Positive Outcomes


Lange Sykes and one of his earliest mentors Captain Brendan Burke fish in the Indian River Lagoon. Photo by Denise Ritchie

“For someone who is passionate about the water, Vero Beach is the ultimate playground for a kid,” says Lange Sykes, who has grown up to become President of the Coastal Conservation Association’s Treasure Coast chapter and Vice President of the Southeastern region of WISEarth Organics. A staunch advocate for the preservation of the Indian
River Lagoon and a major proponent of sustainable agriculture,  Lange’s upbringing has inspired him to educate future generations. 

Born in Vero Beach, Lange learned to fish at the age of three. One of his first mentors was Allen Cornell, now the C.E.O. and producing artistic director of Riverside Theatre. Lange became friends with Cornell’s son, Chase, and the three would often go out on the water together. “I would always talk with the kids when they were out with me, and it wasn’t just about catching fish,” says Cornell. “It was about how things worked in nature and what you needed to do to preserve it. I tried to instill a respect for it because that’s what my father did for me.” 

After he started attending school at Beachland Elementary, Lange’s mother and grandmother would pick him up at the end of the day and take him to Vero Tackle. He’d buy a couple dozen shrimp, set sail on his boat and fish until dinnertime. When he wasn’t fishing, he was surfing, spear fishing and diving.

Lange says that he learned from others in the serious angling community that “we should take personal responsibility for conserving our resources.” He also credits the Environmental Learning Center with inspiring in him a deeper connection to conservation. “Getting to touch and feel the habitat and the sea life and understand more about how the ecosystems work, that was a big driver for me. It was right there. It was my environment. I understood that taking care of it was a responsibility.”

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