Angler lands more than bragging rights
On a good day anglers are delighted to fish a 100-200 pound tuna. An extraordinary catch is 500 pounds. So imagine how Greg Sandifer, of Jacksonville, Fla., felt when he hauled in a 919-pound tuna on the first day of the Hatteras/Bertram Shoot-Out in the Bahamas on May 10.
According to Sandifer, all was quiet aboard the 54 Hatteras, HZO, until the crack of the outrigger was heard, and the line started screaming.
“We didn’t see what hit the lure, we only saw the hole it left in the water which was big enough to hide a Volkswagen,” he says.
Three hours and 45 minutes later, Sandifer and his father and crew hauled the massive blue fin tuna onboard. Although this was a catch and release billfish tournament, the fish had died by the time they brought it to the surface, so Roger Hansen, general manager of MarineMax, the sponsors of the tournament, made arrangements to donate the tuna to the hungry crowd on shore. According to local authorities, this is one of the largest tuna ever caught in the Bahamas.
Tight finish at tarpon tournament
Mike Podowski of Fort Myers, Fla., and the team of Dave Slickven and Billy Peirciak, both of Needham, Mass., took top honors at the 40th annual Marathon International Tarpon Tournament held May 4-6 in Marathon.
Podowski, fishing with Capt. Jack Callion of Marathon, released eight tarpon to finish just 150 points ahead of second-place finisher Dave Slickven for the individual angler title.
Anglers earned 225 points for each tarpon caught on 12-pound-test line and 150 points for fish caught on 30-pound line, so just one tarpon made the difference — eight releases to seven. All of Podowski’s and Slickven’s fish were caught on 30-pound line.
Third place went to Marathon’s Anne Brown, who released four fish. She fished with Capt. Bobby Brown of Summerland Key.
Slickven and teammate Peirciak were guided by Marathon’s Billy Rabito to a team total of eight releases to take the team title.
Ronnie and Roger Winn of Port St. Lucie, Fla., took the team second place. Fishing with Capt. Byron Farnes of Duck Key, Fla., they released four tarpon.
In third place, just one fish behind, was the team of Jon Kis and Col. Pete Knapp, both of Marrion, Wis.
Thirty anglers fished from 18 boats during the tournament, releasing a total of 45 tarpon during three four-hour nights of fishing.
Veterinarian wins dolphin challenge
Participants came from as far away as New York State and California to compete in the 13th annual Big Pine and Lower Keys Dolphin Tournament that ended June 4, but ultimately they couldn’t outfish Keys veterinarian Rene Cruz.
Cruz, whose practice is headquartered on Ramrod Key, bested more than 210 other anglers to earn first place and $3,400 while fishing on his own boat, the Dock Cruiser. Cruz caught a 41.25-pound dolphin on the tournament’s first fishing day, backed up by teammates Kurt Kistner, who drove the boat, and Mike McGovern, who gaffed the fish. Both Kistner and McGovern are residents of Buffalo, N.Y.
Cruz caught the winning fish in about 2,000 feet of water on a short weed line.
“We used fresh ballyhoo with a pink-and-white Islander lure,” says Cruz, whose victory caps nine years of fishing the dolphin challenge.
The tournament’s second-place winner was Steve Kreiger of Ramrod Key, who fished aboard the Trophy Hunter. His 40.25-pound dolphin earned him $1,700.
Jeff Woessner of Key West captured third place and $850 with a 36.05-pound dolphin caught fishing with Capt. Gilbert Clemens on the Sea Dragon.
The tournament’s junior division was won by Mike Malvasio Jr. of Southwest Ranches, Fla., who boated a 26.7-pound dolphin. He fished on Swallow the Leader, captained by his father, Mike Malvasio Sr., and earned a rod and reel and a trophy for his catch.
Kim McKendry of Key West was the tournament’s top female angler. Fishing aboard the Finer Lines with Capt. Don Barton, McKendry brought in a 26.6-pound dolphin.
Additional prizes were awarded to recognize the anglers who caught the largest wahoo and tuna. Chris Dellow of Birmingham, N.Y., was recognized for a wahoo weighing 44.85 pounds, while Scott Culleny of Nokomis, Fla., took top tuna honors for catching a 17.75-pounder.
First-timer wins Keys dolphin tournament
Fishing in his first tournament, Joseph Nailes of Castor, La., caught a 50.2-pound dolphin, winning the $10,000 top cash prize at the 20th annual Coconuts Dolphin Tournament in the Florida Keys in May.
“I’ve been in a couple of horseshoe tournaments, but nothing like this,” says Nailes of the two-day competition that attracted 554 participants. “After next deer season, my wife knows I’m ready to head back down here.”
Nailes was on Seven Twelves, skippered by Capt. Marcus Roberts. He said he caught the big fish on a balao while trolling 37 miles off Key Largo.
Finishing second overall was Eddie Pierce of Homestead, Fla., who reeled in a 45.3-pound dolphin on Grill Em with Capt. Doug Peel. In third place was Paul Minning of Islamorada, Fla., with a 42.6-pound fish caught on Loco Motion with Capt. Bob Williamson.
Julie Cameron of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., won the women’s division with a 26.8-pound fish while 13-year-old Matt Herum of Tavernier, Fla., caught a 33.1-pound dolphin to win the junior division. Bill Stewart, of Inverness, Fla., placed first in the senior division with a 31.5-pound fish.
Marathon angler wins ladies tarpon tourney
Barbara Hewlett of Marathon, Fla., won the 30th annual Ladies Tarpon Tournament, held May 13-14 in her hometown.
Fishing with Capt. Butch Hewlett of Marathon and teammate Lisa Gregg of Tallahassee, Fla., Hewlett came from fourth place after the first day of fishing to take the winner’s trophy. Hewlett added three tarpon on the second day of fishing to the two she caught on Day 1.
Second place went to Christine Slickven of Needham, Mass. Fishing with Marathon’s Capt. Billy Rabito Sr., Slickven rose from fifth place after Day 1 to take the runner-up trophy.
First-day leader Tiffany Hensley of Oahu, Hawaii, had a difficult second day of fishing and finished in third place overall. She fished with Capt. Donny Braswell of Marathon.
The team champions were Gregg and Hewlett, followed by Kelly Goodwin and Kimberly Farnes, both of Marathon, and Kristi Alexander and Kami Martinez, both of Marathon.
In all, 25 tarpon were released by 17 anglers fishing from 12 boats.
One world record set,others pending
From March 7 through April 26, anglers fishing in Florida Keys waters landed an incredible 26 pending world record fish, plus one certified world record.
Fly-rodders were busy with the hot bite during March and April, but no catch was more impressive than Martin Arostegui’s 385-pound lemon shark, caught on fly using a 12-pound tippet and landed after more than an hour’s fight. Arostegui, of Coral Gables, Fla., has held more than 100 documented International Game Fish Association world records.
After testing the tippet, the IGFA moved the record to the 16-pound tippet class.
Arostegui’s lemon shark, caught off Key West and released alive after certified weigh-in, is the largest documented fish ever caught on fly.
Carl Navarre Jr. of New York landed a 15-pound, 1-ounce bonefish with a fly rod while fishing on March 20 with Capt. Tim Klein of Islamorada. Using Klein’s Tart Fly and a 20-pound tippet, Navarre fought the fish for eight minutes. The fish was released alive. The current 20-pound tippet record is a 14-pound, 5-ounce bonefish caught in 2002, also off Islamorada.
On March 13 Diana Rudolf of Islamorada landed an 11-pound, 2-ounce bonefish using an 8-pound tippet.
William DuVal of Richmond, Va., has 10 pending world records, ranging from a 1-pound, 12-ounce yellowtail snapper delicately drawn to the boat with 2-pound test line, to a 26-pound blackfin tuna caught on fly using a 16-pound tippet.
Potential record-setting bonnethead sharks, an inshore species known for stealing bonefish anglers’ shrimp, were landed by Dotty Ballantyne of Bozeman, Mont., and Gussie Leech of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Ballantyne’s 3-pound bonnethead, caught off Key West, was brought in with a 2-pound tippet on her fly rod, showing her deft touch when light tackle meets sharp teeth.
Ballantyne also caught a pending world record 32-pound, 8-ounce cobia on fly with a 16-pound tippet and an 8-pound, 8-ounce jack crevalle on a 6-pound tippet.
Leech has two line class records pending for sharks caught on 8-pound and 16-pound line, both landed near Islamorada’s famed flats.
Cynthia Mitchell of Devonshire, Bermuda, landed a 6-pound red grouper off Key West using 8-pound line.
Nicole Ritter has a long and bright future. The 9-year-old from Columbiaville, Mich., landed a 2-pound, 8-ounce yellowtail snapper while fishing near Duck Key (Marathon). Her pending world record is in the small-fry category.
Also expecting a long fishing future is 11-year-old Nicole Loffredo. Visiting Key West from her home in Anchorage, Alaska, she boated a 3-pound, 9-ounce gag grouper. Her record would also be listed in the small-fry category.
Pending world record blackfin tuna, Keys anglers’ favorite sushi target, were landed by Matthew Pullen of Hampton, N.H., Arostegui and Rudolf and Karel Foti of Miami.
All except Pullen’s were caught on fly. Pullen’s 49-pound, 6-ounce blackfin, the largest in the group, was caught on 50-pound line to give the angler two pending records from his catch — 50-pound line and all-tackle classes.
The International Game Fish Association in Dania Beach, Fla., has been recognized as the official keeper of world saltwater fishing records since 1939. The association is actively involved in research and conservation programs around the world.