Russ Fisher

Russ Fisher has spent his entire life as a businessman.  He received an engineering degree from the University of California at Berkeley and an MBA from Harvard.  Russ's primary business was Jasper Textiles which manufactured and marketed knit shirts under the Outer Banks brand until the sale of the company in 1999.  Other boards he is involved with are Lyric Opera of Chicago and Lake Forest College.  Russ is currently the Vice Chairman and Vice President of Research for Bonefish & Tarpon Trust.


1. What is it that attracts you to fishing?

Fishing just grew in my life from my mother taking me and a friend fishing in a small Iowa creek.  I have to credit Wisconsin Musky fishing as igniting a passion for fishing.  The occasional followup and less often the actual catch just made me interested in trying to solve the riddle of “how to catch them”.  I think that is why I like fishing.  There is considerable planning around the basic focus which is trying to understand what are the variables to success.  While success is usually defined by catching, the pleasure of the pursuit is equally rewarding for me.  After all it is “fishing” rather than “catching”.  Over the years my enjoyment has come more from the “fishing” than the catching, though I am like everyone that needs some good tugs.  I have generally not returned to places that I caught “too many” fish because there just didn’t seem to be a challenge.

2. Describe your fondest fishing memory.

There are many but probably the fondest is the time I get to spend with my grown son.  To watch him become proficient and be together in a wilderness environment is rewarding.  We have had the occasion several times to be alone in the British Columbia wilderness fishing for steelhead.  To get to watch him be successful at something I also enjoy and then have the time at the end of the day to discuss and reminisce is hard to beat.

3. How did you get your start with BTT?

It began when I heard Tom Davidson had been in discussion with the University of Miami about studying the Keys bonefish population.  Six of us got together and put money in a hat to kick of the tagging program that grew into first BTU and then today BTT.

4. What are the best ways that BTT can and has benefited coastal recreational fisheries?

From the beginning it was always felt that science had to be the basis for progress.  So little was and is known about the three species that the early focus was just about trying to raise money to be allocated among the most important studies.  In going down this road the awareness of these species importance both to the sportsman and to the economy has been elevated.  They have been neglected and that is changing with BTT’s help.  We are just now being more of an advocate for regulatory action as a result of some of the evolving science.  BTT can be an advocate for the protection of the species while still allowing sportsman the ability to enjoy fishing for them.  These are not mutually exclusive.

5. Do you see different futures for the fisheries with and without BTT?

It is pretty easy to make the case that the future will be better with the existence of BTT.  Very little research had been done before BTT and no other organization has a coordinated research plan to fill in the critical unknowns that will lead to a better future.  Governmental organizations have shown little interest in carrying any of the load in spite of the huge economic impact the three species provide.   One could argue that most of the dramatically larger number of science projects underway are because of BTT’s existence.  So, I would say BTT’s existence is critical to the future condition of each of the species.