An August saltwater fishing adventure to the Mississippi River Delta in Louisiana marked “a once in a lifetime trip” for Wesley Chapel’s Keven Barber.
Even better yet, it was all caught on national television.
Barber was featured as part of the Union Sportsman’s Alliance “Brotherhood Outdoors” television series on the Sportsman Channel.
The episode premiered on Oct. 8 and re-aired several times during that week. It can now be viewed anytime on MyOutdoorTV.com.
“Brotherhood Outdoors” is described as “a unique TV series that tells the stories of hardworking union sportsmen and women, and takes on them on the hunting or fishing trip of a lifetime.”
The Union Sportsman’s Alliance each year selects a handful of union members for the show. Selections are based in part on passion for the outdoors, union membership and involvement, volunteer efforts and more.
Barber, an ironworker affiliated with Tampa Bay-based Ironworkers Local 397, fit the profile of what showrunners were looking for.
The avid outdoorsman said he’s been fishing, well, “since birth.”
Growing up in East Pasco, Barber would fish with his father and grandfather on lakes throughout Land O’ Lakes and Zephyrhills. He hasn’t stopped angling since.
“I’ve always loved fishing,” Barber said, in a recent interview with The Laker/Lutz News. “When you go fishing, you get time to spend with your family. It’s innocent, quiet. You never know what you’re going to catch. You never know what you’re going to see.”
Barber conveys the same level of enthusiasm about fishing as he does in giving back to the community.
The father of four boys is a scout leader, and longtime area youth and high school football coach.
This year he launched the Wesley Chapel Coyotes Youth Football and Cheerleading League, with the Wesley Chapel Athletic Association.
He also was one of 65 labor volunteers who in May helped build a wheelchair-accessible boardwalk and fishing pier at the Suncoast Youth Conservation Center in Apollo Beach.
The $800,000 project took nine days and 2,300 volunteer hours, and was the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s largest conservation project to date.
Barber said he hopes the new fishing pier indoctrinates a new generation of fisherman. The volunteer program also will include the donation of 500 fishing poles to youth at a Nov. 2 pier dedication ceremony.
Barber underscored the importance of fishing and getting outdoors for youth: “It definitely keeps them out of trouble, plus it gives them a hobby to do the rest of their life.”
He added: “The kids just need to be given a chance and opportunity to enjoy the outdoors, and (for) some of them, this will be the first time they’ve ever been out fishing — and hopefully they enjoy it and continue to do it throughout their life.”
As for Barber’s televised venture to Louisiana, it really couldn’t have gone better.
He joined Union Sportsman’s Alliance Conservation and Communications Director Forrest Parker for two days of redfishing and a night of bowfishing in the untamed marshes and swamplands of Venice, Louisiana. He celebrated his 40th birthday out on the waters, too. “I was like, ‘Man, this is awesome,’” Barber recalled.
Barber caught a number of Louisiana redfish that measured 40 inches to 50 inches long — considerably bulkier than the 15-inch to 20-inch redfish he often snags at the Skyway and Fort DeSoto fishing piers in St. Petersburg.
Louisiana is the natural habitat of redfish, he noted, hence the larger hauls.
“Every fish I caught was a personal best. It was unbelievable,” Barber said. “We used the popping rigs, and we were catching monsters in 8-foot of water that was murky. The water wasn’t even clear at the time.”
Besides landing giant redfish, Barber said fishing in Louisiana is “totally different” compared to the Florida’s Gulf Coast, noting there’s more inlets, canals, marsh and swamps.
“It was pretty neat. There’s a lot of good fishing out there,” he said.
Navigating Louisiana water wasn’t the only new first-time experience for Barber. Being in front of omnipresent television cameras for multiple days was another.
“I was kind of nervous at first with the camera, but after a while, it just becomes natural,” Barber said. “They said, ‘Do whatever, act normal, and we’ll edit out whatever we need to.’ I said, ‘I hope so, because there might be some bleeps in there!’”
“Hopefully, I didn’t embarrass myself too much,” he joked.
Published October 16, 2019