The Florida Keys is home to one of the most diverse fisheries in the United States. From stalking bonefish on the flats to chasing sailfish on the reef, there is always something biting in the Florida Keys. Each year, this area is also home to hundreds of fishing tournaments. There are big-money events like the World Sailfish Championship and smaller, more intimate tourneys that don’t cost a lot but are tons of fun. Below, you will find all of the Florida Keys tournaments for 2012.
2012 Florida Keys Fishing Tournament Schedule
Jan. 6-8: Key Largo Sailfish Challenge. Key Largo. At the height of the sailfish season, this event follows a boat-tournament format, and prizes and trophies await the first-, second- and third-place teams. Proceeds benefit the Coral Shores High School Band program. Contact Tammie Gurgiolo at 305-240-9337 or email [email protected].
Jan. 8-9: Bartender’s Sailfish Open. Islamorada. A boat tournament among actively employed bartenders, this locals’ favorite challenge offers trophy awards and bragging rights to winning bars in a hilarious yet competitive event. Contact Dianne Harbaugh at 305-852-2102 or 305-522-4868, or email [email protected].
Jan. 11-12: The Islamorada SailFly. Islamorada. In this fly-fishing, all-release sailfish boat team tournament, captains, mates or anglers can tease, but only the registered anglers can cast, hook and play the fish. Tournament rules are IGFA format. The invitational challenge is limited to 20 boats. Contact Sandy Moret at 305-664-5423 or email [email protected].
Jan. 20-22: Sailbone. Islamorada. Anglers vie to land as many sailfish and bonefish as they can in this new three-day backcountry and offshore competition. Contact Sharon Mahoney-Ellenwood at 305-393-6174 or email [email protected].
Jan. 20-22: Cheeca Lodge Presidential Sailfish Tournament. Islamorada. Now in its 22nd year, the tourney is a facet of the World Billfish Series and the second leg of the. three-tournament Florida Keys Gold Cup Sailfish Championship. The event kicks off Jan. 20 with two days of 12-pound test, light-tackle fishing Jan. 21-22. Contact Liz Hill at 305-451-5094 or email [email protected].
Jan. 20-22: Key West Harbour King Mackerel Tournament. Key West. The angler who weighs in the heaviest mackerel, also known as kingfish, is to take home $10,000. Second- and third-place finishers receive $5,000 and $4,000, respectively, and cash prizes are to be awarded through 10th place. Award amounts are based on having a field of 100 boats. Contact Lee Murray at 305-296-0364 or email [email protected].
Jan. 23-24: Al Flutie Over the Hill Rip-Off Sailfish Tournament. Islamorada. Entering its 23rd year, this event is still known to many anglers as “almost too much fun for old guys to handle.” Locally called the “Flutie,” the tournament is a donor of more than $400,000 to local and national charities, and limits entry to anglers age 50 and over. Contact Gordon Ross at 305-852-3282, ext. 25, visit www.marchouse.org/tournyinfo.html or email [email protected].
Jan. 25-26: IFC Sailfish Tournament. Islamorada. Presented by the Islamorada Fishing Club, this final leg of the Florida Keys Gold Cup Series offers up to a $30,000 winner-take-all cash prize. The field is limited to 30 boats, so register early. Contact the Islamorada Fishing Club at 305-664-4735, visit www.theislamoradafishingclub.com or email [email protected].
Jan. 27-28: 22nd Annual Swamp Guides Fishing Tournament. Islamorada. The all-release event offers fishing for bonefish, redfish and snook in the shallows of the Florida Keys and the saltwater fringes of the Everglades. Contact Terry or Rusty Albury at 305-664-5142 or [email protected].
Jan. 31 – Feb. 1: Poor Girls Sailfish Tournament. Islamorada. A large regional charity competition that typically draws more than 200 anglers, the challenge offers 10 trophies for first-, second- and third-place teams, grand champion and runner-up grand champion anglers, and the largest dolphin, kingfish and tuna. Contact Sharon Mahoney-Ellenwood at 305-393-6174 or email [email protected].
Feb. 3-4: Cuda Bowl. Key West. Shallow-water flats anglers and guides are invited to hookup and fight their barracuda rivals. Event headquarters is Hurricane Hole Marina on Stock Island. Prizes are to be awarded for top angler and guide in light-tackle spin and fly divisions. Contact Justin Rea at 305-744-0903 or email [email protected].
Feb. 3-5: 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. Others recognize the high-point angler, outstanding catch, largest tuna, dolphin and kingfish, most tagged sailfish and hard luck. Proceeds help Breast Cancer Awareness. Contact Tammie Gurgiolo at 305-240-9337 or email [email protected].
Feb. 23-25: Backcountry Fly Championship. Islamorada. Tournament anglers are to compete to catch the most inches of snook and redfish on fly in a competition where one inch equals one point. Awards are to be given for grand champion, runner-up grand champion, and largest snook, redfish and tarpon. The field is limited to 30 boats. Contact [email protected].
March 2-4: Captain Leon Shell Memorial Sailfish Tournament. Marathon. Two full days of sailfishing culminate in a $25,000 cash purse. The winning boat team is to receive a grand prize of $20,000 cash (per 20 registered boats), with cash prizes also awarded first and second runners-up. Trophies are awarded to the top individuals and teams. Proceeds benefit Hospice of the Florida Keys. Contact Matt Anthony at 305-684-9799.
March 12-15: March Merkin Permit Tournament. Sugarloaf Key. A charity flats-and-fly-only tournament with a twist — in addition to catch and release, anglers earn extra points for tagging their caught fish. The event is held at the Key West Harbour Yacht Club on Stock Island. Contact Jon Ain at 303-888-4546, email [email protected] or visit www.marchmerkin.com.
March 16-18: Key West Fishing Tournament Kickoff. Key West. Fifteen target species and $5,000 in cash prizes highlight this open-to-the-public event, heralding the beginning of more than eight months of exciting Keys fishing. Cash awards await individual participants who catch the heaviest dolphin, kingfish, cobia, blackfin tuna, mackerel, mutton snapper, wahoo, mangrove snapper and grunt, and for boat teams that score the most releases of tarpon, permit, bonefish, barracuda, marlin and sailfish. Junior anglers under age 15 also can fish. Entries in the kickoff also are eligible for the Key West Fishing Tournament, which runs through Nov. 30, 2012. Contact Doris Harris at 305-295-6601, email [email protected] or visit www.keywestfishingtournament.com.
March 17 – Nov. 30: Key West Fishing Tournament. Key West. More than 40 species of fish are targeted during these eight months, with divisions for men, women, junior anglers (ages 10 to 14) and Pee Wees (under 10 years old). In a March kick-off event, anglers target 15 species and $5,000 in cash prizes is split between the top anglers. Contact Doris Harris at 305-295-6601, email [email protected] or visit www.keywestfishingtournament.com.
April 10-13: Jim Bokor’s Islamorada All-Tackle Spring Bonefish Tournament. Islamorada. The prestigious All-Tackle championship is to go to the high-point angler who catches at least one bonefish in four tackle divisions and one or more weight fish in at least two divisions. Limited to 25 invited anglers, with a maximum of two anglers and guide per boat, this demanding challenge features general, fly and spin-casting divisions. Contact [email protected].
April 17-21: World Sailfish Championship. Key West. With a guaranteed first prize of $100,000, the prestigious challenge draws top teams and benefits the Don Shula Foundation for Breast Cancer Research, Camp Boggy Creek for youngsters with chronic and life-threatening illnesses, and other national and local charities. Previous tournaments’ overall cash payout has topped $1 million. Contact Mike Weinhofer at 305-395-3474, Chris King at 727-631-0072, email [email protected] or visit www.worldsailfish.com.
April 20-22: Redbone @ Large Sunrise/Sunset Tarpon Tournament. Islamorada. The challenge is one of approximately 30 events held each year whose proceeds benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Contact Gary or Susan Ellis at 305-664-2002, email [email protected] or visit www.redbone.org.
April 29 – May 2: Tarponian Tournament. Marathon. This unique, three-evening tournament mandates 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 David Breznicky at 215-542-1492 or email [email protected].
May 4-6: Marathon Offshore Bull and Cow Dolphin Tournament. Marathon. A $10,000 first prize awaits the angler with the largest bull and cow combined. Other prizes are awarded to anglers catching the largest dolphin, wahoo, tuna and tripletail, grouper and snapper. Contact Byron Goss or Jack Carlson at 305-289-0199, or visit www.marathonoffshoretournament.com.
May 4-6: Nick Sheahan Dolphin Rodeo. Islamorada. In a tournament honoring the memory of Florida Keys student Nick Sheahan, funds benefit community scholarships for graduates of Coral Shores High School — more than $30,000 to date. The event is hosted at Tavernier Creek Marina, with cash prizes and $25,000 to the angler with a dolphin that beats the state record. Contact Tom Sheahan at 305-393-3709, visit www.nicksheahan.com or email [email protected].
May 6-11: Faro Blanco Invitational Tarpon Tournament. Marathon. This angling challenge with a 26-year history of fish tales and foolery helps fund the Ronald McDonald Summer Camp program for disabled youngsters. Captains are drawn during the kick-off event, and anglers fish with a different captain on each of the three days of fishing, in what is a hugely popular tournament format. Contact Bob Traa at 609-645-1840, ext. 115, or visit www.faroblancotarpon.com.
May 11-12: Mother’s Day Dolphin Tournament. Marathon. Several cash prizes are awarded to anglers in this one-day tournament. Top cash prize for the heaviest fish is $5,000, with prizes also presented to second- through fifth-place finishers. The total cash purse is expected to exceed $15,000. The event benefits Habitat for Humanity of the Middle Keys. Call Doug Mayer at 305-393-6376, email [email protected] or visit www.mothersdaydolphintournament.com.
May 18-20: Coconuts Dolphin Tournament. Key Largo. A “truckload” of cash and prizes topping $50,000 attracts anglers to one of South Florida’s largest-drawing tournaments. The angler who lands a fish exceeding 63.9 pounds — the current state record — wins a two-year lease on a 2012 Honda Ridgeline RT pickup truck valued at more than $10,000. Call Charles Mountain at 561-512-4455, visit www.coconutsrestaurant.com/tournament11.html or email [email protected] or [email protected].
May 20-23: Outback Golden Fly Tarpon Tournament. Islamorada. Special flies, accurate casts and a bit of luck are the recipe for winning this prestigious challenge, using only a tournament-furnished tippet not greater than 20-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. Contact Betsy Bullard by email at [email protected].
May 26: Yamaha Dolphin Masters Invitational. Key West. In this challenge headquartered at Key West’s Historic Seaport, more than $13,000 awaits the angler scoring the highest total combined weight of three dolphin catches. Many additional prizes await other top anglers, and there is no limit on the number of participating boats. Call John Stuempfig at 305-304-7674 or email [email protected].
June 1-3: Islamorada Dolphin Tournament. Islamorada. Hosted by the Islamorada Charterboat Association, this annual event is headquartered at Whale Harbor Marina with $10,000 in prize money. Competition is open to all anglers and there is no limit on the number of participants. Call Dianne Harbaugh at 305-852-2102 or 305-522-4868, visit www.islamoradacharterboatassociation.org or email [email protected].
June 3-8: Don Hawley Invitational Tarpon Tournament. Islamorada. The world’s top fly-rod anglers endure a five-day test of will and muscle, 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 tournament benefits the Guides Trust Foundation, assisting professional fishing guides and supporting backcountry fishery conservation programs. Visit www.GuidesTrustFoundation.org or email [email protected].
June 6-7: IFC Captains Cup Dolphin Tournament. Islamorada. Just three fish are all that’s needed to capture the $25,000 winner-take-all grand prize, but the aggregate weight of the three dorado must be the highest in the tournament. Contact the Islamorada Fishing Club at 305-664-4735, visit www.theislamoradafishingclub.com or email [email protected].
June 8-10: Big Pine & Lower Keys Dolphin Tourney. Big Pine Key. More than $40,000 in cash and prizes includes a guaranteed $10,000 to the angler in the open division who catches the heaviest dolphin. In the youth division, anglers age 15 and under can win rods, reels and trophies. Prizes also are presented for the heaviest wahoo and tuna. Contact Carole Stevens at 305-872-2411 or email [email protected].
June 15-17: Island Grill Charity Dolphin Tournament. Islamorada. This family event benefits Baptist Hospital’s Children’s Cancer Center. Awards include a $5,000 grand prize for the best three dolphin caught and a Mercedes GLK SUV for the angler who breaks the state record for dolphin. Contact Dianne Harbaugh at 305-852-2102 or Jack at 305-664-8400 or email [email protected].
June 17-22: Gold Cup Tarpon Tournament. Islamorada. This prestigious tournament, whose founders include baseball great and avid fly-fisherman Ted Williams, pits 25 fly-rod anglers against the tenacious silver king for four straight days of fishing. Experienced tournament anglers and novices are welcome to compete. Tournament proceeds benefit children’s charities in the Keys. Visit www.goldcuptt.com or email [email protected].
June 22-24: Key West Gator Club Dolphin Derby. Key West. A grand prize of $5,000 cash is to be awarded the boat team with the largest aggregate weight in dolphin during the derby’s two fishing days, with teams allowed to enter one qualifying fish each day. Second- and third-place teams will earn $2,500 and $1,000, respectively. Individual anglers can compete for trophies, prizes and cash totaling more than $20,000 in the tournament’s divisions for male, female and junior participants. Call John Stuempfig at 305-304-7674 or email [email protected].
June 23-24: Dolphin & Blackfin Tuna Fun Fishing Tournament. Marathon. Top prizes of $700, $350 and $200 await individual adult anglers who catch the tournament’s three heaviest dolphin, with additional cash awards for the heaviest blackfin tuna and wahoo. Headquartered at Burdine’s Waterfront, the challenge is open to adult and junior anglers. Contact Brenda Duff at 305-743-5317 or email [email protected].
July 1: IFC Junior Dolphin Tournament. Islamorada. Just like the “big boys,” junior anglers up to age 18 can compete in this event, where the highest combined weight of three fish is to determine the winning team. Trophies also are awarded in various age groups for the largest fish. Contact Dianne Harbaugh at 305-852-2102 or 305-522-4868, visit www.theislamoradafishingclub.com or email [email protected].
July 15-18: Del Brown Invitational 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.islandwebworks.com.
July 18-21: Drambuie 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, 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. Contact 305-292-2710 or visit www.keywestmarlin.com.
Sept. 7-9: 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. Contact Susan or Gary Ellis at 305-664-2002, email [email protected] or visit www.redbone.org.
Sept. 19-21: Islamorada Invitational Fall Fly Bonefish Tournament. Islamorada. Also referred to as the “Fall Fly,” this prestigious three-day test of skill and stealth challenges anglers to accrue points for both weight and release fish. The field is limited to 25 participants. Contact Rick Orcutt at [email protected].
Sept. 21-24: Marathon International Bonefish Tournament. Marathon. Believed to be the longest-running tournament in the Keys, this challenge awards individual and team champions scoring the largest bonefish and permit, 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), as well as the tongue-in-cheek “wet pants” champion titles for anglers wading from shore. Contact Laural Keating at 305-304-8682 or email [email protected].
Sept. 28-30: Take Stock in Children Backcountry Challenge. Key Largo. The annual challenge requires that anglers fish for trout and redfish. Proceeds benefit both local Rotary scholarships and Take Stock in Children, a statewide scholarship program for children in grades seven to 12. Contact Mike Shipley at 305-852-4087 or email [email protected].
Sept. TBA: Herman Lucerne Memorial Tournament. Islamorada. Named after the man known affectionately as “Mr. Everglades,” the event’s fishing is set against the backdrop of Everglades National Park, challenging anglers who seek the hard-to-reach yet fruitful fishing areas that Lucerne favored. Visit www.hermanlucerne.com.
Oct. 5-7: Baybone Celebrity Tournament. Key Largo. The second of three tournaments in the annual Redbone Trilogy, the Baybone targets permit and bonefish to raise money for cystic fibrosis research. Among the celebrities who fished recent Baybone tournaments is legendary angler Stu Apte. Contact Susan or Gary Ellis at 305-664-2002, email [email protected] or visit www.redbone.org.
Oct. 8-10: Bonefishing World Championship/Islamorada All-Tackle Bonefish. Islamorada. Only 25 competitors are accepted to participate, with one angler and a licensed captain per boat. The three-day challenge is said to separate great bonefish anglers from the wannabes. Contact by email at [email protected].
Oct. 14-15: Casting for Cats Women’s Backcountry Tournament. Islamorada. In this fundraiser to help control the Upper Keys’ feral cat population, female anglers earn points for catching bonefish, permit, tarpon, snook and redfish using bait, artificial lures or fly tackle. Points also are awarded in the “junk fish” category: ladyfish, sharks, jacks and spotted sea trout (speckled trout). Contact Sharon Mahoney-Ellenwood at 305-393-6174 or visit www.castingforcats.org.
Oct. 19-22: Publix Mad Dog Mandich Fishing Classic. Islamorada. A top boat prize of $5,000 cash is awarded for the greatest cumulative weight of the tournament’s target species. The second-place team earns $1,000, and other prizes include the Caribee 15k Kingfish Hookup challenge awarding $15,000 to the first registered angler to weigh in a kingfish of more than 50.10 pounds. The challenge is limited to the first 200 entrants. Contact Leah at 305-667-0399, email [email protected] or visit www.maddogclassic.com.
Nov. 2-4: 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 Celebrity Tournament Series. Contact Susan or Gary Ellis at 305-664-2002, email [email protected] or visit www.redbone.org.
Nov. 29 – Dec. 2: Islamorada Sailfish Tournament. Islamorada. The first leg of the triple-crown Florida Keys Gold Cup Championship Series is characterized by high-flying sail action, conservation and sportsmanship. It’s also the only tournament in the Gold Cup series to offer a junior division for anglers age 16 and younger. Unlimited anglers are allowed per vessel. Contact Dianne Harbaugh at 305-852-2102 or 305-522-4868, email [email protected] or visit www.islamoradasailfishtournament.com/.
Dec. 5-6: IFC Captain’s Cup Sailfish Tournament. Islamorada. A $25,000 winner-take-all prize, along with the prestigious Captain’s Cup, go to the top boat team. The cash prize is guaranteed if a minimum of 20 boats registers for the tournament. Once 25 boats have registered, an additional $1,000 is to be added to the prize money for each of the 26th through 30th registered boats. The field is limited to 30 boats. Contact the Islamorada Fishing Club at 305-664-4735, visit www.theislamoradafishingclub.comor email [email protected].
Dec. 7-9: Don Gurgiolo Sailfish Classic. Islamorada. Part of the acclaimed Redbone at Large series of tournaments, this all-release challenge offers anglers a chance to pursue sailfish in Captain Don’s memory. Up to four anglers can fish per boat. Contact Tammie Gurgiolo at 305-240-9337 or email [email protected].
Dec. 14-16: Islamorada Junior Sailfish Tournament. Islamorada. Recreation for teens in the Florida Keys can mean learning from experienced local captains and mates how to tie a bimini or rig ballyhoo. One weekend each year, anglers age 16 and younger can apply such lessons in this competition. A maximum of six anglers is allowed per boat. Proceeds help benefit Toys for Tots of Monroe County. Contact Tammie Gurgiolo at 305-240-9337 or email [email protected].
For more information about fishing the Florida Keys, visit www.fla-keys.com/fishing.