The 54th Annual Islamorada Sailfish Tournament kicked off at Whale Harbor's new banquet facility hosting 72 anglers, plus friends and family with a grand buffet. Great Sailfish action continued over the next three days and concluded on December 3rd. Captain Steve Leopold of the Yabba Dabba Doo led anglers Robert Richardson Sr. from McKinney Texas and Robert Richardson Jr. of Pilot Point to the winners circle with a total of 14 sailfish releases. The team would take home great Pasta Pantaleo sailfish art sponsored by Tackle Center of Islamorada. 137 Sailfish were released out of the 165 called in hook ups with over $60,000.00 going to the winners.
The first day of fishing would greet anglers with beautiful conditions and it wouldn't take long for Prime Time to call in the first hook up. Junior angler Shawn MacMullin from Key Largo, FL would release the first fish of the tournament at 8:37. At the end of the day last year's winner the Relentless, captained by Paul Ross, would lead anglers Debbie and James David from Hollywood, FL fishing with Jim Hendrix and Paul Ross Jr. from Islamorada, FL into the lead with 5 sailfish releases.
Day two produced 56 sailfish releases. Blue Heaven and Kalex would each have six releases that day. The Relentless would add 8 to their total propelling them into a 4 fish lead, with a total of 13, over the Blue Heaven who had released 9 sails by the end of day two.
The final day of fishing produced many multiple hook ups and releases. Yabba Dabba Doo would hook a triple and release all three fish by 9:36 in the morning. With only two anglers, mates Fred Dillon and Shannon Attales, directed Robert Richardson Sr. and Jr. through the sailfish dance from one side of the boat to the other until all 3 sails were released. Yabba would release a double header of sailfish later that morning. This would put the Yabba in second on time behind the Relentless with both teams having 13 releases. Meanwhile captain Alex Adler of team Kalex would be steadily picking away at the sails one at a time creeping up on the winners with 12 releases.
At 2:45 with 15 minutes left in the tournament the committee boat radio erupted with hook ups for Yabba Dabba Doo, Relentless and the Contagious. At 2:47 Yabba called in the release for Robert Sr. and the team was in the lead. It would be the wrong species hooked up on the Relentless and the team would place second receiving King Sailfish trophies sponsored by Yamaha Outboards. Anglers Steve Messing from Jupiter, FL fishing aboard the Kalex with Patrick Nutt from Ft. Lauderdale, FL, Brian Ponykaez of Stuart, FL and Nick Caito from Davie, FL took home the Mangrove Mike's Cafe and Catering sponsored third place King Sailfish Trophies with their 12 sailfish releases.
Robert Richardson Sr. would release a total of 10 Sailfish aboard the Yabba Dabba Doo and receive the high point angler award sponsored by Caribee Boat Sales. Robert would also be awarded the Bill Hirni high point angler perpetual trophy. Captain Steve Leopold would win the Captains Imports donated bronze sailfish statue for top captain. When the team came up for their awards mate Shannon Attales came springing around the corner dressed as Fred Flintstone much to the surprise of his captain, anglers and the crowd who went crazy.
Junior angler Paul Ross Jr. would release 3 sailfish and be awarded the top junior angler trophy. The 2nd place junior trophy would go to Shawn MacMullin who released 3 sails. Shawn would also take home the Largest Mackerel award with a 13.7 pound King Mackerel. Angler Debbie David would take home a Pasta Pantaleo print for top lady angler. Most tagged fish trophies would go to team Challenger with 6 of their 8 releases being tagged. Most Outstanding Catch award went to Matthew (Gunner) Guthrie for a 37.1 pound cobia caught aboard the Challenger. The largest Tuna was caught by Jorge Piedra fishing aboard the Rockstar weighing in at 29.8 pounds. Tyler Valles fishing aboard the MDALA would win the largest Dolphin award with a 7.1 pounder.
The Islamorada Sailfish Tournament is the first leg of the Florida Keys Gold Cup Sailfish Championship. The Yabba Dabba Doo is currently in the lead with 14 fish. Second place in the Gold Cup is the Relentless with 13 releases and third is the Kalex with 12 releases. The next leg of the series is the Islamorada Fishing Clubs Sailfish Tournament on January 25th 2018 and the champions will be crowned at the Cheeca Lodge Presidential Sailfish Tournament January 26th thru the 28th.
"Whale Harbor served up another great event," stated tournament director Dianne Harbaugh, "everyone loved the new facility and the food." The silent auction on Thursday night raised much needed money for the Charter Boat Association's IRMA relief fund, raising money for local captains and mates in need. The Islamorada Sailfish Tournament is the primary fund raiser for the Islamorada Charter Boat Association. The Islamorada Sailfish Tournament will continue the fight to preserve and protect the fabulous fishing in the Florida Keys. More information on the Islamorada Sailfish Tournament can be found on our web site: www.islamoradasailfishtournament.com