The Coastal Star

On the Water: Team Liquid snags last-minute catch to win 79th Sailfish Derby

Capt. Art Sapp of Pompano Beach (top) celebrates with members of the Liquid fishing team

at Sailfish Marina in Palm Beach Shores after winning the 79th annual Silver Sailfish Derby with 11 releases.

Photo provided by Leonard Bryant Photography

By Willie Howard

    The sailfish action wasn’t red-hot during the 79th annual Silver Sailfish Derby, but the competition was neck-and-neck between teams from Boynton Beach and Pompano Beach until the last few minutes of the Jan. 7-8 tournament.
    The Pompano Beach-based team, fishing on the 39-foot Sea Vee named Liquid, won the Derby by finding sailfish on the surface and pitching live baits to them to score most of the team’s 11 releases.
    On the foggy first morning of the Derby, the Reel Easy team, fishing on a 41-foot Invincible run by Capt. Chip Sheehan of Boynton Beach, fished along a current edge north of Jupiter Inlet where flying fish were coming out of the water.
    The Reel Easy team, including boat owner Brian Lulfs of Boynton Beach, released seven sailfish using live baits under fishing kites to take the lead on Day 1.
    But with several boats close behind Reel Easy, it was still anybody’s tournament heading into the second day of fishing, when Reel Easy and several other Derby boats began the day in a rolling swell off Stuart.
    Capt. Art Sapp of Pompano Beach and his team on Liquid began Day 2 with only two releases but began to climb the tournament ladder quickly.
    With little wind to hold fishing kites aloft, the Liquid anglers stowed their kites and started slow-trolling live baits and moving to spots where they saw jumping sailfish and sprays of bait fish coming up on the surface.
    By mid-afternoon, the Liquid team had released another eight sailfish and was tied with Reel Easy, with 10 releases.
    Sheehan’s team, too, found a sailfish on the surface on Day 2. A Reel Easy angler pitched a bait near the fish and hooked up, but lost it.
    With about 15 minutes left to fish, Sapp spotted a sailfish on the surface from the tower of Liquid and moved the boat toward it.
    Angler Rob Degnin cast a threadfin herring to the sailfish, hooked it and fought it until the leader connection touched the tip of the rod to score the winning release at 3:47 p.m. — 13 minutes before the lines-out call signaling the end of the tournament.
    Sapp said the Liquid team anglers scored nine of their 11 releases by pitching baits to sailfish they spotted on the surface.


    Overall, 37 boats fishing in this year’s Derby released a total of 166 sailfish — 68 the first day and 98 the second day.
    Started in 1935 by the West Palm Beach Fishing Club and held every year since (except during the fuel shortages of World War II), the Silver Sailfish Derby is billed as the world’s oldest sailfish tournament.
    In 1938, the fishing club introduced the concept of flying red release pennants instead of bringing dead sailfish to the docks and urged charter captains to release their fish.
    In the mid-1950s, author Ernest Hemingway — a friend of the late John Rybovich, a boat builder and former fishing club president — sponsored a Silver Sailfish Derby trophy. The prize consisted of two wooden bookends featuring likenesses of an old fisherman and a marlin along with a signed copy of The Old Man and the Sea.  

Weekly Fisherman show moves to new radio station
    The Weekly Fisherman Show, a Saturday morning radio show that has been on the air for 10 years, has been purchased by Dania Beach-based Nautical Ventures Group Inc.
    Steve Waters, longtime outdoors writer for the Sun Sentinel, and veteran disc jockey Eric Brandon will continue to host the show, which airs 6 to 8 a.m. on Saturdays.
    The show has moved to WINZ-AM 940, a Miami sports station that is part of the iHeartRadio network.
    Waters and Brandon plan to expand the show. They recently added weekly call-ins from kayak-fishing expert Joe Hector.

A boy fishes off a dock in Boynton Beach in this photo

taken during the 1960s. The Delray Beach Historical Society

is looking for similar fishing memorabilia for its upcoming Fish Tales! exhibit.

Photo provided


Fishing history exhibit taking shape in Delray
    The Delray Beach Historical Society’s fishing history exhibit Fish Tales! is scheduled to open in April and run through September.
    Archivists already have received fish stories and memorabilia from fishing in the 1930s, Miss Spirit fishing contests of the 1950s and dock fishing in the 1960s.
    The historical society is working with fishing clubs, anglers, authors and residents to form a committee for the exhibit.
    “We would like to gather the support of the local community to tell a comprehensive story,” said Leslie Callaway, the society’s president.
    Anyone interested in sharing South Florida fishing stories — or donating/lending vintage fishing gear, mounts of locally caught fish or photos for the exhibit — should contact Janet DeVries or Michelle Quigley at 274-9578 or email Archive@Delraybeachhistory.org.

FWC mulls new limits
on mutton snapper

        The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is holding mutton snapper workshops during February to gather public input on management options for the popular reef fish.
    The FWC staff has proposed lowering the recreational mutton snapper bag limit to five mutton snapper during the regular season and to two during the spawning months of May through July.
    A statewide conference call on mutton snapper management is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Feb. 24. Call 850-487-0554 in advance for instructions on joining the conference call.

Coast Pilot now includes
northern Florida Reef Tract
    Mariners are being advised to use caution around coral reefs from Biscayne National Park north to St. Lucie Inlet through the recent addition of that section of the Florida Reef Tract to NOAA’s Coast Pilot advisory books.
    Coast Pilot books share information with mariners that is difficult to show on nautical charts.
    The Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Coral Reef Conservation Program worked with NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey to get the northern section of the reef tract included in Coast Pilot.
    The advisory in Coast Pilot book No. 4 warns boaters to avoid grounding or anchoring on the reefs and to use mooring buoys where available.

Coming events
    Feb. 6: Florida Power & Light Co.’s Manatee Lagoon eco-discovery center opens. It’s free and located next to FPL’s Riviera Beach power plant at 100 Broadway. Hours are 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday. 626-2833 or  visitmanateelagoon.com.
    Feb. 6: Basic boating safety class offered by Coast Guard Auxiliary in Boca Raton. Class is 9 a.m.-5 p.m. in the headquarters building at Spanish River Park, 3939 N. Ocean Blvd. $35. Register at door. Bring lunch. 391-3600 or fso-pe@cgauxboca.org.
    Feb. 11-15: Miami International Boat Show, Miami Marine Stadium Park & Basin, 3501 Rickenbacker Causeway. (Strictly Sail at Bayside Marketplace.) Adults:  $20 ($35 on Feb. 11).  Ages 15 and under: free. 954-441-3220 or miamiboatshow.com.
    Feb. 11-15: Yachts Miami Beach (formerly the Yacht & Brokerage Show), Collins Avenue between 41st and 54th streets. More than 500 new and used yachts on display. 954-764-7642 or showmanagement.com.
Feb. 14: Beach cleanup organized by Sea2shore Alliance, 8-10:30 a.m., Ocean Inlet Park. Meet in south parking lot. Contact: Kcucinotta@sea2shore.org.
    Feb. 23: Ernie DeBlasi of Impact Lures demonstrates how to make wooden fishing lures. 7:30 p.m. at the Boynton Beach Fishing Club, Harvey E. Oyer Jr. Park, Boynton Beach. Free and open to nonmembers.  www.bifc.org.
    Feb. 24: Capt. Quinton Dieterle discusses advanced kite-fishing methods, 7 p.m., West Palm Beach Fishing Club, 201 Fifth St., West Palm Beach. Free and open to nonmembers. 832-6780 or westpalmbeachfishingclub.org.
    Feb. 27: Basic boating safety class offered by the Coast Guard Auxiliary, 8 a.m. in the meeting room at Harvey E. Oyer Jr. Park, Boynton Beach. Fee $40. Call Sandy Meridy, 734-2244.

License now required
to fish from beach
    Florida residents who don’t already have a saltwater fishing license can obtain a free resident shoreline license.
    Nonresidents need a nonresident saltwater fishing license — $17 for three days, $30 for seven days or $47 annually.
    To buy a license, call 888-347-4356 or download the FWC license app on a smartphone.

Tip of the Month
Here’s how to fish from the beach for pompano:
    When winter waves break on sandbars, they unearth small crustaceans that pompano love to eat.
    Using a 9-foot or longer surf rod, cast a multiple-hook pompano rig with a 3- to 4-ounce pyramid sinker clipped to the end. (Larger weights might be needed in heavier surf.)
    Bait the hooks with clam strips, bits of fresh shrimp, sand fleas or Fishbites (scent strips) in the clam or shrimp flavors.
    With a standard spinning rod, try casting a white or pink jig tipped with shrimp. Banana-shaped Doc’s Goofy Jigs, often rigged with colorful trailers, are popular for pompano.
    Pompano feed on the bottom, so let your jig sink to the bottom and move it slightly to attract attention by stirring up puffs of sand.
    Cast near the muddy water that’s being stirred up by waves. Try fishing at different tides.
    Pompano must be at least 11 inches long (to the fork of the tail) to be legal to keep. The daily bag limit is 6.

 Willie Howard is a freelance writer and licensed boat captain. Reach him at tiowillie@bellsouth.net.

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