Skip to main content

Fishing Notes – Florida

Junior angler lands possible world record

Thirteen-year-old Caroline Waterman of Key Largo, Fla., earned top honors for the second consecutive year in the Key West Fishing Tournament kickoff with a catch that may be certified as a world record.

Waterman won the tournament’s junior division and the division’s heaviest catch award for reeling in a 97-pound hammerhead shark. The catch is being submitted to the International Game Fish Association as a potential junior angler world record.

Waterman fished on Bait Stealer with Capt. Dale Bittner, who guided her to the junior division win in the 2007 tournament.

Bittner said the two of them were targeting sharks west of the Marquesas when they spotted the hammerhead.

“He was just as hot as can be — we watched him eat her bait and she started fighting him,” said Bittner, who added that the fight took about 25 minutes.

Bittner said young Waterman also released a sandbar shark, whose weight he estimated at 125 or 130 pounds, during the tournament.

In addition to Waterman, several other teenagers earned top honors in the tournament whose rules allow young anglers to fish against adults.

Among them was Key West resident Joe Merritt, 15, who scored a double triumph with the heaviest grouper at 43 pounds and the heaviest kingfish at 31 pounds, 4 ounces. He fished on Perro Loco with Capt. Greg Sherertz, who was named the tournament’s top captain.

Fourteen-year-old Turner Dowling released 32 barracuda during the tournament’s two fishing days. The Key West teen took top honors for the most barracuda releases, fishing with his father, Ed Dowling, aboard Turner’s Whaler.

Honors for adult anglers included the heaviest cobia award to George Aleksandrowicz of River Head, N.Y., who caught a 58.5-pound monster while fishing on White Cap with Capt. Mario Perez.

The kickoff tournament drew 143 anglers on 37 boats.

$50K to be awarded at Coconuts tourney

Dolphin anglers can set their sights on a guaranteed cash payout of $30,000, along with prizes and trophies creating a total purse of $50,000, at the 22nd annual Coconuts Dolphin Tournament scheduled for May 15-18 in Key Largo.

A grand prize of $10,000 cash is to go to the angler who brings the heaviest dolphin to the weigh station. If that fish exceeds 63.9 pounds, the current state record, the angler is to win a two-year lease on a 2008 Honda Ridgeline RT pickup truck valued at more than $10,000 in addition to other prizes.

The Coconuts event is one of the largest tournaments in South Florida, historically attracting more than 400 anglers each year. Boats from 19 feet to 50 feet long can be seen searching for dolphin in the waters off Key Largo during the tournament.

Registration is set for May 15 at Coconuts Restaurant, near mile marker 100 oceanside in Key Largo.

A warm-up tournament, exclusive of the weekend’s two-day tournament, is set for May 16. The first-place angler is to win $2,000 cash plus a trophy. Cash awards for second and third place are $1,000 and $500, respectively.

Entry fee is $170 per adult angler and $50 for junior anglers and social-only tickets.

For information, contact Coconuts Restaurant at (305) 453-9794 or visit the tournament Web site at

College student named unguided champion

In the 14th annual Backbone Lures Fish ‘til You Lose It Backcountry Fishing Tournament held March 1 in Islamorada, anglers rose to the challenge of fishing a one-jig tournament.

Eighteen-year-old college student Richard Black, at home in Islamorada on spring vacation, was named the unguided grand champion with 11 snook and four redfish. Black is a tournament veteran who won the junior division four years ago.

“Everyone’s on the same level playing field because there’s only one jig,” said Black. “There’s no secret lure, just five colors to choose from.”

Black and Mike Myatt of Hallandale Beach, Fla., who was named guided angler grand champion, both used the quarter-ounce white-and-chartreuse Backbone jig.

Myatt fished with Capt. Larry Sydnor of Islamorada. As well as his individual victory, Myatt paired with Sydnor to earn the team grand champion award.

Myatt released 19 snook and one redfish, while Sydnor released six snook.

“Larry’s one of the best captains in the Everglades,” said Myatt. “This is one of those tournaments that’s 70 percent captain and 30 percent angler.

Myatt and Sydnor said they fished the waters halfway between Flamingo and EvergladesCity, where they caught a dozen snook in 30 minutes.

The one-fly grand champion was Robert Collins of Naples, Fla., with two redfish, one snook and one shark.

The junior grand champion was Parker Smith of Miami, who caught two redfish, one snook and 10 other fish that met tournament requirements for length and species.

The ladies grand champion was Brook Denkert, who fished with her father, Captain Dave Denkert, both of Islamorada. She released two redfish, three snook and 10 “fun fish.”

The tournament’s fishing guide grand champion was Capt. Honson Lau of Miami, who released nine redfish and nine snook.

The tournament hosted 51 anglers fishing from 26 boats. Anglers each selected one lure from the Backbone product line and fished with the lure until it was either lost or unusable. Captain Paul Tejera, tournament director, reported that 64 snook and 51 redfish were caught.

Proceeds from the tournament benefited the Florida Keys Children’s Shelter.

Tarpon the target at Faro Blanco Invitational

The silver king is just one of the targets at the 22nd annual Faro Blanco Invitational Tarpon Tournament, set to take place May 17-22 in Marathon, Fla. The second target is to raise money to support the Ronald McDonald Summer Camp program for disabled youngsters.

Cash prizes of $300, $225 and $150, respectively, are to go to the top three teams after each night of fishing. A $500 cash prize awaits the high-point captain for the tournament. Second and third prizes are $250 and $125. Cash prizes of $200, $100 and $75 will go to the top three captains after each night of fishing.

Two special bounty awards are offered as well. If more than the 22-year-old record of 92 tarpon are caught and released during the tournament, the angler who catches the tournament’s last legal tarpon is to win $400 cash to be split with his or her teammate or teammates and captain for the night.

In addition, the angler who catches the 100th tarpon of the 2008 tournament is to win $250 and his or her captain that night wins $100.

The entry fee is $420 per angler, which includes all activities plus the captain, boat, bait and tackle, and Florida fishing license.

For information, contact Bob Traa at (609) 645-1840, ext. 115.

Fishing tournament lands $165K for MS

In February, Alliance Energy contributed $165,000 to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Connecticut Chapter and the more than 6,000 people in Connecticut who live with multiple sclerosis. The Branford, Conn.-office of the petroleum marketing distributor raised most of the funds through two fishing tournaments.

The fishing tournaments took place last June and August out of Orleans, Mass., on Cape Cod. Orleans-based Rock Harbor Charters provided boats for teams of up to six people to compete for the biggest striped bass and bragging rights for the rest of the year. The annual event includes a full day of fishing, dinner and an overnight stay.

This year’s fishing tournaments will take place June 12 and 13 and Aug. 25. The event is open to the public.

Triple hook-up earns billfish win

A triple hook-up and an adrenaline rush sparked by a fish that tried to “catch” an angler were among the highlights of the 19th annual Poor Girls Billfish Tournament held Feb. 20.

First place went to the Hattatude team out of Islamorada’s Holiday Isle, guided by Capt. Ronnie Brack and his 22-year-old son, Daniel.

Team Hattatude scored an early triple hook-up and successfully landed all three sailfish by 9:30 a.m. Anglers were Terry Brack of Islamorada, who is Ronnie Brack’s wife and Daniel Brack’s mother, her sister Kristine Brack and niece Tammy Blackwell of Clewiston, Fla., both newcomers to sailfishing.

“It was awesome – I lost track of time concentrating on what I was doing,” said Kristine Brack after catching a 65-pound sailfish that contributed to the win.

Terry Brack has been the tournament’s grand champion angler twice in previous years and placed in the top three every time she has fished the event. Even with her experience, it took some complicated maneuvering for the teammates to capture all three fish.

“The first one got caught in the teaser and the second and third sailfish did a wrap on each other – the left went to the right, the right went to the left,” said Daniel Brack.

Second-place honors went to the Hooked Up with Captain Z (Zehntner Gay) out of Worldwide Sportsman in Islamorada, who fished with his wife, Samantha Cournoyer, and Kelly Farr of Tavernier. Each woman released one sailfish from a double hook-up, but one fish almost refused to stay released.

“That mean monster Kelly caught tried jumping back in the boat,” said Cournoyer. “He was after her.”

Third-place honors for two hook-ups went to another husband-wife-friend team. Capt. John Oughton, aboard the Pretty Work out of Bud n’ Mary’s Marina in Islamorada, guided his wife, Andrea Oughton, Jennie Mears of Islamorada and Tracey Collins of Ocean City, Md.

The grand champion angler award went to 15-year-old Alexie Creary of Key Largo aboard the Yabba Dabba Do with Captain Steven Leopold. Creary released two sailfish.

First runner-up and largest tuna awards went to Sharon Mahoney of Islamorada. Janet Crane of Tavernier was second runner-up.

The tournament attracted 90 female anglers aboard 35 boats, who scored with 37 hook-ups and 21 releases. Proceeds from the event were split equally between three local charities.

Engine manufacturer signs with BASS

Yamaha Motor Corporation and BASS, the worldwide authority on bass fishing, recently announced that Kennesaw, Ga.-based Yamaha has joined BASS as an Official Engine sponsor of the organization and its prestigious tournament structure.

As part of the agreement, Yamaha becomes a premier sponsor of the Bassmaster Classic, Bassmaster Elite Series, Bassmaster Opens and the Women’s Bassmaster Tour presented by Academy Sports & Outdoors.

Yamaha will also sponsor the six BASS Federation Nation Divisionals and Federation Nation Championship, with additional commitment to BASS’ youth initiatives: the Bassmaster CastingKids Championship and the Junior Bassmaster World Championship.