his catch to help feed Keys residents in need.
Weinhofer, who has operated Key West Florida Fishing Charters for more than 30 years, said he and his crew have caught, filleted and distributed about 624 bags of fresh fish so far.
As a longtime Keys resident, Weinhofer understands that COVID-19’s impacts, including the island chain’s temporary closure to visitors, create a hardship for workers in the tourism industry that drives the local economy.
“I started giving away free fish just to help out,” said Weinhofer Thursday evening, after he took his two daughters out fishing. “You know, a lot of people are having a tough time right now.”
He directs individuals who want fish to text him and tell him their family’s size. After a day on the water, he fillets the catch and texts the people on his “request list” to pick it up at his slip at Key West’s Charter Boat Row.
“The feedback has been awesome,” Weinhofer said. “The best part is when people send you pictures of the fish they’ve cooked, and the smiles and the happy faces.”
The program has received assistance from some of Weinhofer’s past charter clients, who have sent fuel money for his boat. Other local charter captains and guides have donated additional fish for distribution.
“This is a really big help to the whole community and for everybody here that’s hungry,” said resident Liam O’Kelly as he picked up a bag of fish Thursday night.