Don Hawley and the Birth of Release Tarpon Tournaments

George Hommel recalls a classic moment when guiding Don Hawley: “Bonefish! Don would take his time and empty his pipe by tapping it on the side of the boat. That did it! The bonefish were history. My following comments were not positive and Hawley responded by saying, ‘Well, I can’t put a hot pipe in my pocket!’” This from an biography of Hawley on the Don Hawley Foundation Web site. Written by Capt. Bob Johnson for the Free Press in June 1995, the piece summarizes Hawley’s adventures in World War I and subsequent involvement in professional life and finally his retirement to the Keys, where he fished with many of the early guides and with Ted Williams and Lynette Simon started the Gold Cup Tournament in 1964 — the first tarpon tournament to recognize the importance of releasing fish. The Hawley Foundation, as most Keys anglers know, has provided financial support to sick guides and their families for many years. (Thanks to reader David Dalu for this link.)

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