The 55th Annual Islamorada Sailfish Tournament kicked off at Whale Harbor hosting 79 anglers, plus friends and family with a grand buffet. Great Sailfish action started on Friday morning and continued over the next three days concluding on December 2nd. Captain Robert Collins of the Last Dance led anglers Matt McLean and Mark Wodlinger both from Naples, Florida along with Ken Longaker and Robert Helms of Islamorada to the winner’s circle with a total of 14 sailfish releases. The team took home beautiful sailfish trophies sponsored by Caribee Boat Sales and Yamaha Outboards. 138 Sailfish were released out of the 170 called in hook ups with nearly $70,000.00 going to the winners.
Anglers were greeted with great conditions on the first day of fishing and it did not take long for Kalex to call in the first hook up. Angler Richard Hill released the first fish of the tournament at 8:35. By the end of day one, Kalex, Captained by Alex Adler, lead anglers Chris Chastain of Hublesville, IN, Richard Hill, Alan Sutkowski of Plainfield, IN, and Justin Baker of Tavernier, FL into the lead with 5 sailfish releases. Caribsea, captained by K.C. Spaulding of Islamorada was hot on his heals with 5 releases as well.
Day two produced 40 sailfish releases. Kalex released one more sail, giving them a six fish total in two days. Priceless’ captain Tido Sanchez slipped his team into second place with 4 releases the first day and 3 more on the second. But Caribsea released 3 fish giving them a total of 8 fish and the lead at day’s end.
The final day of fishing saw a lot of action with Last Dance Captained by Robert Collins hooking a quad and releasing all four fish by 8:50 in the morning. Last Dance hooked a 5th fish at 8:58 which they successfully released minutes later giving them an exciting start to their day. The action continued for Last Dance releasing a fish at 10:22, followed by another release at 10:47. Anglers Matt McLean, Ken Longaker, Mark Wodlinger, and Robert Helms continued their momentum and ended the day with a total of 10 releases.
Last Dance ended the 3-day tournament with a total of 14 fish landing them the Overall Champion trophy sponsored by Caribee Boat Sales and Yamaha Outboards. Angler Matt Mclean released a total of 7 fish earning him the High Point Angler Award sponsored by Tackle Center of Islamorada. He was also awarded the Bill Hirni high point angler perpetual trophy. Captain Robert Collins took home the High Point Captain Award. The High Point Mate awards went to Brandon Hopper and Dallas Hopper. The Priceless anglers Bernie Perez, Coral Gables; Thomas Sims, Miami; Matthew Rodriguez, Cutler Bay; Manny Fernandez, Miami; and A.J. Sepe, Coral Gables released 5 more fish on the last day landing them the Second Place Trophy, sponsored by Tackle Center of Islamorada, with a total of 12 released fish.
Anglers Josh Jackson, Temple, TX; Erik Ehlers, Islamorada; Jeremy Stigler, Rockdale, TX; Jake Turek, Islamorada; Tim Johnson, Rockdale, TX fishing aboard Cloud Nine, captained by Greg Eklund, finished with 12 sailfish releases and end up in third place on time.
Sean MacMullin Jr. of Key Largo fishing aboard Prime Time captained by Sean MacMullin Sr. released and tagged 2 sailfish earning them the Most Tagged Fish Trophy sponsored by Barefoot Baits and Fishing Services.
Top Lady Angler, Debbie David of Miami, released a total of 4 Sailfish earning her a trophy sponsored by Mangrove Mike’s Café. Debbie, fishing aboard the Relentless, also earned the Most Outstanding Catch Award with a 65 lb Wahoo caught on 12 lb. test.
Junior angler Matthew Williams of Melbourne, FL released 2 sailfish fishing aboard the Smile Maker earning him the First Place Junior Angler trophy. The 2nd place junior trophy went to Daniel Maduro of Miami, FL aboard the Mangler. Ryan Cano, also fishing aboard the Mangler released 1 sailfish and earned Third Place Junior Angler award.
Charles Odum, Flemmington, NJ, fishing aboard the Smile Maker was awarded Largest Tuna Trophy sponsored by Tim Rahn Photography with a 12.8 lb blackfin tuna. Corey Nelson of Key Largo earned the Largest Mackerel Trophy sponsored by Islamorada Charter Boat Association, with a 43.8 lb King Mackerel. Colby Mason took home the Largest Dolphin Trophy with a 34.4 lb fishing aboard the Caribsea.
The Islamorada Sailfish Tournament is the first leg of the Florida Keys Gold Cup Sailfish Championship. The Last Dance is currently in the lead with 14 fish. Second place in the Gold Cup is the Caribsea with 12 releases and third is the Kalex with 10 releases. The next leg of the series is the Islamorada Fishing Club’s Sailfish Tournament on January 24th, 2019 and the champions will be crowned at the Cheeca Lodge Presidential Sailfish Tournament January 26th thru the 27th.
“Whale Harbor served up another great event,” stated tournament director Dianne Harbaugh. 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 the web site www.islamoradasailfishtournament.com