Remembering Mel BermanFrom the February 10, 2010 Issue
Captain Scott Moore
holds a healthy snook a client landed
in Charlotte Harbor. Habitat is critical
to the viability of the fishery as well as
tourism, both of which support guides,
boat builders and all business that
line Florida's coasts.
To most people on Florida’s West Coast, Captain Mel Berman was the voice of fishing through his weekly radio program. Berman found his passion and his most avid audience on Tampa’s 970 WFLA where for three hours every Saturday he held court with listeners that included anglers and non-anglers alike. This past Friday Berman passed away after complications from heart surgery. Berman was a seasoned broadcaster when he arrived in Florida close to three decades ago, but to me and most of the angling fraternity in Florida he was known for his love of the outdoors, his radio show and Web site, capmel.com.
I first met Berman and his wife, Ginny, when my wife, Christine, and I gravitated to them at a Florida Outdoor Writer’s Conference in Islamorada more than 20 years ago. Chris and Ginny, both avid practitioners of a number of crafts, felt instant rapport. Berman and I had fishing and communicating in common, of course, but we also soon found we shared a love of animals (cats in particular) and a progressive philosophy of life in general.
When I had the pleasure of appearing on Berman’s show a number of times to discuss fly fishing, I discovered that his reputation for being a savvy interviewer was well deserved. He also had a deft touch with callers to his program, keeping the program interesting and light, making him well liked by all kinds of people. As our relationship developed over the years, I came to understand that what he was most proud of was that even people who had no interest in fishing were drawn to his weekly broadcasts. Some of his female listening audience said they enjoyed listening to him just because of his intoxicating voice.
Captain Rick Grassett fished with Berman regularly and remembers his sense of humor and their shared love of animals.
“Mel would joke about all the women he woke up with on Saturday morning,” remembers Grassett.
He also remembers how Berman would get upset when he saw someone mistreating animals, whether it was a fish or a dog.
“He went fishing with a guide that held trout too tight and didn’t respect them” said Grassett. “He fished often,” but he never fished with that guide again. I remember the same spirit when Berman saw someone hit their dog at a DOA writer’s outing in Jensen Beach. He was vocal and passionate about the sanctity of all life. “He would tell me often that all living things, whether they were birds or fish were God’s creatures,” related Grassett.
Captain Scott Moore probably knew Berman as well as anyone outside his family and professional circle. Scott was a regular on his show and appreciated that he always looked at both sides of an issue and then let listeners make up their own minds.
“Nowhere was this more evident than during shows that led up to the net ban,” says Moore. “He would take calls from commercial fishermen as well as sport fishermen.” What impressed Moore most of all was Berman’s passion for the outdoors and his understanding of the interconnectedness of all things. “He would appreciate that the sea birds were just as important as the baitfish,” says Moore. “He was a professional in every sense, whether he was talking about fishing or promoting a product.” Berman also helped Moore feel comfortable on radio and in front of an audience. Moore, Grassett and I all agreed that it was his humanism and humor that we will remember most.
I’ll miss Berman, as will thousands of other anglers, animal lovers and those who appreciate the local environment. He was one of a kind, and an irreplaceable part of the local fishing scene. We’ll all miss Berman’s genial humor and his reverence for life, but he left a legacy of concern and action that we can all benefit from.