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Fishing Notes

Multi-generation team wins dolphin tourney

Three generations of the Gomez family of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., teamed up to win top honors in the fourth annual Island Grill Charity Dolphin Tournament held on Father’s Day weekend.

Mike Gomez fished with his father, Jesus, and 12-year-old son, Mike Jr. Teammates Alex Hernandez and Joe Cross also hail from Fort Lauderdale. Fishing on the Hang ‘Em High, skippered by Capt. Jack Falcucci of Islamorada, the team scored with three dolphin, whose combined weight totaled 66.9 pounds.

“We were all together and we got first place,” says Mike Gomez. “When you get paid to go fishing, you can’t beat that.”

Second-place honors went to Javaune and Terrence Powell from Fayette, Ga.; Jim Grouse and Robbie Kile of Alworth, Ga.; and Woody Long of Kennesaw, Ga. They fished aboard Predator with Captain Augie Wampler of Islamorada.

The Predator team’s three fish weighed 19.8, 14.5 and 11.3 pounds for a total of 45.6 pounds. The 11.3-pounder, caught by young angler Javaune Powell, earned him the top junior angler award.

The Island Grill Charity Dolphin Tournament attracted 126 anglers on 35 boats. The tournament raises money for the Baptist Children’s HospitalCancerCenter.

Defending champ releases record 21 tarpon

David Dalu of Charleston, S.C., released 21 tarpon during the Don Hawley Invitational Tarpon Tournament to earn the title of overall champion. Dalu also set a tournament record by releasing more tarpon than any angler in the event’s 34-year history.

It was the second time Dalu fished the tournament and was his second win. He scored 21,000 points to outperform his 13,000-point win last year.

Fishing with Capt. Scott Collins of Marathon, Fla., Dalu spent most of the tournament on the ocean side within sight of his biggest rival, Carlos Duncan of Houston.

Duncan ultimately won the 12-pound division with 19,000 points. He was guided by Capt. Rob Fordyce of Homestead, Fla.

On the second fishing day, Duncan set a tournament record by releasing 10 tarpon in a single day. Duncan tied the old record with 19 total releases.

Mike McLoad of Lanark Village, Fla., won the 16-pound division with 7,500 points. He fished with Captain Brian Helms of Homestead, Fla.

The tournament drew 25 anglers who released a record 119 tarpon in the 12-pound division and 39 in the 16-pound division. The event raises funds for the Don Hawley Foundation, which helps backcountry guides in times of need.

Teen captures swordfish tournament

Fifteen-year-old Key West angler Joe Merritt won the Southernmost Swordfish Tournament, a noon-to-midnight challenge that ended early June 15.

At 4:15 p.m. June 14, Merritt released the first swordfish of the tournament, estimated to weigh 100 pounds, while fishing on the Perro Loco with Captain Greg Sherertz. The release ultimately earned Merritt the tournament victory and prizes including $1,000 in cash.

Despite his relatively young age, Merritt has previously earned master angler titles in both the peewee and junior divisions of the Key West Fishing Tournament, a multi-month challenge closely affiliated with the swordfish tournament. In 2003, when he was 10 years old, he took top honors in the small fry division of the International Game Fish Association Junior Angler World Championship.

“I love fishing tournaments — I like the fight,” says Merritt, adding that he plans to begin occasional chartering at age 18 while he pursues his first love of tournament competition.

Second place and prizes, including $500 in cash, went to Mike Burleson of Key West, whose release, estimated at 70 to 80 pounds, came just 15 minutes after Merritt’s. While he and Merritt each earned 200 points, Merritt finished first based on the time of his release.

Northern angler wins Key West derby

Gus Sarno of Cinnaminson, N. J., caught a 37.9-pound dolphin to take top honors June 22 in the 19th annual Key West Gator Club Dolphin Derby.

Sarno caught the dolphin on the tournament’s first day while fishing on Thunnus, skippered by Capt. Brian Bennett.

The Thunnus team earned first place for the largest aggregate weight of two dolphin, with 66.9 pounds, after Bennett guided Sarno’s teammate Joe Vogdes, also of Cinnaminson, to a 29-pound catch.

In addition to contributing to the team’s win, Vogdes also earned third place in the men’s division.

First place in the division was captured by angler John Ellwood of Cape Coral, Fla. Fishing on the private boat My Way IV, Ellwood scored with a 36.2-pound dolphin.

Tom Pierce of Sebastian, Fla., took second place with a catch weighing 31.4 pounds.

Women’s division honors went to Megan Oropeza of Key West, who caught a 33.3-pound dolphin while fishing on the private boat Happy Days.

Makenzie Kutyba of Key West won the junior division with a 28.2-pound dolphin. The young angler fished aboard the privately owned Night Moves.

The derby’s largest wahoo was caught by Bill Underwood of Ramrod Key, Fla. He caught the 32.5-pounder while fishing on Captain Greg Daniels’ King Bird.

The tournament drew 270 participants fishing on 62 boats.