Fishing Notes Sept 2007 Florida and the South

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Billfish tournament makes appearance in Abaco

Despite severe weather conditions, the inaugural Big Four Billfish Invitational took place as scheduled on May 22-26, in Abaco, Bahamas.

High easterly winds affected the east coast of Florida for several weeks and took its toll on the tournament. The constant wind from the east prevented numerous boats from participating in the event, and once under way, one of three fishing days had to be canceled due to unsafe conditions.

 However, poor weather did not stop the festivities. The grand finale after the awards ceremony was a fireworks display, which set the tone for the Memorial Day Weekend that followed.

The event pitted 20 Bertram yachts, 20 Hatteras yachts, 20 Viking yachts and 20 Custom yachts against each other. The man behind this concept is Kaye Pearson, who revitalized the Bertram/Hatteras Shootout and expanded the concept to The Big Four Invitational Billfish Tournament. This year was the first time that Viking Yachts and Custom Yachts would compete equally in a super-tournament shootout setting.

In the overall results, Team Galati, a 52-foot Viking led by Chris Galati, earned first place by releasing three blue marlin over the two days of fishing. The winning boat happened to be the smallest boat in the competition.

Second place went to Whit Hudson’s Business Stinks, a 72-foot Merritt that also released three blue marlin during the tournament. However, they were edged out by Team Galati on a time basis.

Third place went to Kaye Pearson’s Showpiece who released two blue marlin and two white marlin. A total of 15 blue marlin were released during the two days of fishing, plus six white marlin and three sailfish.

Three-hour battle for Key West angler

Angler Steve Stearns won the one-night Southernmost Swordfish Tournament after fighting a swordfish he estimated weighed more than 250 pounds for three hours and seven minutes.

Stearns, a Key West resident who fished on Sea-Clusion with Capt. Chuck Butler, earned his first tournament victory for releasing the fish — although he originally hoped to land it.

“About an hour into the fight we finally got it close enough to the boat that we could get the leader, and then the fish sounded and went deep,” said Stearns. “We wanted to land it, but it was not cooperating when we got it close to the boat.”

During the course of the battle, Stearns added, the swordfish sounded about five more times.

“I was exhausted halfway through it, but for me to win as angler I had to keep the rod the whole time,” he said. “I had people pouring water over me and wiping my brow.”

Second place went to John Allison of Key West, who fished on Capt. Mario Perez’s White Cap. Allison’s released fish was estimated to weigh about 80 pounds.

The Southernmost Swordfish Tournament, which drew 61 anglers fishing on 15 boats, is part of the annual Key West Fishing Tournament that runs through Nov. 30. More than 40 species of fish are targeted during the Key West Fishing Tournament, with divisions for men, women, junior anglers (ages 10 to 14 years) and Pee Wees (under 10 years old).

Big Pine Key anglers sweep dolphin tourney

Steve Krieger of Big Pine Key took first place in the 14th annual Big Pine and Lower Keys Dolphin Tournament in June. Krieger, who fished aboard the Finer Lines with Capt. Jay Kent of Big Pine, earned the top spot and $3,400 for a dolphin weighing 42.7 pounds.

“We were 20 miles out at Wood’s Wall, and we started trolling a little bit and we hooked right up before we even had all the lines in the water,” said Krieger, referencing a popular Keys fishing spot. He caught the dolphin at the beginning of the tournament in about 1,100 feet of water. Krieger’s 2007 victory wasn’t his first time to place in the annual dolphin challenge. In 2006, he took second place by weighing in a 40.25-pound catch.

Second place in the 2007 event went to Teague Skaggs of Big Pine Key, who brought in a 33.25-pound dolphin while fishing aboard the Loan Shark guided by Capt. Thomas Marvel of Big Pine. Skaggs took home $1,700.

Big Pine angler Wade Graft, skippering the boat Hornet, placed third. His dolphin weighed 28.5 pounds and earned him $850.

The tournament’s top female angler was Jeannie Johnson of Summerland Key, Fla. She caught a 24.55-pound dolphin while fishing on the Double J.

Additional prizes were awarded to the anglers who caught the largest wahoo and tuna. David Everett of Key West, Fla., was recognized for a wahoo weighing 37.45 pounds, while Gordon Friss-Pettih of Big Pine took top tuna honors for his 27.55-pounder.

The tournament drew 202 anglers fishing on 71 boats.

Gold Cup earned with largest tarpon in tourney

For Tom Siska of Saddlebrook, N.J., winning the Gold Cup Invitational Tarpon Tournament has been a long time coming. He’s been second, third, fourth, fifth — nearly always in the top five over the last 10 years. Now, his name will be engraved on the Gold Cup perpetual trophy alongside many of the legends of tarpon fishing.

Siska was named grand champion at the 44th annual Gold Cup Invitational Tarpon Tournament, held June 17-22 in Islamorada, accumulating 4,254 points from three weight fish and three releases. He also released the largest tarpon in the tournament, a 136.5-pound fish.

“It’s a real honor to have my name engraved on the perpetual trophy,” said Siska. “It’s something I’ve wanted since 1991 when I first got involved in the tournament. It was really sweet,” he added.

Siska fished with Capt. Glenn Flutie of Plantation, Fla. Flutie is one of only two anglers to have won the Gold Cup five times (Andy Mill, of Boca Raton, Fla., is the other) and the only angler to have won the tournament five years straight (1992-1996).

“He [Flutie] taught me a lot of the finer points of fighting and landing fish, which is probably the hardest part about these things,” said Siska. “They like to eat flies, but getting them to the boat is another story.”

Frank Delucas of Plantation, Fla., was first runner-up, earning 2,744 points from three weight fish. He fished with Capt. Mark Krowka of Davie, Fla.

Second runner-up was five-time grand champion Andy Mill of Boca Raton, Fla., with 2,526 points.

Julian Robertson of New Zealand scored the most releases with seven. He fished with Capt. Tad Burke of Islamorada.

Anglers scored 10 points per pound for each weight fish (tarpon weighing 70 pounds or more). Rules mandated that up to five weight fish could be entered for scoring.

Release fish — tarpon weighing less than 70 pounds but measuring at least 4 feet long — earned 200 points each.

A total of 77 fish were released during the five days of fishing — 14 weight fish and 63 release fish. Twenty-four anglers fished the tournament.

Five to be enshrined into IGFA Hall of Fame

The quintessential lady fly angler, the dean of outdoor writers, a man who revolutionized rod making and two extraordinary bill fishermen will be inducted into the International Game Fish Association Fishing Hall of Fame, this fall. The class of 2007 includes Homer Circle, Dr. Ruben Jaen, Gary Loomis, Capt. Peter B. Wright, and Joan Salvato Wulff.

The highlight of the weekend of activities (Oct. 19 – 21) is the enshrinement ceremony and dinner Oct. 20, at the IGFA Fishing Hall of Fame & Museum in Dania Beach, Fla. The public is invited.

The honorees were selected for the important contributions they have made to the sport of fishing through angling achievements, literature, the arts, science, education, communication, invention or administration of fishery resources.

There are currently 65 Hall of Fame members enshrined including Ernest Hemingway, Zane Grey, Curt Gowdy, Ted Williams, Lee Wulff, Michael and Helen Lerner, Philip Wylie, Ray Scott, Johnny Morris and John Rybovich.

Shootout deemed ‘a phenomenal success’

The 28th Edition of the Bertram Hatteras Shootout held in June at BoatHarbour in Abaco, Bahamas, set a tournament record for the most releases during the event, while participants and spectators were treated to one of the most spectacular finishes in the 28-year-old history of the tournament.

Shootout 2007 broke records with a total of 44 releases during the three-day event with 25 Blue Marlin releases, 19 White Marlin releases and 4 sailfish releases. Twenty-nine of the participating boats scored releases, with 10 boats having multiple releases.

The competition was extremely close entering the final day of the competition. Only 400 points separated the leader, Bertram, from Hatteras in the overall Manufacturer’s points. However, on the final day, and taking into account the magnificent performance by Fish Tales, the Hatteras team prevailed over the gallant blues from Bertram 9,700 points to 7,000 points.

The team from Fish Tales, a 60-foot Hatteras owned by Oscar Vazquez of Miami, released three blue marlin in the last hour of the last day of fishing. The three blues released included a double header and earned the crew a dramatic come-from-behind overall win for the tournament.

Second place in the tournament went to Hatterascal, the Hatteras Yachts factory entry with 1,400 points, with two blues and two whites. Third place was earned by Matrix, a 51-foot Bertram owned by Billy Perez of Jacksonville, Fla. Matrix accumulated 1,200 points by releasing two blues and one white.

Twenty-eight boats participated.

First-time entrant wins Hawley Invitational

David Dalu of Charleston, S.C., was named overall champion at the 33rd annual Don Hawley Invitational Tarpon Tournament after releasing 13 tarpon. This was the first time a “rookie” entrant won the Hawley, though Dalu is an experienced, tournament-tested fly angler.

Fishing with Capt. Scott Collins of Marathon, Fla., Dalu released nine fish caught on 12-pound leader over the first two days of the five-day tournament. Dalu’s lead held as he added four more releases to his total, accumulating 13,000 points.

Thane Morgan of Amarillo, Texas, won the 12-pound division with 7,000 points. Morgan was guided by Capt. Craig Brewer of Islamorada.

The 16-pound division was won by Michael Swerdlow of Coral Gables, Fla. He fished with Capt. Tim Klein of Islamorada.

The tournament is a major fundraiser for the Don Hawley Foundation, which helps backcountry guides in times of need. It drew anglers from around the world including New Zealander Julian Robertson, who was first runner up in the 12-pound division.

Twenty-four anglers fished the tournament, releasing 66 tarpon in the 12-pound division and three in the 16-pound division.

Close finish characterizes Burdine’s tournament

Anxious anglers waited extra minutes for the digital scale to settle completely each time a dolphin was weighed. In the end, just tenths of a pound separated the top three finishers at the 2007 Burdine’s Waterfront Dolphin & Blackfin Tuna Tournament.

Chris Johnson of Marathon, fishing aboard the Best Bet, took the top prize of $700 cash with a 22.6-pound dolphin.

Phil Tomlinson of Cape Coral, Fla., fishing from the Base Leg, settled for the $350 second prize with a 22.5-pound dolphin.

Chuck Bennett of St. Petersburg, Fla., fishing from the Two Dogs, took third place and $200 with a 22.4-pound dolphin.

The weights were so close that the weigh master had to make sure all hooks and unswallowed baits were removed.

In the junior division, Chase Counter of Winter Haven, Fla., took the $300 first-place prize with a 33.6-pound dolphin that was the largest fish in the tournament. Counter fished with his father aboard the Reel Encounter.

Second place and $200 went to J.T. Musacchia, of Marathon, with a 15.6-pound dolphin. Musacchia fished from Bone Collector.

In keeping with the tournament’s “separated by tenths” theme, Christian Almandoz of Miami took third place and a check for $100 with a 15.4-pound dolphin. Almandoz fished from Nothing Better.

A check for $750 went to Mike Long of Key Colony Beach, Fla., for weighing in the largest blackfin tuna at the tournament — a 26.2-pounder caught while fishing aboard Best Bet.

Donnie Roberts of Marathon won the $750 prize for boating the largest wahoo — an 18.0-pound fish. Roberts fished from Who’s Yer Daddy.

A total of 100 anglers — 94 adults and 6 juniors — fished the tournament from 33 boats.

Panama City angler catches largest dolphin

Gary Walsingham of Panama City, Fla., caught a 45.5-pound dolphin to take top honors in the 18th annual Key West Gator Club Dolphin Derby that ended June 24.

Walsingham caught the dolphin on the tournament’s first day while fishing on the Super Grouper I, skippered by Capt. Chip Veach.

The Super Grouper I team earned first place for the largest aggregate weight of two dolphin — 75.9 pounds — one caught on each of the derby’s fishing days. In addition to Walsingham, the team consisted of Bill Sims of Orlando and Dan Trapp, who caught a 30.4-pound fish on the tournament’s second day.

The Super Grouper II team, captained by Chip Veach’s brother Ryan Veach, won second place with a total aggregate weight of 53 pounds of dolphin. The team consisted of Sonny Horton and Phillip Griffiths of Panama City.

Griffiths was awarded first place in the men’s division for his 32.3-pound dolphin.

Women’s division honors went to Christina Davis of Big Pine Key, Fla., who caught a 37.1-pound fish while fishing on the Spear One, captained by Steven Rodger, who earned the tournament’s Charter Captain award for guiding Davis to victory.

Ten-year-old Bradley Williams of Alva, Fla., won the junior division with a 24.5-pound dolphin. He fished aboard the privately owned Triple Trouble.

The derby’s largest wahoo was caught by Greg Weglarz of Fort Myers, Fla. He boated the 34.1-pounder while fishing on privately owned Angler’s Fantasea.

There were 268 participants fishing on 64 boats during the tournament.

Proceeds from the Gator Club Dolphin Derby benefit Gator Club scholarship funds for local students attending the University of Florida.