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Fish Tales


Islamorada Sails


Winter is sailfish season in the Florida Keys. Capt. Ray Kelly brings us this tale of tournament sailfishing ...

For the past two years, Starlight Productions has filmed The Cheeca Lodge Presidential Sailfish Tournament in Islamorada, Florida. We filmed the tournament as one of our weekly television shows, ADVENTURES IN FISHING WITH CAPT. RAY KELLY. This tournament is one that should not be missed. According to Tournament Director, Julie Perrin, It is one of the most prestigious tournaments in the Florida Keys. Julie is the Director of Public Relations for Cheeca Lodge which sponsors the tournament along with many others. The Presidential Sailfish Tournament is two-day fishing tournament that is well organized.

This year, we filmed on board the TOP LUCK, captained by Glen Miller. As we all know, you just never know with fishing, especially sailfishing, if you will catch fish or not. I was told by Julie that Capt. Glen was a great captain. I met him at the Captain's Meeting and he was looking forward to us filming aboard the boat. He was a real personable guy and I like that. You know how some captains can be. Arrogant and the know-it-all type with no personality but Glen was just the opposite and I must say he is a real gentlemen and truly a great captain.

My cameraman, Chris Lewkovich, had never been sailfishing before and was very excited. I was also excited. Chris and I arrived at Bud n' Mary's Marina the next morning at 6:00 AM. We were introduced to the two anglers, George Fisher and Tevy Wellens, and the two mates. In tournament fishing two mates are very common. You could tell that George and Tevy were experienced anglers when you spoke to them. You could also tell they wanted to win this tournament. Glen explained that they were going to catch live bait. Live ballyhoo is one of the best baits to use when you are sailfishing. Castnetting the live ballyhoo is an art unto itself. The TOP LUCK sailed away from the dock and Capt. Glen anchored the boat just north of Alligator Light which is where they would attempt to catch the ballyhoo. Capt. Glen and the mates chummed up the ballyhoo. This can take sometime but it is truly worth the wait. When the ballyhoo were behind the boat, Glen threw the cast net and as he pulled it in you could see the shiny lively ballyhoo in the net. The ballyhoo were placed in the live well and Glen casted again netting two or three hundred ballyhoo in the two casts. The time was 8:10 AM.

Glen started the boat and headed to his favorite spot three miles north of Alligator Light. As soon as the boat arrived, Glen spotted a sailfish off the stern of the boat. It was free jumping as they say but the lines could not go into the water until 8:30 AM. We had ten minutes to wait. 8:30 arrived and the cast was made. The sailfish was still to the stern of the boat. Capt Glen had positioned the boat perfectly. The sailfish immediately hit the bait but was not hooked. Another bait was casted but the sailfish was gone.

The three other lines were set out, two on outriggers and two on flat lines. Glen trolled the boat. Trolling is a great way to cover the area and also looking for baitfish on the surface. There are many times when we saw showers of baitfish and the lines were quickly reeled and and the race was on as the other boats also witnessed the fleeing baitfish and were heading towards them. The mates, Haines and Sky, would cast the ballyhoo following Glen's instructions. Glen saw the sailfish much easier from the bridge (at times the tower). As soon as the bait hit the water, George and Tevy were given the rods and seconds later the ballyhoo and the hook were taken. Tevy's fish spit the hook but George's fish took drag and skyrocketed in the air. At times, the sailfish danced on the surface. After an hour fight, the sailfish was tagged and released. It should be noted there is an award for the most tagged fish. The tournament is strictly a release tournament.

About an hour later, Tevy was hooked up with another sailfish. The fish was hooked good and could not shake the hook as it thrashed it's head while it was making it's jumps from the water. Tevy fought the sail like a true professional. As this sailfish was beside the boat, Haines tagged this fish also and it was released. You could see the excitement in the crews faces. Two more sailfish hit within seconds of each other about two hours later. Both fish were lost. George and Tevy did not lose their enthusiasm. Capt. Glen raced to another school of baitfish breaking the surface. The lines were casted and another immediate hookup. George was back on the rod and reeled this sailfish in after a short battle. This sail was not tagged but released as soon as the mate touched the leader. That is the rule the mate must touch the leader and there are many times when the leader is just out of reach of the mate and the fish is lost. All of a sudden came a severe rainstorm which lasted about an hour but as soon as the rain stopped the sun came out again and the fish started biting again. Another sail was caught by Tevy and the TOP LUCK fishing team was sitting pretty good in the standings. Four sailfish for the first day of fishing. The HOW ABOUT IT fishing team was in first place. Everyone slept great that night.

The second day was even better. Tevy and George lost a couple of sailfish but then were hooked up to a double and as they were fighting these two another sailfish hit the right rigger. George put his fish in the rod holder and tried to fight the third sailfish but it quickly threw the hook. George got right back on his other sailfish and Tevy and George had to do some fancy maneuvering of the rods and both went from the right side to the left and back again. Tevy's fish was landed first. George's sailfish was then close enough to the boat and tagged. This sail was going to be billed and boated for us to film and photograph. After another fifteen minute fight, the mate grabbed the bill and held on while it thrashed at the boat. It calmed down and was lifted into the boat, was filmed, photographed and then released for another angler to catch again. As most of you know, it is a fantastic feeling when you see that sailfish swim away.

Tevy fought another sail which was lost inches from the mate grabbing the leader and you could see the agony of defeat on Tevy's face as he slammed down on the transom. An hour later, George lost a fish. The fishing was hot. Glen kept chasing schools of bait and again Tevy was hooked up. The sailfish danced on the surface and came right at the boat almost jumping in it. The sail was landed and this put the TOP LUCK in second place with an hour left. With fifteen minutes to go the HOT SHOT fishing team moved to second place (8 Sailfish) with the HOW ABOUT IT still in first (10 Sailfish) and the TOP LUCK dropping to third (7 sailfish). The fishing ended with the teams staying in that position. What an exciting finish. That night Cheeca Lodge held the awards banquet and when I say banquet I mean it. It's great. I knew we had a fantastic show filmed for our television show. For those who enjoy fishing you will really enjoy this tournament. And remember - "Let's get kids hooked on Fishing...NOT on drugs!"

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