Allison Delashmit, who became the executive director of the Lower Keys (Fishing) Guides Association last fall, is a natural-born storyteller.

The petite organizer is using that talent to be a big voice for the association, which includes more than 100 vetted guide members and 150 to 200 angler members.

Woman with barracuda Lower Florida Keys

In her work with the LKGA, Allison helps to protect and preserve the Keys fishery and rights of her members to use the fishery.

She’s had to “dig deep” to learn about the career nuances and complexities of the organization’s Lower Keys members. She’s working to forge relationships with scientists, fishing organizations such as the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust, and advocacy organizations like Captains for Clean Water.

Allison’s goals include protecting and maintaining the integrity of the LKGA, helping to protect and preserve the Keys fishery and rights of her members to use the fishery, and providing a voice for future fisheries management in the Florida Keys and in Florida.

With expertise in coral restoration, Allison is the former director of regional operations for Mote Marine Laboratory in the Keys.

A native of tiny Cumberland Gap, Tennessee, she’s married to fly fishing guide Drew Delashmit and is the mother of three sons — Kellen, 20, a college student; Charlie, 13; and Mason, 12.

Drew and Allison dated while in college at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. She then moved to New York City to pursue a career in the advertising field, and subsequently married, divorced and moved back to Tennessee.

Drew, who had worked as a fishing guide in Tennessee’s Smoky Mountains, moved to the Keys to follow his dream of earning a living as a fishing captain.

When a work-related photo shoot took Allison to Homestead, Florida, she contacted Drew — and after nine years apart, the couple reconnected. Today they live in the Lower Keys’ Cudjoe Gardens. 

Four women paddle boarding Lower Keys

Allison, shown here paddle boarding with friends, feels a strong connection with the Keys’ waters.

Keys Voices: When did you first come to the Florida Keys and why? 

Allison Delashmit: In early April 2010 to live with my husband, Drew, a charter boat captain for nearly 25 years.

KV: What aspects of the Keys environment or way of life matter most to you?

AD: The pure wonder of our local ecosystems, the water and its inhabitants, the land and its constant regeneration, and the people and their unique lifestyle. The Keys offer a special and different way of living life. It can be harsh but soft, strange but beautiful, and wild but free.

KV: Who or what inspired you to become passionate about respecting and protecting the Keys’ natural world?

AD: In this magical place, we must fight for the things that matter and cannot fight for themselves. Incredible humans start to reveal themselves as heroes who are striving to help bring awareness, science-based restoration solutions, and engage in proactive management practices.

KV: How does that passion influence your work or profession?

AD: I have been blessed to know and work with the best scientists, conservationists and eco-champions. I try to use their knowledge and share it with as many people who will listen as possible. 

woman in Lower Keys shallows

Allison and her sons bond by spending time in the Lower Keys spot that has become their favorite place.

KV: What are some of the ways, personally or through your work, that you connect with and/or help protect the local environment and unique lifestyle?

AD: Our family bonds through time spent in or on the water through fishing, exploring the backcountry or snorkeling on the reef. Professionally, I work with local fishing guides with expert knowledge of our local waters. It’s hard not to feel their connection with the water and fish and want to be part of it.

KV: What keeps you energized, challenged and focused on your path?

AD: A day on the water, no matter what I’m doing, energizes me and helps me remember why conservation and stewardship are so important for our local ecosystems.

KV: What do you hope your positive environmental actions will accomplish?

AD: I hope my children and others will understand how to use their voices to protect and conserve things they love most in the world — because, if not you, then who?

KV: What message do you want your actions and example to communicate to people you encounter?

AD: Educate yourself. Understand all issues facing our beloved water and local natural resources. Look for the ones (individually and corporately) striving to make an impact, bring sound science and use their voices to impact policy and sustainable management practices. They are EVERYWHERE.

KV: What’s your favorite natural or eco-friendly activity in the Keys?

AD: I have a soft spot in my heart for horseshoe crabs. Older than dinosaurs and more closely related to spiders and scorpions than crabs, horseshoe crabs are so unique. Their unusual blue blood, which is copper based, is used to test every injectable drug (including vaccines) for humans by the FDA. Our family counts and reports sightings of horseshoe crabs and submits reports to help local scientists.