Jan. 4-6: 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 first-, second- and third-place teams. Proceeds help benefit the Coral Shores High School Band program. Call 305-240-9337 or email [email protected].
Jan. 9-10: The Islamorada SailFly Championship. Islamorada. In this fly-fishing, all-release boat-team tournament, captains, mates or anglers can tease, but only the registered anglers can cast, hook and play the fish. The 13th annual invitational challenge is limited to 20 teams, with no more than two anglers per boat. Call 305-664-5423 or email [email protected].
Jan. 17-19: Cheeca Lodge Presidential Sailfish Tournament. Islamorada. Now in its 23rd year, the contest 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. 17 followed by two days of 12-pound-test light-tackle fishing for sailfish. Call 305-451-5094 or email [email protected].
Jan. 21-22: Al Flutie Over the Hill Rip-Off Sailfish Tournament. Islamorada. Entering its 24th year, this event is “almost too much fun for old guys to handle.” Locally called the Flutie, the tournament has donated $420,000 to local and national charities. Anglers age 50 and over are welcome. Call 305-294-9526, ext. 25, or visit www.marchouse.org/content/calendar/24th-annual-capt.-al-flutie-over-the-hill.
Jan. 23-24: IFC Sailfish Tournament. Islamorada. Presented by the Islamorada Fishing Club, the 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. Call 305-664-4735, visit www.theislamoradafishingclub.com or email [email protected].
Jan. 25-26: 22nd Annual Swamp Guides Fishing Tournament. Islamorada. Always held the last weekend of January, 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. Proceeds benefit the Guides Trust Foundation. Visit www.GuidesTrustFoundation.org.
Jan. 25-27: Key West Harbour King Mackerel Tournament. Key West. The angler who weighs in the heaviest king mackerel, also known as kingfish, is to go home with $10,000. The second- and third-place finishers receive $5,000 and $4,000, respectively, and cash prizes are awarded through 10th place. Award amounts are based on having a field of 100 boats. Call 305-296-0364 or email [email protected].
Feb. 1-2: Cuda Bowl. Key West. Shallow-water flats anglers and guides are invited to hook up and fight their barracuda rivals. The event is to be headquartered at Hurricane Hole Marina on Stock Island. Prizes are to be awarded for top angler and guide in light-tackle spin and fly divisions. Call 305-744-0903 or email [email protected].
Feb. 5-6: Poor Girls Sailfish Tournament. Islamorada. A large regional charity competition that typically draws more than 200 anglers, the challenge offers 10 trophies recognizing first-, second- and third-place teams, grand champion and runner-up grand champion anglers, and catches of the largest dolphin, kingfish and tuna. Call 305-393-6174 or email [email protected].
Feb. 8-10: 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 aid Breast Cancer Awareness. Call 305-240-9337 or email [email protected].
Feb. 10-11: 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. It’s renowned as a hilariously competitive event. Call 305-852-2102 or 305-522-4868 or email [email protected].
Feb. 21-23: Backcountry Fly Championship. 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, runner-up to grand champion, and for the largest snook, redfish and tarpon caught. The field is limited to 30 boats. Call 305-393-2156 or email [email protected].
March 6-9: Jimmy Johnson’s National Billfish Championship. Key Largo. Jimmy Johnson, former University of Miami, Dallas Cowboy and Miami Dolphins head football coach, hosts this tournament which last year served as a fundraiser for the University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame, Ray Lewis Family Foundation and Ted Hendricks Foundation. Visit www.jimmyjohnsonbillfishchampionship.com.
March 11-14: March Merkin Permit Tournament. Key West. This charity flats-and-fly-only tournament has a twist. In addition to catch and release, anglers earn extra points for tagging their fish. The event is held at the Key West Harbour Yacht Club on Stock Island. Call 303-888-4546 or visit www.marchmerkin.com.
March 13-15: 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. Call 305-587-1460 or email [email protected]
March 15-17: Captain Leon Shell Memorial Sailfish Tournament. Marathon. Features include two full days of sailfishing and 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 to first and second runners-up. Trophies are awarded to top individuals and teams. Proceeds benefit Hospice of the Florida Keys. Call 305-684-9799.
April 3-7: Key West Sailfish Championship. Key West. This challenge features divisions for professional and non-pro anglers, with $50,000 to be awarded to the winner in the pro division and $15,000 for the winner of the non-pro. Visit www.keywestsailfishchampionship.com or call 305-340-2737.
April 5-7: Key West Fishing Tournament Kickoff. Key West. Fifteen target species and $5,000 in cash prizes highlight this open-to-the-public start 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, 2013. Call 305-295-6601, email [email protected] or visit www.keywestfishingtournament.com.
April 6 – Nov. 30: Key West Fishing Tournament. Key West. More than 40 species of fish are targeted during these months, with divisions for men, women, junior anglers (ages 10 to 14) and Pee Wees (under 10 years old). Call 305-295-6601, email [email protected] or visit www.keywestfishingtournament.com.
April 10-14: World Sailfish Championship. Key West. With a guaranteed first prize of $100,000, the prestigious challenge draws top teams and benefits national and local charities. Elite anglers from around the U.S. and other countries are to battle sailfish in Florida Keys waters. Previous tournaments’ overall cash payout has topped $1 million. Call 727-631-0072, email [email protected] or visit www.worldsailfish.com.
April 26-28: Redbone @ Large Sunrise/Sunset Tarpon Tournament. Islamorada. This competitive challenge is one of approximately 30 events held each year whose proceeds benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Highlights include a kick-off welcome reception with cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and silent auction, daily continental breakfast and dockside lunch and beach buffet for anglers. Call at 305-664-2002, email [email protected] or visit www.redbone.org.
April 28 – May 1: Tarponian Tournament. Marathon. Rules of this unique three-evening tournament mandate that teams must 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 [email protected].
May 3-5: Marathon Offshore Bull and Cow Dolphin Tournament. Marathon. A $10,000 first prize awaits the angler with the largest bull and cow combined, as well as prizes awarded to anglers catching the largest dolphin, wahoo, tuna and tripletail, grouper and snapper. Call 305-289-0199 or visit www.marathonoffshoretournament.com.
May 3-5: Nick Sheahan Dolphin Rodeo. Islamorada. Honoring the memory of Nick Sheahan, a Florida Keys student, this event benefits a namesake community scholarship fund that has distributed more than $30,000 to date. The tournament is hosted at Tavernier Creek Marina, with cash prizes and $25,000 to the angler with the dolphin that beats the state record. Call 305-393-3709, visit www.nicksheahan.com or email [email protected].
May 10-11: 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 others presented to second- through fifth-place finishers. The event benefits Habitat for Humanity of the Middle Keys. Call 305-743-9828 or visit www.habitatmiddlekeys.org/dolphin-tournament.php.
May 13-17: Faro Blanco Invitational Tarpon Tournament. Marathon. This angling challenge with a 27-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 three fishing days. Call 609-645-1840, ext. 115, or visit www.faroblancotarpon.com.
May 16-19: 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 2013 Honda Ridgeline RT pickup truck valued at more than $10,000. Call 561-512-4455 or email [email protected] or [email protected].
May 19-22: Outback Golden Fly Invitational 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. Email [email protected].
May 24-26: Florida Keys Dolphin Championship. Florida Keys. This new Keyswide dolphin challenge is to pay out $15,000 to the grand champion. The first angler with the largest dolphin over 55 pounds can win a 24-foot bay boat. Weigh-ins are to be scheduled in each of the five regions of the Keys. Call 305-395-3474 or email [email protected].
May 25: Yamaha Dolphin Masters Invitational. Key West. In this challenge headquartered at Key West’s Historic Seaport, more than $13,000 goes to 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 305-304-7674 or email [email protected].
May 31 – June 2: 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 anglers that can participate. Call 305-852-2102 or 305-522-4868, visit www.islamoradacharterboatassociation.org or email [email protected].
June 2-7: 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 5-6: 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 7-8: Ladies Dolphin Tournament of the Florida Keys. Tavernier. The newly remodeled Florida Keys Elks Lodge located in Tavernier is to present this event. Ladies’ teams compete for the highest aggregate weight of three dorado to determine the winning team. Prizes also are to be awarded for the largest fish. Proceeds from the event benefit local Elks charities. Call 305-522-4868 or visit www.floridakeyselks1872.com.
June 7-9: Big Pine & Lower Keys Dolphin Tournament. 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. Call 305-872-2411 or email [email protected].
June 14-16: 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 other prizes. Call 305-852-2102 or 305-664-8400, or email [email protected].
June 17-21: 50th Annual 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 full 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 emai l[email protected].
June 21-22: Poor Girls Dolphin Tournament. Islamorada. This regional charity competition offers trophies for first-, second- and third-place teams, grand champion and runner-up grand champion anglers, and the largest dolphin, kingfish and tuna. Call 305-393-6174 or email [email protected].
June 21-23: 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. Individual anglers can compete for trophies, prizes and cash totaling more than $20,000 in divisions for male, female and junior participants. Call 305-304-1348 or email [email protected].
June 29-30: 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. Call 305-743-5317 or email [email protected].
July 7: 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 determines the winning team. Trophies also are awarded in various age groups for the largest fish. Call 305-664-4735, visit www.theislamoradafishingclub.com or email [email protected].
July 14-17: 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. Contact [email protected] or visit www.delbrown.com.
July 17-20: 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 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. Call 305-292-2710 or visit www.keywestmarlin.com.
Sept. 7-9: Robert James 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. Call 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. Call 305-587-1460 or email [email protected].
Sept. 19-22: Marathon International Bonefish Tournament. Marathon. For more than 50 years, this challenge has recognized 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. Call 305-304-8682 or email [email protected].
Sept. 21-22: Herman Lucerne Memorial Tournament. Islamorada. Named after the man known affectionately as “Mr. Everglades,” this 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.
Sept. 27-29: Take Stock in Children Backcountry Challenge. Key Largo. For philanthropic anglers, this popular annual gathering proffers an important fundraising opportunity while fishing for trout, snook and redfish. Proceeds benefit local Rotary scholarships and Take Stock in Children, a statewide scholarship program for children in grades 7-12. Call 305-852-4087 or 305-304-0421, or email [email protected].
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 have fished recent Baybone tournaments are legendary angler Stu Apte, former Denver Bronco and Tampa Bay Buccaneer Mark Cooper and Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Wade Boggs. Call 305-664-2002, email [email protected] or visit www.redbone.org.
Oct. 13-16: Bonefishing World Championship/Islamorada All-Tackle Bonefish Tournament. Islamorada. Dubbed the “Fall All-Tackle,” the three-day challenge attracts energized newcomers to face seasoned veterans in a competitive format that has continued since 1970. One angler per boat pairs with a licensed captain to vie for division winners’ trophies. The field is limited to 25 participants. Call 305-587-1460 or email [email protected].
Oct. 18-19: Casting for Cats Women’s Backcountry Tournament. Islamorada. Celebrating more than a decade as a charity “FUNdraiser” helping control feral cat populations of the Upper Keys, this all-release event targets bonefish, permit, tarpon, snook, redfish, ladyfish, shark, jacks and trout. Highlights include a silent auction and “Litter Box Dig” for prizes, and the Cat-Fish trophy, a handmade sculpture of (what else?) a cat and a fish, given to the lady who scores the largest catfish. Call 305-393-6174 or visit www.castingforcats.org.
October: 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 $500 for each top fish. Call 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. Call 305-664-2002, email [email protected] or visit www.redbone.org.
Nov. 8-11: Cheeca Lodge & Spa All-American Backcountry Tournament. Islamorada. Anglers compete for prizes and trophies in this second annual event targeting snook, redfish, bonefish, tarpon and permit. Proceeds benefit the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust. Highlights include an all-American barbecue on the beach at Cheeca for participants and an awards banquet characteristic of the casual elegance that defines Cheeca Lodge & Spa. Write[email protected] or visit www.cheeca.com/tournaments.
Nov. 15-17: “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. Over the last 17 years, nearly 7,000 female graduates have immersed themselves in a lighthearted yet skill-heavy curriculum to learn and hone skills in offshore, bottom, inshore and fly fishing, no matter what their experience level. Call 954-475-9068, email [email protected] or visit www.ladiesletsgofishing.com.
Dec. 5-8: Islamorada Sailfish Tournament. Islamorada. The first leg of the triple-crown Florida Keys Gold Cup Championship Series is 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. Call 305-852-2102 or 305-522-4868, email [email protected] or visit www.islamoradasailfishtournament.com.
Dec. 11-12: IFC Captain’s Cup Sailfish Tournament. Islamorada. A $25,000 winner-take-all prize and 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. Limit 30 boats. Call 305-664-4735, visit www.theislamoradafishingclub.com or email [email protected].
Dec 13-15: Don Gurgiolo Sailfish Classic. Islamorada. This all-release tournament, part of the Redbone @ Large series, honors one of Islamorada’s great captains. Don Gurgiolo, a pioneer of contemporary offshore light-tackle and live ballyhoo fishing techniques, fished for 50 years while operating the Gonfishin’ charter boats. Up to four anglers can fish per boat. Call 305-240-9337 or email [email protected].
Dec. 20-22: Islamorada Junior Sailfish Tournament. Islamorada. Recreation for teens in the Florida Keys can mean learning from experienced local captains and mates to tie a bimini twist 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 benefit Toys for Tots of Monroe County. Call 305-240-9337 or email [email protected].
For more information about visiting the Florida Keys, go to www.fla-keys.com.