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Fishing Notes

Win’s no laughing matter for Giggling Marlin team

After fishing the Drambuie Key West Marlin tournament for four consecutive years with lackluster results, a few months ago Islamorada, Fla., resident Jack Strack said he told his son, Jeff, he was indecisive about competing in this year’s event.

But the owner of Giggling Marlin, a 56-foot Viking sportfishing boat, decided to enter the 25th anniversary of the tournament anyway.

It’s a good thing he did. Jeff Strack released a white marlin and caught a 22.6-pound dolphin on the second day, and released a blue marlin on the third to give the Giggling Marlin team a total of 822.6 points and the $25,000 top cash prize in the tournament’s marlin division. The blue marlin hit a skirted horse balao.

“My mom and I moved up our first beer from 10:30 a.m. to 9 a.m., gave a little to the fish gods and threw some money out like we always do,” said Jeff Strack, a Chicago grocery executive. “I didn’t even finish [the beer] and the marlin hit.”

It took Strack about 25 minutes to bring the fish to the boat.

After that release, they continued fishing without success except for a small dolphin that was below the 15-pound minimum required for weigh-in.

“That last two hours [of the tournament] was pretty nerve-racking because we didn’t have any idea where we stood in the rankings,” Jeff Strack said.

On Course, skippered by Bill Currie, took second place with releases of a blue marlin and a spearfish by Mike Zalewski of Tampa and Dan Harrington of Terra Verde, Fla., respectively. In third place was Easy Rider skippered by Rob Harris of Cudjoe Key, Fla. Harris’ team combined a blue marlin release and catches of a 25.3-pound dolphin and 39.65-pound wahoo, the largest wahoo of the tournament.

Capt. Billy Wickers III, on the charterboat Linda D V, won the tournament’s inaugural Jim Hardie Memorial Trophy for the largest marlin released during the tournament. The fish had an estimated weight of 350 pounds and was caught by angler Micah McDowell of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Hardie, a former “Miami Herald” outdoors writer who died in 2006, was the first journalist to write about the blue marlin fishery off Key West. In 1981 Capt. Norman Wood invited Hardie to Key West for a trip aboard the Petticoat III. When they returned, four marlin flags flew from the outriggers. Three were released and one boated. The headline that followed several days later proclaimed “Hemingway never had it so good.”

Clay Harris of Key West, fishing with his father Capt. Ken Harris on the Finesse, caught the largest dolphin at 48.95 pounds.

Celebrating its 25th anniversary, the tournament attracted 324 participants fishing on 56 boats, according to tournament director Scott Greene. He said the angling field tallied releases of seven blue marlin, two white marlin and the spearfish.

The angling competition was part of Key West’s annual Hemingway Days festival that pays homage to the hard-living and literary prowess of Ernest Hemingway.

Dates for the 2008 Drambuie Key West tournament are July 16 to 19.

Homestead youths win junior dolphin tourney

Teammates Jorge Torres, Ariel Urra, Yoley Urra, Raul Urra and Ryan Smith, all from Homestead, Fla., weighed in a three-fish total of 64.4 pounds to win the Islamorada Fishing Club Junior Dolphin Tournament held in Islamorada.

The largest of the team’s fish weighed 28.4 pounds. The youths fished with their fathers aboard Fish Up.

Second place went to the Enchantress team. Anglers Kyle and Caleb Carrow, both of Islamorada, Quenten Niepoth of Michigan and Andy Pantaleo of Key Largo weighed in a total of 46 pounds of dolphin.

The Fountainhead team took third place. Anglers Emma Upchurch, Croft Upchurch and Devon Morris, all of Islamorada, weighed in 26-1/2 pounds of dolphin.

Twenty-nine anglers fished the tournament, which is a benefit for the Islamorada Fishing and Conservation Trust.