Bonefish & Tarpon Trust 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 Rick 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 Joe 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 TV, Bass2Billfish, 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 Travis 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.