Destination: Florida

Guide For Life Benny Blanco

Capt. Benny Blanco of Captains for Clean Water knows first-hand the value of fly fishing to raise kids connected to the natural world.
Benny Blanco and his daughter fish from a motorboat on the ocean.

This is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.

In 2014, Capt. Benny Blanco and his 13-year-old daughter, Anna, were taking part in a kids’ fishing tournament out of Islamorada when they poled onto a stunning Florida Bay flat right at sunrise. Surrounded by fertile seagrass beds and tailing redfish bathed in golden light, Anna turned to Benny and whispered, “This is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.” 


At the next year’s tournament—after a brutal drought had starved the Everglades of fresh water, increasing salinity in the bay—Benny and Anna returned to the same flat expecting another magical morning of fishing. But Anna immediately noticed something wrong.

“Where’s all the grass?” she asked.

Without the seagrasses, which had been killed by the extremely salty water, there were no redfish in sight, and the flat seemed devoid of life. Benny explained how the historical flow of fresh water through the Everglades had been cut off over the past century, making it more difficult for the habitat to endure periods of drought. Anna was crushed, and the experience had a profound impact on her.

Benny points out the sights to his daughter while his wife peeks over her shoulder.

Now a junior at Florida International University, Anna studies marine biology and is committed to fighting to save the Everglades and Florida Bay. Working in the Coastal Fisheries Research Lab with Dr. Jennifer Rehage, Anna’s work focuses on how the seascape transformation resulting from seagrass die-off affects prey conditions and recreational fisheries. Benny’s middle daughter, Allison, also at FIU, is an English major considering a career in environmental law.

“I never forced them to go outside or sat them down to lecture them about conservation, but they couldn’t help but absorb what was happening around them.


Because their dad is a longtime fishing guide, hosts a fishing TV show, and is an ardent advocate for Everglades restoration through his work as an ambassador for Captains For Clean Water, you might expect that the paths Benny’s daughters have chosen are the result of lifelong programming to become outdoors enthusiasts and conservationists. But, according to Benny, he never pushed them in this direction; his passions were just a part of life.

Benny guides his daughter in a cast with a fly rod under a bright blue sky.
Close-up of the dotted rear fin of a fish behind held on the surface of the water.
Benny Blanco's family in a motorboat smiling as they speed over the ocean.

A city kid who grew up south of Miami, Benny never had a real mentor of his own, someone to teach him to fish or explain the importance of preserving and restoring the incredible natural habitats just a few miles away. But he remembers being immediately captivated the first time he visited the Everglades as a seven year old.

“There was no concrete, no people, no blaring music,” he says, “and I felt a connection to the place in my soul.”

By age 10, he was guiding his stepfather and uncle on fishing trips into the maze-like mangrove jungles, and these adventures developed into his life’s work. “In some ways, I feel like Mother Nature just grabbed me and mentored me herself.”


As he watches his girls and other young people take on the myriad environmental issues facing South Florida and the Everglades, Benny is inspired by their willingness to speak out and get involved.

“Their generation will be the one to change the world,” Benny says. “They know how to fight for what they know is right.”

When he talks at schools about Everglades restoration, he is amazed by the students’ reactions: “At first, they’re angry and want to know how my generation allowed this to happen, but then they quickly start to focus on what can be done to fix the problem. That gives me hope.”


Benny firmly believes that, after decades of struggle and gridlock, Everglades restoration is an achievable goal in the near term, and the energy, drive, and determination of his daughters and their cohorts allow him to see the problems through fresh eyes and envision a path to returning the Everglades to their former glory.

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