A descendant of Cuban commercial fishermen, Benny Blanco believes he was born to be on the water. And that’s where you’ll find him today, poling a client over the skinniest water of Florida Bay in his Hell’s Bay Boatworks Professional™ boat powered by the Mercury Racing 60R, a high-performance outboard designed specifically for technical fishing skiffs. For more than 20 years Blanco has guided throughout South Florida, long enough to note changes in the environment that have adversely altered the quality of the water and the health of the fishery. Observing the fragility of waters of Florida Bay ignited Blanco’s passion for conservation, and he’s among the professional guides working hard to raise public awareness and change policies that threaten this vulnerable, and very valuable resource.
Benny Blanco realized his passion for fishing at a young age. As a boy growing up in Kendall, Fla., Blanco would get up early to bicycle to a canal and throw a cast net for hours to fill a pail with mullet, which he could trade at a bait shop for lures. Blanco’s bicycle eventually carried him to Biscayne Bay, where he could catch permit and bonefish. At age 14 Blanco acquired a jon boat, and started making trips with his stepfather to Flamingo to fish Florida Bay. By age 15 he was towing the boat there himself.
Soon Blanco realized he got great satisfaction from teaching others to catch fish. Guiding was his true calling. In 1998 he began fishing, and winning, tournaments to establish a reputation, and he started guiding full time in 2000. Today Blanco guides on the waters of Florida Bay, Biscayne Bay and the Florida Keys and remains as passionate as ever about fishing, and about protecting the resource he has loved all of his life.
In 2015 a major algae bloom killed off 50 percent of the Florida Bay sea grass and left the water murky, a disaster for a sight fisherman like Benny Blanco. His life’s work was destroyed overnight. Rather than simply move on, Blanco was inspired to join with other pro guides to protect a resource annually worth $2.5 billion to the South Florida economy.
Blanco became involved in local conservation efforts organized by Captains for Clean Water, a non-profit organized in 2016 by fishing guides, focused on raising public awareness on water quality and pushing the implementation of science-based solutions delayed for decades due to lack of political will. Captains for Clean Water has successfully united the outdoor industry, environmental groups, the business community and concerned citizens around these important issues.
Blanco promotes protection of vulnerable, pristine waters across Florida through “Guiding Flow,” the show he hosts on the streaming channel Waypoint TV. Blanco describes each episode as education disguised as a fishing show, and is reaching 5 million viewers, including 2.4 million in Florida. Blanco is especially focused on environmental outreach to children, in hopes that the next generation will never take abundant, clean water for granted.