John Murphy (front) recently booked 25 tarpon trips for local guides like Capt. Kevin Goodwin. The anglers will include first responders and health care professionals who are working the COVID-19 pandemic. JASON KOLER/Keys Weekly

John Murphy is repaying a debt. A debt he incurred about 32 months ago when Hurricane Irma sent a 6-foot wall of seawater through his house. 

“Kevin brought a bunch of kids over to my house when I was trying to get the business up and running and cleaned it all out,” said Murphy, who co-owns and co-operates Florida Keys Air Conditioning with his partners Larry Smorgola and John Mahoney. 

“I have fished with pretty much everyone in town over the years,” Murphy added. “And I know their industry is in a dire situation, which got me wondering what I could do to help.”

So late last week he masterminded a fishing event that would serve two purposes – provide a moment of respite and fun for Marathon’s health care workers and first responders and get some money into the pockets of local fishermen, like his buddy Capt. Kevin Goodwin. 

Goodwin grew up in Marathon and has been fishing for about 31 years while raising a family in his hometown.  

His business has weathered hurricanes and oil spills – but nothing like the pandemic. 

“From January to July we make everything to get us through the year – about $25k a month that dropped to zero. I have fished three trips since all this started,” he said. 

Goodwin has recruited some 25 charter captains to take first responders and health care workers fishing for “Local Heroes Tarpon Day.” 

His buddy Murphy made 25 calls to 25 businesses – and secured 25 donations at $600 each. 

“Once again Marathon is rising to the occasion to help one another. Not one business said, ‘No,’” he said. “A couple businesses are sponsoring two vessels – Superior Electric and Kelly Buick GMC. Those who couldn’t afford the $600 pitched in for T-shirts.”

The tarpon fishing is scheduled for the evening of Saturday, May 23 and will include the bridges from Long Key to Bahia Honda. Keys Fisheries will serve as the pickup and dropoff location for the anglers and each boat will receive a lunch donated by Publix and signature event T-shirts provided by other sponsors. 

Murphy said the $600 each boat is set to make isn’t much, but it could go a long way in making car or boat payments or simply to feed a captain and his family. 

“Every little bit at this point helps,” said Capt. Jason Long. “When you are losing three to four thousand a day this will make a difference. We are all very grateful to those who are pitching in to make this happen.” 

“And catching a tarpon is an experience you never forget for the rest of your life,” Murphy added. “If I can put a smile on a nurse’s face and put a little money in the pocket of a fisherman that is good enough for me.”

To find out how you can help support  “Local Heroes Tarpon Day” call Florida Keys A/C at 305-289-9515. 

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