At the “Wicked Tuna” premiere I got the chance to meet one of the newest personalities TJ Ott. TJ and his family have vacationed in the Keys for years, and we know a lot of the same people, but when I met him in person it was like we had been buddies for years. We spoke about doing something together with the Foundation, and within a few weeks I got a call from him. He gave me a few timeframes of when he would be in the Keys, and I gave him dates on our upcoming trips. I asked him if he had a preference to do a trip with our Veterans, or with one of our Make-A-Wish families, and I was taken back when he replied with “Both.”
With the lack of funding for our Veterans the Recreational Department is always in need of people, businesses, and organizations like JWF to offer different activities outside of the VA. I called Tabitha (she is my point of contact at the VA) and gave her the details on this unique opportunity with TJ. She said that she had a lot of Vets asking about our organization, especially when our groups return from their trip, and share their experience.
Joe who donated the use of his home, my fiancé Dave, and I met up with Manny, Mike, Jose, and AJ at their Keys home in Summerland Key. The guys fished off the dock while I went through our plans, and other details. It seems that Mother Nature has honored the relationship that she had with my father. Foul weather would come through when it came time to film Spanish Fly. With gusts up to 25 knots I suggested to take dramamine the night before, and the morning of the trip “Yes mom”, they replied. With that being said one thing that I have learned is to listen to your parents. They are usually right.
We met up with TJ and his father at the Key West Harbor Yacht Club. We ran out to the blue water, and within 20 minutes AJ started to feel not so great, and told me that is was right, which in this case I wish I wasn’t. AJ hooked up to an Amber Jack, and shortly after passed off the rod, posted up at side of the boat, and shortly after Jose joined him. Manny and Mike were on fire, and worked as a team to real up the AJs fast before the sharks got to them. Jose and AJ would get up, Manny or Mike would pass off the rod to them, and they would pass it back after a few cranks. Jose and AJ stuck it out for a good six hours before we decided to head in. “Army Strong!”
Day two gusts up to 30 knots. This his time they took dramamine. We hit a few spots where they caught some more Amber Jacks, actually more like halves of Amber Jacks. TJ got word that there were tons of permit on one of the wrecks. When we got there we immediately started marking them. After a few drifts TJ got AJ hooked up. He reeled, and reeled, and reeled. Then tension on the line disappeared, and TJ thought the fish pulled the hook. The wind kept picking up, and TJ said that we would do a few more drifts before we called the day. TJ put the boat in gear, and AJ continued to wind in the line. Out of nowhere the rob bent over catching all of us off-guard. Not only did he land his first permit, he has an awesome story behind it. I quietly thanked my father, and we called it a wrap.
As with every trip we eat our “By for now” (stole that from Flip Pallot) dinner at the Square Grouper. I asked them for their input, suggestions, and anything else that would continue to improve each trip. One thing that stuck out was that they thought it help that they were all Army. Jose, and AJ are brother-in-laws, and Manny and Mike live together, but before this trip the four have never met together. They said that they were able to open up more, because they had been in the same places, shared similar experiences, and were deployed during some of the major events that have gone on in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is always heartbreaking to hear what our Veterans have gone through.
Thank everyone who has supported the Foundation, and its mission. Because of your help the Foundation have been able, and will continue to do what we do best. Take people fishing in memory of Jose Wejebe. Because of you AJ, Jose, Manny, and Mike have these memories about their trip.
“I would like to personally thank Joe and Diane the owners of the house. It was so comfortable. It felt like I was home. Costa provided the nicest fishing glasses I have ever seen, and we got tons of the most beautiful and comfortable Spanish Fly clothing. We had the most awesome boat captain, Captain T.J., and his father “Poppa Tuna.” They were very quick to try and make it the best experience it could be, and it was just that. I greatly appreciate the opportunity to be invited to fish with the Jose Wejebe Spanish Fly Memorial Foundation and will never forget this amazing experience.” -Manny
“Readjusting to being back home from that therapeutic fishing trip smacked me in the face today!! I changed that negative vibe when I looked at picture of what was left of my fish, thank you tiger shark. I remember watching your dad’s show. What stuck out to me the most as kid was that someone with my name, Jose, was on TV and he was catching huge fish!! The closet I got to fishing was watching the Spanish Fly show on TV. I’m a father now of two young boys, Austin Josèph and Logan Josèph. Going on this trip and meeting Jose’s friends and family was very humbling and therapeutic. It’s a good feeling to know that thru what happened to Jose, something positive was able to come out of it. I’m forever thankful, and hope to be as cool as a dad as he was!!” -Jose
“Bonding, venting, and reminiscing on old Army times made the trip extra special. Its amazing how soothing it was to the mind when we headed out deep sea fishing; It brought back memories as we all worked as a team giving each other guidance as one battled to pull in a fish.” -AJ