March 21, 2018

Theresa Java/Free Press 
Capt. Greg Hartlaub of Takedown Charters, left, Keith Albert, Matt Wilkinson and mate Evan Signor filled the cooler last Friday after a half-day out past the reef. 

Theresa Java/Free Press  Capt. Greg Hartlaub of Takedown Charters, left, Keith Albert, Matt Wilkinson and mate Evan Signor filled the cooler last Friday after a half-day out past the reef. 

ISLAMORADA — The Florida Keys Elks Lodge BPOE 1872’s program, Vets on the Water, hosted a half-day fishing charter for two Army veterans last week aboard Takedown Charters.

This was Keith Albert’s second trip aboard Takedown with Capt. Gregory Hartlaub. Albert, a Marathon High School graduate, loves to fish. His parents live in Tavernier and he visits as often as he can. He’s now a police officer with the Indianapolis Police Department.

“I grew up on the water, I miss it. Vets on the Water is an awesome program. It gets me out there,” Albert said.

Matt Wilkinson was aboard the boat with Albert. They’ve been friends since 2002 and were stationed together in Fort Bliss in Texas and Fort Wainwright in Alaska.

“That was a lot of fun. Greg was great and his boat is nice,” he said of the 40-foot Cabo.

Wilkinson was recently transferred to Boca Raton as part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s explosive detection canine team.

Vets on the Water event coordinator Jane Ferguson said the Elks Lodge in Tavernier has always cared for veterans and active military, and that a lot of its members are veterans.

“This is the least we can do for the service they’ve done for our country, “ she said.

Takedown Charters has been a program partner for four years, according to Haurtlaub. He usually does three or four trips a year for veterans.

“We were trying for (sailfish). We saw a few of them out there, but we didn’t land any. We did land a lot of jokes, though,” he said.

The anglers filled the cooler with kingfish, tuna and yellowtail.

Dockside, Haurtlaub filleted the fish and filled a gallon-sized bag.

“This is why I love fishing,” Albert said. “I can’t wait to go home and cook this.”

Vets on the Water is offered through a grant from the National Elks Foundation for Veterans & Active Military dealing with stress, readjustment, injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder.

For more information about the program, visit vetsonthewater.us, email vetsonthewater@gmail.com or call 305-853-5594.

tjava@keysnews.com