Fly anglers enjoy record catch in ‘sailfly’ tourney
Six years ago, even hardcore fly anglers thought Sandy Moret of Islamorada was crazy to hold a sailfish tournament for fly rodders. But Moret, a nine-time grand champion angler of the most prestigious fly tournaments in the Florida Keys, knew the Atlantic sailfish was a target worth pursuing.
After some years of so-so catches (and an inaugural year with no releases), the 2006 Islamorada Invitational Fly Rod Championship, called the “Sailfly” by locals, exploded with 11 hook-ups and nine releases, an especially impressive performance because contestants must use 16-pound tippet. The tournament took place Jan. 10-12 in the waters of Islamorada, Fla.
The championship went to Craig Reago, of Ponte Vedra, Fla., and Jeffrey Dickman, of Clemmons, N.C., fishing aboard Challenger with Capt. Rob Dixon at the helm. The angling team defended its 2005 championship by logging three releases over the two-day tournament.
Second place went to brothers Tim and Robert Klein, popular Keys backcountry guides, fishing aboard Gotcha skippered by Capt. Mel Walker. Each angler had a release.
The winning team receives an invitation to the 2007 Rolex/IGFA Offshore Championship.
‘World Record Game Fishes’ available
The “2006 World Record Game Fishes” book published by the non-profit International Game Fish Association continues its legacy as one of the most reliable and complete source books of international fishing records and fishing-related reference materials.
The annual is the official guide to saltwater and freshwater catches — for nearly 400 species around the world — in all-tackle, line class, fly, junior angler and U.S. state records.
In 2005 a record total 1,234 applications were received and reviewed by the IGFA world records department; of those, 864 were approved with 144 still pending. The total number of fish record categories stands at 8,950 with nearly 100,000 files.
The book is only available from the IGFA with a $35 annual IGFA membership. The membership also includes online access to the most current updated world records on the IGFA Web site, six issues of the “International Angler” news magazine and unlimited admission to the IGFA’s interactive Fishing Hall of Fame & Museum in Dania Beach, Fla.www.igfa.org
Debut tourney for over-50 crowd
A record 96 anglers fished the Capt. Al Flutie Over the Hill Rip-Off for anglers age 50 and over, Jan. 24 off the Florida Keys. They hooked 66 sailfish and successfully released 33 of the aggressive billfish.
Overall grand champions were Chris Miller, John Morrell and Skip Nielsen, all of Islamorada, fishing with Capt. Randy Towe aboard Quit Yer Bitchin. The teams released five sails.
Second place went to George Campbell and Benny Spaulding Sr., both of Islamorada. The pair released four sailfish, fishing aboard Snapshot with Capt. Dave Jensen at the helm.
Steve Faber of Islamorada took third place while fishing aboard Reel McCoy with Capt. George McIlveen. Faber also released four fish, but lost to Campbell and Spaulding based on time. He did, however, take the high-point angler award for his four releases.
The senior division award, for the oldest angler over 50, went to 74-year-old Capt. Mick Clements of Wrightsville Beach, N.C. Clements fished aboard Fish Tales with Capt. Ron Allen.
The junior division award, for the youngest angler over 50, went to Islamorada’s Capt. Steve Leopold, fishing aboard Towe’s Quit Yer Bitchin.
Sailfish action was steady all day, with the last fish hooked at 3:53 p.m., just seven minutes before lines out, and released at 4:08 p.m. by Steve Kane of Bear, Del.
Contender One team captures Gold Cup
The Contender One team beat two of the top sailfishing teams in the Keys to become grand champion of the 2006 Florida Keys Gold Cup Sailfish Championship, a three-tournament series that drew 20 top boats and 61 of Florida’s best sailfish anglers.
During the series, a record 310 sailfish were released.
The Contender One team of Joe Neber, Matt Neber, Bill Cordes (skipper) and Wayne Savage, all of Homestead, Fla., released 34 fish during the series, which included the Islamorada Sailfish Tournament (20 releases for the team), Cheeca Lodge Presidential Sailfish Tournament (eight releases) and Islamorada Fishing Club 2006 Sailfish Tournament (six releases). The IFC tourney ended Jan. 26, concluding the Gold Cup challenge.
Second place went to Relentless, skippered by Capt. Paul Ross, and anglers Becky Hester and Armando Horta, both of Tavernier, Fla. The team released a total of 29 sails during the three tournaments.
Money raised during the tournament series benefits the Islamorada Charter Boat Association.
Anglers release 221 sailfish at Holiday Isle
The sailfish action off the Florida Keys continued as 27 boats in the Holiday Isle Sailfish Tournament logged 221 catch-and-releases from 334 hook-ups.
Taking top honors during the two-day tournament that ended Jan. 15, was Cloud Nine, skippered by Capt. Greg Eklund. Anglers Scott Lund of Wellington, Fla., Kinzy Jones, of Hollywood, Fla., and Augie Wampler, of Islamorada released 20 sails over the two-day tournament.
“It’ll definitely be a record year,” said Eklund. “Nobody’s seen this many sailfish around and eating in thirty years.”
Lund, host of the Reel Adventures television show broadcast by Fox Sports, agrees with many Keys charter boat capt.s who believe the hot fishing is attributable to Hurricane Wilma piling up baitfish in Keys waters.
“The fish seem to have disappeared from Isla Mujeres [off the Cancun coast] and reappeared here,” said Lund, who won the World Billfish Series southeast U.S. Championships in 1999 and 2000, and has a doctorate in veterinary medicine.
Relentless, with Capt. Paul Ross, also logged 20 releases by anglers Becky Hester and Armando Horta, both of Tavernier, Fla., but came in second based on time of release.
Record-breaking fish can’t win tournament
After catching a 64.74-pound kingfish on Jan. 28, the first day of the Hog’s Breath King Mackerel Tournament held off Key West, Team Sundance Marine felt so confident of victory they didn’t fish the tournament’s final day.
“We had the fish that broke the tournament record initially,” said team capt. Kevin Kates. “We didn’t fish Sunday because chances of beating that fish were slim to none.”
But then the unthinkable happened. Bobby Schoenfeld caught a 66.77-pound monster king aboard Lured Away.
“I never thought we would beat them,” said Schoenfeld, a Conrad, Texas, resident. “I was just hoping to catch a fish that would get us in the money.”
The big fish did more than get Schoenfeld in the money. It got him the event’s top prize, a 21-foot Contender boat with a Mercury 200 Optimax motor and Continental trailer.
“We ran about 80 miles to the first spot,” he said. “We fished there about 90 minutes and caught six or seven between 30 and 40 pounds. We didn’t think the fish we were looking for was going to be there.”
So the team, which also included Texas residents Chico Chamorro and Wally Mercado, moved 10 miles. Only 15 minutes later, the big king gobbled up a live blue runner.
“It ran 400 to 450 yards of line out in a matter of a few seconds,” Schoenfeld said. “Then, about 15 minutes later, we got to it and stuck a gaff in it.”
Sanctioned by the Southern Kingfish Association, the Hog’s Breath featured about 400 anglers who weighed in 127 fish caught aboard 147 boats.