2016 Florida Keys Fishing Tournaments
Jan. 8-10: Key Largo Sailfish Challenge. Key Largo. Held at the height of the sailfish season, this event follows a boat-tournament format. Prizes and trophies await first-, second- and third-place teams, and proceeds benefit the Coral Shores High School Band program. Call 305-240-9337 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jan. 14-16: Cheeca Lodge Presidential Sailfish Tournament. Islamorada. The Presidential is one of the most prestigious offshore tournaments in the Florida Keys, and is the second leg of the three-pronged Florida Keys Gold Cup Championship. The event features two days of 12-pound-test light-tackle fishing for sailfish at the beautiful Cheeca Lodge & Spa. Visit www.cheeca.com/experience/fishing or email email@example.com.
Jan. 20-21: IFC Sailfish Tournament. Islamorada. Presented by the Islamorada Fishing Club, the event is the final leg of the three-pronged Florida Keys Gold Cup Championship series and typically draws a field of up to 30 boat teams of elite sport fishermen. A total cash payout for a full field at the IFC Sailfish Tournament could reach $30,000. Visit www.theislamoradafishingclub.com.
Jan. 22-24: Stock Island Marina Village King Mackerel Tournament. Key West. Big king mackerel migrate to the waters around Key West each winter, and a fittingly large prize awaits the winner of this challenge. The angler who weighs in the heaviest mackerel, also known as kingfish, goes home with $10,000. Call 305-296-0364 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Feb. 4-6: Cuda Bowl. Key West. Shallow-water flats anglers and guides are invited to hook up and fight their barracuda rivals. The event is headquartered at Hurricane Hole Marina on Stock Island. Prizes are to be awarded to the top angler and guide in light-tackle spin and fly divisions. Visit www.cudabowl.com or email email@example.com.
Feb. 5-6: Swamp Guides Ball. Islamorada. This all-release event offers fishing for bonefish, redfish and snook in the shallows of the Florida Keys and the saltwater fringes of the Everglades. Visit www.fkfga.org/swampguidesball.html.
Feb. 5-7: Islamorada Women’s Sailfish Tournament. Islamorada. In this light-tackle challenge, awards await the grand champion team (boat), first runner-up and second runner-up team, captain and mate. Other awards are presented for the high-point angler, outstanding catch, largest tuna, dolphin and kingfish, most tagged sailfish and hard luck. Proceeds aid the Cancer Foundation of the Florida Keys. Call 305-240-9337 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Feb. 14-15: Islamorada Bartenders Sailfish Open. Islamorada. This fun day of sail fishing is only for actively employed bartenders and restaurant employees. Trophies are awarded to individual anglers as well as the bar or bars a team represents, with the huge perpetual trophy going to the winners along with bragging rights for the whole year. Contact Dianne Harbaugh at 305-522-4868 or email email@example.com.
Feb. 26-27: Spring Backcountry Fly Championship Series. Islamorada. Tournament anglers are to compete to catch the most inches of snook and redfish on fly in a challenge where one inch equals one point. Awards are to be given to the grand champion and runner-up, and to the anglers who catch the largest snook and redfish. The field is limited to 30 boats. Visit www.BFCtournament.com.
Feb. 26-28: Islamorada Winter Classic. Islamorada. This family-formatted boat tournament features nine offshore target species. Trophies are to be awarded to top boats in weight and release categories, as well as private vessel and charter divisions. A junior release division is planned for anglers up to age 10. Call 305-522-4868 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
March 8-11: Jim Bokor’s Islamorada All-Tackle Spring Bonefish & Redfish Shootout. Islamorada. Anglers vie for top-honor trophies for catches of bonefish and redfish in this event, newly formatted to appeal to a broad spectrum of anglers. Divisions include bait, artificial and fly, and an overall grand champion is to be named for each species. Additional awards go to the high-point angler each day. Email email@example.com.
March 9-12: Jimmy Johnson’s National Billfish Championship. Key Largo. Hosted by Jimmy Johnson, two-time Super Bowl–winning coach and former head coach at the University of Miami, the prestigious event benefits the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, a South Florida–based cancer research, diagnosis and treatment facility. Anglers on the winning boat receive custom-designed Jimmy Johnson's NBC Championship rings. Visit www.questforthering.com.
March 14-17: March Merkin Permit Tournament. Key West. This charity flats-and-fly-only tournament challenges anglers to catch, tag and release silvery permit to vie for elite titles. The event is held at the Key West Harbour Yacht Club on Stock Island. Visit www.marchmerkin.com.
April 1 – Nov. 30: Key West Fishing Tournament. Key West. Nearly 40 species of fish are targeted during the multimonth tournament, with divisions for men, women, junior anglers (ages 10 to 14) and Pee Wees (under 10 years old). The Key West Fishing Tournament strongly encourages the release of game fish. All participating anglers receive certificates noting their catches and qualify for a variety of prizes. Visit www.keywestfishingtournament.com.
April 12-17: The Final Sail. Key West. This four-day challenge is the “grand finale” of the four-leg Quest for the Crest Sailfish Series. Team cash prizes include up to $50,000 for first place and $18,000 and $10,000 to second- and third-place teams, respectively, in addition to trophies. Visit www.bluewatermovements.com/final_sail/.
April 22-24: Islamorada Spring Classic. Islamorada. This family-formatted boat tournament targets nine gulf and backcountry species. Trophies are awarded to the top boats in weight and release categories, as well as private vessel and charter divisions. Contact Dianne Harbaugh at 305-522-4868 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
April 30 – May 1: Marathon Offshore Bull and Cow Dolphin Tournament. Marathon. Over $30,000 in cash and prizes awaits the top anglers with the largest bull and cow combined, while other prizes are awarded to anglers catching the largest dolphin, wahoo, tuna and tripletail. Visit www.marathonoffshoretournament.com or email email@example.com.
May 1-4: Tarponian Tournament. Marathon. Rules of this high-energy three-evening tournament mandate that teams fish with a different captain each evening. Teams also rotate among the three major bridge channels in Marathon, so any potential “hot spots” are shared among all anglers. Call 215-542-1492 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
May 4-6: Nick Sheahan Dolphin Rodeo. Islamorada. Honoring the memory of Nick Sheahan, a Florida Keys student, this tournament benefits a namesake community scholarship fund that has distributed $126,000 to date. Hosted at Tavernier Creek Marina, the event features cash prizes and $25,000 to the angler with a dolphin that beats the state record. The entry fee is $150 for adults and $35 for juniors. Visit www.nicksheahan.com or email email@example.com.
May 13-15: Florida Keys Dolphin Championship. Florida Keys. In this Keys-wide dolphin challenge, anglers can fish one tournament from Key Largo to Key West and weigh in their catch at five locations. An unlimited number of anglers can join a team in this boat/team event. Visit www.floridakeysdolphinchampionship.com.
May 22-25: Loop Golden Fly Invitational Tarpon Tournament. Islamorada. Special flies, accurate casts and a bit of luck are an angler’s recipe for winning this prestigious challenge, while using only a tournament-furnished tippet not greater than 16-pound test. Eligible tarpon must measure at least 48 inches in length to earn release points and weigh at least 70 pounds for weight points. Call 305-587-1460 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
May 28: Dolphin Masters Invitational. Key West. In this challenge, cash prizes are awarded to the angler scoring the highest total combined weight of three dolphin catches. There is no limit on the number of participating boats. Call 305-304-7674 or email email@example.com.
June 3-5: Skippers Dolphin Tournament. Key Largo. This tournament is headquartered at Skippers Dockside Restaurant behind Key Largo’s Holiday Inn. Kickoff and final registration are set for June 3 with fishing days June 4 and 5. Cash prizes over $60,000 include a first-place prize of $25,000 as well as prizes for the top six teams and top lady and junior anglers. Visit www.skipperstournaments.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
June 3-5: Original Big Pine & Lower Keys Dolphin Tournament. Big Pine Key. The Lower Keys Chamber of Commerce presents its 23rd annual event, where anglers contend for more than $35,000 in cash prizes and awards. A special cash prize of $20,000 is awarded for the largest dolphin over 50 pounds. Additional prizes await winners in the open, ladies and youth divisions. Visit www.lowerkeyschamber.com/tournaments.php or email email@example.com.
June 5-10: Don Hawley Tarpon Fly Tournament. Islamorada. The world’s top fly-rod anglers endure a five-day test of patience and finesse, fishing Keys waters using fly tackle and either a 12- or 16-pound tippet. Named for the late fly fisherman and conservationist Don Hawley, the annual tournament benefits the Guides Trust Foundation, assisting professional fishing guides and supporting backcountry fishery conservation programs. Visit www.guidestrustfoundation.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
June 10-11: Fourth Annual Ladies Dolphin Tournament. Tavernier. Hosted by the Florida Keys Elks Lodge, this event welcomes female angler teams to compete for the highest aggregate weight of three dolphin fish. Cash and prizes are awarded to first- through third-place finishers, and for the largest dolphin caught. Visit www.floridakeyselks1872.com or email email@example.com.
June 20-24: Gold Cup Tarpon Tournament. Islamorada. With founders including baseball great and avid fly fisherman Ted Williams, this challenge appeals to “tarpon addicts,” and both experienced and novice anglers can compete. The event is limited to 25 anglers and proceeds are to benefit the Florida Keys’ fishing industry’s Guides Trust Foundation. Visit www.goldcuptt.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
June 24-25: University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame Celebrity Dolphin Tournament. Islamorada. Anglers can fish with some favorite former Miami Hurricanes All-Stars in the one-day tournament that features cash prizes for the heaviest dolphin. Other attractions include a charity auction and more. Visit www.canesfish.com or email email@example.com.
July 8-10: Islamorada Summer Classic. Islamorada. This family-formatted boat tournament features nine target backcountry and blue-water species. Trophies are awarded to the top boats in weight and release categories, as well as private vessel and charter divisions. Contact Dianne Harbaugh at 305-522-4868 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
July 11-14: Del Brown Permit Tournament. Key West. Anglers fly-fish on the flats in a challenge that honors the late angling pioneer Del Brown, who caught and released more than 500 permit off the Keys. Professionals and guides are allowed to compete as well. Visit www.delbrown.com or email email@example.com.
July 20-23: Bacardi Oakheart Key West Marlin Tournament. Key West. Anglers ply the waters once fished by novelist Ernest Hemingway, vying for $50,000 in guaranteed cash prizes. Held in conjunction with Key West’s annual Hemingway Days festival, the event awards $25,000 to the first-place team. Teams can enter one fun fish (dolphin, tuna, wahoo or released sailfish) per day to add to their point total. Visit www.keywestmarlin.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sept. 9-11: Robert James Sales S.L.A.M. Celebrity Tournament. Key West. In the first of three tournaments in the annual Redbone Celebrity Tournament Series, also called The Trilogy, anglers target tarpon, permit and bonefish to achieve the coveted “flats grand slam.” The event raises funds for the fight against cystic fibrosis. Visit www.redbone.org or email email@example.com.
Sept. 16-18: 17th Annual Herman Lucerne Memorial Backcountry Fishing Championship. Islamorada. Named after the man known affectionately as “Mr. Everglades,” the event is headquartered at the Islander Resort, A Guy Harvey Outpost. Anglers are challenged to target fish in multiple species only within the boundaries of Everglades National Park, fishing areas that Lucerne favored. Visit www.hermanlucernememorial.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sept. 23-25: Take Stock in Children Backcountry Challenge. Key Largo. This 17th annual tournament offers anglers the opportunity to win coveted trophies for trout, snook and redfish. A popular Sunday evening dinner and auction showcase are open to the public. Proceeds support local vocational scholarships for all ages and Take Stock in Children scholarships for financially challenged Upper Keys students. Visit www.keylargorotary.org/.
Sept 24-27: Marathon International Bonefish Tournament. Marathon. This challenge recognizes individual and team champions scoring the largest bonefish and permit, and the top anglers in fly and grand slam divisions (for the top spin or fly angler who releases the largest bonefish, permit and tarpon “slam”). The event is one of the few tournaments where anglers can fish without a professional guide. Call 305-304-8682 or email email@example.com.
Oct. 7-9: Robert James Sales Baybone Celebrity Tournament. Islamorada. Formerly headquartered in Key Largo, the second tournament in the Redbone Trilogy targets permit and bonefish to raise money for cystic fibrosis research. Past participants include legendary angler Stu Apte, former Denver Bronco and Tampa Bay Buccaneer Mark Cooper and Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Wade Boggs. Visit www.redbone.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Oct. 9-12: Islamorada Fall All-Tackle Bonefish & Permit Championship. Islamorada. Dubbed the “Fall All-Tackle,” the three-day fishing challenge attracts energized newcomers to face seasoned veterans in a competition that has taken place since 1970. One angler per boat pairs with a licensed captain to vie for division winners’ trophies for the three longest bonefish and three longest permit. The field is limited to 25 participants. Festivities kick off Oct. 9 and fishing days are Oct. 10-12. Call 305-587-1460 or email email@example.com.
Nov. 4-6: Robert James Sales Redbone Celebrity Tournament. Islamorada. Celebrities join other anglers to catch bonefish and redfish to raise money for cystic fibrosis research in the final event of the annual Redbone Trilogy tournament series. Visit www.redbone.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
November TBA: Cheeca Lodge & Spa All-American Backcountry Tournament. Islamorada. Anglers compete for prizes and trophies in this annual event targeting snook, redfish, bonefish, tarpon and permit. Proceeds benefit the Guides Trust Foundation. Highlights include a beachside barbecue and an awards banquet characteristic of Cheeca’s casual elegance. Call 305-517-4449 or email email@example.com.
Nov. TBA: “Ladies, Let’s Go Fishing!” Annual Keys Fishing University for Women. Islamorada. Female fishing fans can learn or polish angling skills during the award-winning weekend seminar. Nearly 7,000 female graduates have immersed themselves in the lighthearted yet skill-heavy curriculum to learn and hone abilities in offshore, bottom, inshore and fly fishing. Visit www.ladiesletsgofishing.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dec. 1-4: Islamorada Sailfish Tournament. Islamorada. The first leg of the triple-crown Florida Keys Gold Cup Championship series is the only tournament in the series to offer a junior division for anglers age 16 and younger. Unlimited anglers are allowed per vessel. Visit www.islamoradasailfishtournament.com/ or email email@example.com.
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