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Florida Keys Fishing Tournament Coverage

Islamorada Sailfish Tournament
By Islamorada Sport Fishing
contributing writer John Geiger.

The Captains Cup

Angler Richard Richardson of McKinney, Texas, won high-point angler in the tournament, and therefore is also the leader in the Gold Cup Sailfish Tournament, which runs concurrent with the Islamorada Sailfish, the Islamorada Fishing Club and the Cheeca Presidential tournaments. Richardson has won the Gold Cup before, and owns the tournament’s prize, a $800 gold and diamond ring.

“If he wins it this year again, he’s going to look real good with one ring for each hand,” said Harbaugh.

Anglers in the Sportfishing Capital of the World won the Islamorada Sailfish Tournament, Dec. 5-7, by catching 9 Atlantic sails over three days of fishing. But it didn’t come without a fight for the crew on “Sandy Cove.” Capt. Billy Wood and anglers Reinaldo Diaz and Mike Meyers, were dogged by anglers fishing on the famously successful “How ‘Bout It” sportfisher..

With Capt. Charlie Scoble at the helm, father-and-son angling team, Wally and Mark Whitley, caught seven sailfish in one day -- the highest one-day total in this year’s tournament -- all on the last day.

“I couldn’t believe they caught seven in one day,” said Mike Meyers. “They were just right behind us.”

Meyers and the others on “Sandy Cove” lead themselves to the water Sunday, but after about 11 a.m., they couldn’t make the fish bite.

They caught two fish the first day, three the second, and four the last day for their total of nine. But they caught all their four fish before 10:20 a.m. Sunday.

Between then and the end of the contest at 3 p.m., they could only wait and hope while the marine radio crackled with the reports of other boats catching and releasing sailfish all day. Sunday was the hottest bite of all days. Anglers released 49 fish the first day, 48 the second and 58 the third for 155 releases all together..  

And no one was catching fish like the crew on the “How ‘Bout It.”

“They were hot,” said Harbaugh, who also manned the radio for scorekeeping on the committee boat. According to tournament rules, captains must hail the committee boat and report a hook-up and then later, the release.

But on Saturday, the tables were turned. At 3:30, a half hour before lines out for the day, the “How ‘Bout It” still had not one point on the boat. In other words, they had been fishing more than 15 hours over two day without a fish. Scoble, who has won just about every sailfish tournament in the Upper Keys, was not used to this floating around without action.

A little after 3:45 p.m., the Islamorada native hailed the committee boat with a desperate request.

“Committee boat,” he said into the mic for all the other teams to hear.. “Can the “How ’Bout It” have lines out now?”   

“Sorry, ‘How ‘Bout It’,” Harbaugh replied.. “But in five more minutes you can.”

Within those five minutes, Mark Whitley caught and released the crew’s first sailfish of the tournament. They would start Sunday on an optimistic note.

On Sunday, the tournament’s 97 anglers on 43 boats were scattered between about 4 and 6 miles off the Upper Keys between Tennessee and Molasses reef lines.. 

A boat would call in a release off Indian Key. Then another would call one in from the area of Pickles Reef. The fish were not balled up in any one location, but pods of twos and threes would pop up occasionally, sending the crews into a frenzy.

By midday, it sounded like most of the action was taking place off Tavernier near Conch Reef. That’s where the “How ’Bout It” ended up, and that’s where they caught most of their fish, according to reports..

As they called more and more into the committee boat, sometimes reporting two fish at one time, the crew of the “Sandy Cove” could only wait it out and keep looking.

At one point, the “How ‘Bout It” called in a hook-up of a double. But then reported only one was released, meaning the other got away.

Perhaps that was yet another turning point for the teams. After that, the “How ’Bout It” couldn’t keep up their frantic pace and jump the high bar that the “Sandy Cove” set for the tournament.  

“It would have been an incredible comeback,” said Harbaugh. “But even starting near last place and moving through the other teams all the way to second place is amazing.”

In other results, the crew on the “Miss Britt” with Capt. Ray Rosher took third with seven fish. Several other boats caught seven, including “Yabba Dabba Do,” “Contender One,” “Miller Time,” “Anjeo” and “Money Shot.” But Rosher’s crew caught their final fish of the tournament first, which breaks the tie.