Key West Catches Spring Sailfish Fever

April in Key West is known as Sailfish Season, and many a Key West Charter Captain will tell you that April is their favorite time of the fishing year. This April did not disappoint, and paid off some lucky fishermen with some really hot Sailfishing.

There was a new tournament in town with the inauguration of the First Annual Key West Sailfish Championship held from April 3rd – 7th. This competition featured both Pro and Non-Pro divisions, with a portion of the prize money going to support The Jose Wejebe Spanish Fly Memorial Foundation and The Billfish Foundation. Seventeen teams entered, fielding 60 fishermen in all, and the fishing turned out great. Team scoring was simple: 1 point for each Sailfish caught and released unharmed. By tournament’s end, 4 days of fishing saw 104 Sailfish brought boat-side, video-taped, and released. The Pro division was dominated by the Get Lit Fishing team, with anglers Cap Hinckley, Bill Danko, Jon Cooper, and Peter Miler releasing 15 fish to walk away with the 50,000 dollar first prize check. Sea Hunter took the Non-Pro prize, with a single fisherman, Charlie Schiffer, reeling in 10 Sailfish to bag the 15,000 dollar purse.

April 10th – 14th saw the big show come to town: the World Sailfish Championship. The richest Sailfish tournament in the world brought 34 boats and 42 anglers to Key West to vie for first place in a competition that has paid out $10 million in prize money in its 10-year history, as well as donating nearly $3 million to charity. The tournament featured 5-star dining and partying, as well as some of the best Sailfish hunters in the world doing what they do best. Day one of the tournament was tough, with anglers fighting windy and choppy conditions and a weak bite to catch and release 46 fish in all. Day two also saw less than optimal conditions, with only 27 Sailfish caught. On day three, weather and current conditions turned around, and the action started hot and stayed that way. An east wind sped up the current, bringing the Sailfish to the surface to feed. Teams were able to kite fish, or sight fish with surface plugs for tailing Sailfish. The 34 boats released 129 fish on a day of fishing that saw some dramatic competition. Team Blue Time took the lead with 17 releases, then watched nervously as former leader Viva La Vida closed the gap by spotting a hunting school of Sailfish, or wolf pack, at 2 in the afternoon, and quickly hooking two fish while casting plugs into what one angler on the Viva called “a sea of black, a huge body of sailfish.” However, Blue Time had hit 17 fish earlier, and although the later releases by Viva La Vida tied the overall fish count, they were only good enough to earn second place. The championship win was good for a nice $184,962.50 pay-day for Blue Time owners Benjamin Leon III and his wife Lisa.

Meanwhile, the Fish Key West Charter Captains were also making the best of spring fever. After being shut down by a storm in the first week of the month, the fishing came back strong as fish excited by the storm winds fed actively on the stirred-up bait species. Along with the storm effect activating the inshore fish species in general, the Tarpon were running at full strength, with fish over 150 lbs. found on the Flats and in the deeper channels and basins. The post-storm wind conditions remained mostly perfect through the month and allowed great inshore and deep sea fishing to continue. The offshore fishing was hot for Mahi-Mahi, Tuna, and Sailfish. Later in the month, anglers on one of the Outcast ¾ day Deep Sea Charters scored 9 for 14 on sailfish. Fish Key West guests also started bringing in the Permit in the last weeks of April, and the Shark bite heated up as well. Fishermen on a Coolwater full-day charter found some real excitement as they logged 3 black-tips and 8 lemon sharks while fishing on light tackle in about 7 ft. of water. There is nothing like a 250 lb. Shark on a light spinning rod to liven up a fisherman’s day!

The Tarpon fishing is only going to get better as May rolls in, and the Key West Grouper season opens May 1st. If you are looking for some of the most exciting sport fishing in the world, give us a call at Fish Key West and book a spring charter trip.