Sailfish Alley yields record-setting day


Sailfish Alley” blew up Thursday.

Two sailfish tournament fleets fishing the waters of the Atlantic Ocean between Sebastian and Boynton Beach shattered single-day release records in their respective events.

Out of Fort Pierce, the fleet of 29 boats fishing in the Pelican Yacht Club’s 32nd annual Invitational Billfish Tournament racked up an tournament-best 259 sailfish releases while trolling dead ballyhoo.

Out of Palm Beach, the fleet of 46 boats fishing the West Palm Beach Fishing Club’s 75th annual Silver Sailfish Derby scored an unbelievable tournament-record 659 sailfish releases while using mostly live bait methods of fishing.

In combination, 75 sailfish tournament teams racked up 918 releases on a single day in the region long referred to as “Sailfish Alley.” Both events fish Friday and Saturday as well, so the final tallies are far from finished.

Nearly the entire Pelican fleet and the majority of the Silver Derby fleet fished waters north of Jupiter Inlet, an area with another well-known nickname — “Sailfish Capital of the World.”

Other records that fell in both tournaments were single-day catches by one boat. At the Pelican, the well-heeled team aboard Bone Shaker bettered its Wednesday showing, setting a new single-day boat record for the tournament with 21 releases.

Lo Que Sea, then skippered by Capt. Kevin Paul, set the record of 19 in 2010.

The 21 was one fish less than the best Treasure Coast area tournament day by any boat — ironically, Bone Shaker was also that boat — when it caught and released 22 on Dec. 9, 1997, the opening day of the Stuart Sailfish Club’s Light Tackle Sailfish Tournament that saw 38 boats combine for a Treasure Coast-best single day of 382 sailfish.

Bone Shaker Capt. Scott Fawcett, owner Joe Lehner and anglers Van Wichers and Sky Wichers hoped they could begin the day Thursday the way they had ended it Wednesday.

“When the lines out call came Wednesday, we still had sailfish biting,” said Bone Shaker mate Kyle Francis. “We went back to the same ‘dot’ Thursday and set our lines out in the same place, and that’s where we had our first bite. Those fish were still there.”

As for Friday, Fawcett figures if it’s not broke…

“You can bet we’re going to start there again,” said Fawcett of the spot on the northeast side of Bethel Shoal in 160 feet of water. “These have just been the best fishing conditions I have ever fished in.”

Bone Shaker has won the event’s first two daily awards and leads the Invitational after two days with an eye-popping 34 sailfish releases. Lo Que Sea’s record of 38 catches is well within reach, but anything is possible, even a sudden drop-off in sailfish feeding, said Capt. Mike Brady of Cowpoke.

“It was very exciting today — just some amazing fishing from Sebastian to Palm Beach — but the next two days is really the question,” said Brady, whose crew of owner Cruiser Crews, Cristy Crews, Chester Chambers and Dave Myer had Thursday’s second-best total with 15 releases.

“We started to see the water ‘turn over’ on us a little after 1 p.m. and the fishing got worse as the day went on.”

Brady explained that north tide coming in from the Gulf Stream blends with south tide from nearshore. It turns clear blue water into cloudy green water and typically the sailfish action changes, worsens or stops altogether. Finding clear blue water will be the key to early success Friday, Brady said.

“Still, we’ve had such good fishing, anything can happen,” he added.

Teams are allowed to fish three of the tournament’s four days, choosing one day as a lay day or day off. Cowpoke sat Wednesday since the Crews family needed to tend citrus crops in Central Florida, where hard freeze warnings threatened. That means Cowpoke with 15, Gotham led by Capt. Kevin Paul with 13 sailfish and a few others will have an extra day to catch up to Bone Shaker, whose last day will be Friday.

Chasin with 22, Play Time with 21, Outlaw with 21 and Chasin Tail with 20 all have but one day left to fish.

The fleet will fish daily through Saturday until 3:30 p.m., returning to the Pelican Yacht Club by 5 p.m.

Tournament radio operator Terry Shafer is attempting to post catches on the tournament’s real time scoring page found at www.pelicanyachtclub.com. If fishing is very busy, Shafer may have trouble keeping up with the catches on the website, as occurred Thursday.

The Silver Sailfish Derby can be followed with occasional scoring updates posted on the tournament’s Facebook page. Get Lit, with legendary skipper Capt. Ray Rosher of Miami, leads that affair with 36 sailfish caught Thursday.

MARINE WEATHER

Friday: Northwest winds 5 to 10 knots becoming northeast 5 knots in the afternoon. Seas 3 to 5 feet.

Saturday: West winds 5 knots becoming south in the afternoon. Seas 2 to 3 feet.

PELICAN INVITATIONAL BILLFISH TOURNAMENT

Thursday’s catches

21: Bone Shaker, Capt. Scott Fawcett

15: Cowpoke, Capt. Mike Brady

13: Gotham, Capt. Kevin Paul; Intents, Capt. Don Mauldin

12: Sea Check, Capt. V.J. Bell

11: Chasin, Capt. Bennett Griffin; Rowdy, Capt. Alan Black

10: Champagne Lady, Capt. James Ewing; Challenge, Capt. Jim Hardee; Fa La Me, Capt. Robbie Moore; Lo Que Sea, Capt. Glenn Cameron; Bottom Line, Capt. Geoff Quatraro

9: Miller Time, Capt. Jason Peer; Play Time, Capt. Darrin Cobb; Outlaw, Capt. Ian Wichers; Chasin Tail, Capt. Rob Valko; Micabe, Capt. Jay Weaver

8: Boomer, Capt. Scott Mantz; Big Oh, Capt. Ronnie Fields

7: J Hook, Capt. Dewey Price; Skid Marks, Capt. Dave Borrack

6: Cacique, Capt. Harvey Shiflet; Ms Bully, Capt. Doug Jossim; Sea Hag, Capt. Joe Colabella

5: Ring Leader, Capt. Greg Simmons; Lisa K, Capt. Bobby Randolph; Rough N It, Capt. Ed Nicolace

4: Give It Away, Capt.

2: Alican, Capt. Doug Heaton

Totals: 259 sailfish, 29 boats

STANDINGS (Top 10)

34: Bone Shaker, Capt. Scott Fawcett

22: Chasin, Capt. Bennett Griffin

21: Play Time, Capt. Darrin Cobb; Outlaw, Capt. Ian Wichers/Neil Subin

20: Chasin Tail, Capt. Rob Valko

18: Micabe, Capt. Jay Weaver; Champagne Lady, Capt. James Ewing; Challenge, Capt. Jim Hardee

17: Sea Hag, Capt. Joe Colabella; Sea Check, Capt.V.J.Bell

Total catches: 401 sailfish released, 29 boats

TREASURE COAST SAILFISH CHAMPIONSHIP

STANDINGS

63: Bone Shaker, Capt. Scott Fawcett (1 day left)

54: Cowpoke, Capt. Mike Brady (2 days left)

51: Big Oh, Capt. Ronnie Fields (2 days left); Chasin Tail, Capt. Rob Valko (1 day left)

48: Rough’n It, Capt. Ed Nicolace (1 day left)

36: Sea Hag, Capt. Joe Colabella (1 day left)

33: Playtime, Capt. Darrin Cobb (1 day left)

31: J Hook, Capt. Dewey Price (2 days left)

29: Lisa K, Capt. Bobby Randolph (1 day left); Miller Time, Capt. Rob Miller (2 days left)

TOP 5 AREA SAILFISH TOURNAMENT TOTAL CATCHES

538: 1997 Stuart Sailfish Club Light Tackle Sailfish Tournament, 45 boats (boats fished 4 days)

408: 2010 Pelican Yacht Club Invitational Billfish Tournament, 29 boats

401: 2012 Pelican Yacht Club Invitational Billfish Tournament, 29 boats (two days left)

386: 2004 Pelican Yacht Club Invitational Billfish Tournament, 52 boats

377: 2011 Pelican Yacht Club Invitational Billfish Tournament, 30 boats

377: 2011 Pirates Cove Resort Sailfish Classic, 27 boats

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