Rebekah Norgaard and Tom Bird.

Anglers and supporters from across the Florida Keys converged on “Jose’s Backyard” on the evening of March 4 as they remembered a fishing legend with the Jose Wejebe Memorial Foundation (JWMF)’s annual “Fish for Jose” backyard dinner. 

Established after the angler’s passing in 2012, the foundation honors Wejebe’s legacy by partnering with organizations like Make A Wish, the Outdoor Dream Foundation, the VA Hospital of Miami and Wesley House to provide fishing trips to those who need it most at critical points in their lives. 

With online, silent and live auctions as well as raffles and individual donations, the evening raised more than $80,000 in support of this mission. Sponsors and the foundation’s most staunch supporters shared their memories of Wejebe and the ways in which his philosophy and the foundation’s work have shaped their mentalities and touched their families’ lives.

“I’m grateful that 10 years after his passing, we are still gaining momentum,” said Krissy Wejebe, Jose’s daughter and the foundation’s executive director. “Hearing that when an individual leaves reality at the dock and has the opportunity to live in the moment can save a life and reset the whole family is a gift that I’m grateful to be a small part of.”

Widely revered as a conscientious waterman with a burning desire to learn everything he possibly could about the water and the fish he targeted, Jose Wejebe escaped a politically tumultuous climate in Cuba with his family, found asylum in the United States, and eventually became one of the nation’s most recognizable anglers with his explosively popular “Spanish Fly” TV show on ESPN.

To learn more or refer an individual with a life-impacting challenge, visit josewejebefoundation.org. To watch episodes of “Spanish Fly,” visit spanishflytv.com.

Alex Rickert made the perfectly natural career progression from dolphin trainer to newspaper editor in 2021 after freelancing for Keys Weekly while working full time at Dolphin Research Center. A resident of Marathon since 2015, he fell in love with the Florida Keys community by helping multiple organizations and friends rebuild in the wake of Hurricane Irma. An avid runner, actor, and spearfisherman, he spends as much of his time outside of work on or under the sea having civil disagreements with sharks.