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History of Ponce Fish Network

For this month's special edition, we will bring you behind the scenes of how Ponce Fish Network came to be and the inspiration behind it all.

Part One

The fall of 2019 hit differently, a feeling that I'm sure remains the same regardless of who you ask. My fiancée Jeremy had just been promoted to First Mate aboard the F.V. Super Critter (Critter Fleet), a dream job landed just before the living nightmare began. Just as the work to get ready for busy season was beginning in 2020.. the world was shutting down for the pandemic, putting a full stop to our everyday lives and plans.

During the shutdown we talked a lot about the state of things in the fishing industry; the unnecessary over-regulation of well-stocked fish, outdated advertising models, and the true health of the local fishery… which it seemed the higher-ups had no clue about. A lot of these talks had a fierce undertone of anger and frustration but were mixed with visible apathy. Those who spoke felt no one was listening.. maintaining all the while they felt their hands would remain tied no matter their efforts going forward.

When the shutdown finally ended, I looked for ways to help the struggling business my fiancée had grown up in awe of. The Critter Fleet and its vessels had been around since the 1950s, an area staple and piece of local history that once consisted of a fleet of vessels but by 2020 had dwindled down to just one. Over that first year, I did a lot of research into the industry, the boats & Captains that surrounded us, all while paying careful attention to the management surrounding it all. My first step onto the path that led us to where we are today was the rebirth of some of the Critter's social media accounts. Historically some accounts had been run by its first mate, changing hands every time a new first mate had come on board.

I ran the Critter's Instagram (@critterfleetfishing , photos are still up for those looking) for the last couple of years she ran. Through this, I realized how little of a platform she had to exist on and share her stories. That first year was a struggle; I was met with constant denial by people who had no real understanding or care of what they were doing wrong. I watched as pop-up charter businesses with limited experience had open reign on these advertising platforms, while the household names that created the industry here were shunned, and denied their well-earned right to exist. To say that my frustration motivated me would be denying a personal truth, I have and always will be the kind of person who fights for what's right in a sea of wrong.

It wasn't long after I started trying to help out that talks of closing the business had started, much to our dismay. The tides of the industry had drastically changed during the pandemic- the business temporarily boomed as people had more time & money due to shutdowns, and Florida had become a safe haven from states with harsher restrictions. Seemingly overnight, being a charter Captain became a career choice for many, just as the industry was slowly starting to get back to its pre-pandemic normal. The open talks of selling stopped, and for a brief moment in time, I thought we were in the clear.

In May of 2021 after months of discussion with the best Captain & mates in the inlet, I created Ponce Fish Network with one true but unobtainable goal. At the time if you had asked me, I would have told you I built the network for the Critter Fleet, her Captain, and its crew. I wanted to give them the platform they needed to grow in the social age where management was left in the hands of whoever had the most followers or approved the posting. Nowadays, having lived through the Critter Fleet's last year in business in silence knowing its fate was already sealed, I would say Ponce Fish Network was created so that its closure wasn't in vain. We may have lost one of the best headboats to ever fish these waters, but its legacy will continue to live on as it is the inspiration that has created all that you see here today.

The network has changed management-wise a lot since its early days, but the goal remains the same. We will always stand behind the idea of giving Charter Captains the platform they deserve. Here you will find the longest-running and most well-respected Captains in the industry continuing what they do best, filling the box with fish and ensuring you get exactly what you came for; a memory to go home with that will last a lifetime. While we are a paid digital newspaper with advertising catering to fishing charters and fishing-based businesses, we put all of the funds raised right back into advertising our charters and network so that the future local charter industry has the resources it needs to thrive in the coming years. We thank every one of our loyal supporters and businesses for their continued support while we expand in the years to come.

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