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Bonefish & Tarpon Trust Announces 2024 Circle Of Honor Inductees

Miami, FL – Bonefish & Tarpon Trust (BTT) will induct legendary fishing guides, Captain Rick Ruoff and the late Captains Joe Gonzalez and Travis Holeman, into the BTT Circle of Honor on May 2, 2024. 

“We’re honored to recognize Rick, Joe and Travis for their accomplishments as fishing guides and their support of flats conservation,” said BTT President and CEO Jim McDuffie. “Rick has been a BTT advisor for many years and serves today as a member of our Board of Directors. Joe and Travis, who we lost too soon, worked closely with BTT to tag record numbers of fish in BTT’s research programs. Thanks to their efforts, we’ve been able to learn more about flats species, from the movement patterns and habitat uses of tarpon to the identification of critically important spawning areas for bonefish and permit.”

Captain Ruoff has guided in the Florida Keys for more than 50 years. He graduated from the University of Miami with a degree in marine biology, and began guiding in 1970. Ruoff was elected Commodore of the Islamorada Fishing Guides Association, forerunner of the Florida Keys Fishing Guides Association, in 1976. Under his leadership, the organization strengthened its commitment to conservation issues, including Everglades restoration. Ruoff has served since 2021 on BTT’s Board of Directors, where his biology background has proven an invaluable asset. Ruoff has played a critical role in BTT’s bonefish research, helping to identify bonefish spawning sites in the Florida Keys. 

A Florida native, Captain Gonzalez guided professionally for more than 30 years, splitting his time between the Keys, Everglades, and his home waters of Biscayne Bay. Gonzalez shared his fishing knowledge as a regular seminar presenter and made numerous television appearances, starring on Flats Class TVBass2Bills, and Sportsman’s Adventures. He was also a passionate and committed advocate for flats fishery conservation, tagging over 1,300 bonefish, more than any guide on record, for bonefish research. He was also instrumental in the success of BTT’s Project Permit, tagging more than 130 fish. Gonzalez was a regular participant in BTT’s International Science Symposium, where he served on the Bonefish Panel. 

Born in Waco, Texas, Captain Holeman cut his fishing teeth on the Texas coast. Holeman began guiding in Louisiana before going on to guide along the west coast of Florida and in the Keys. Along with his brother Bear, Holeman appeared on numerous TV shows including 10 years on the ESPN2 Redfish Cup Series, Madfin Shark Series, Kings of Game, and as co-host of the award-winning Chasin’ the Sun TV series on Discovery Channel. Holeman’s achievements as an angler were equaled by his accomplishments as a conservationist. As one of the first champions of BTT’s Project Permit, he freely shared his extensive knowledge of permit and donated countless hours to advance permit research and conservation in the Florida Keys. The Holeman brothers were also important participants in BTT’s Tarpon Acoustic Tracking Project, even helping to tag the first tarpon of the entire project. 

The 2024 inductions will take place during BTT’s 11th Annual Florida Keys Dinner and Awards Ceremony, May 2, 2024, at Cheeca Lodge & Spa in Islamorada, Florida. Master of Ceremonies for this special event will be award-winning author T. Edward Nickens, editor-at-large of Field & Stream and a contributing editor for Garden & Gun. Past honorees and special guests will take part in the program.

The BTT Circle of Honor recognizes legendary anglers, fishing guides and conservation leaders who have made significant contributions to the conservation of the flats fishery. It is housed in the Florida Keys History & Discovery Center, located in Islamorada, Florida, and features an annually rotating exhibit about those honored as well as educational content about the significance of the flats fishery. 

About Bonefish & Tarpon Trust

Bonefish & Tarpon Trust’s mission is to conserve bonefish, tarpon and permit—the species, their habitats and the larger fisheries they comprise. BTT pursues this mission across the southeastern US, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean Sea through science-based conservation, education and advocacy. 

About Keys History & Discovery Center

The Keys History & Discovery Center is a world-class museum that preserves and shares the incredible history of our Upper Keys community and explores the unique ecology of the region. In addition to permanent exhibits on subjects such as Henry Flagler’s Over-Sea Railway, Legends of the Line, and First People, the Discovery Center offers a lecture series, educating the public through presentations from a variety of expert speakers. The museum’s second floor features a state-of-the-art theater showing documentaries on topics like the 1935 Labor Day Hurricane and Indian Key, as well as traveling exhibits, and the Jerry Wilkinson Research Library. The center, on the property of the Islander Resort, is open Wednesdays through Sundays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

About Florida Keys History and Discovery Foundation

Florida Keys History and Discovery Foundation formed in 2013 to develop and operate Keys History & Discovery Center. The not-for-profit organization’s board of directors is comprised of community-minded volunteers with a passion for the mission of preserving and sharing the unique history and environment of the Florida Keys, particularly that of the Upper Keys. More information can be found at www.keysdiscovery.com or by calling 305-922-2237.

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