During the summer, finding a dolphin tournament in South Florida is easier than overpaying for a drink in South Beach. The bite for Dorado, mahi-mahi or whatever you like to call them, stays consistent from May through September, and there’s a long list of organizations that put on tournaments in the region. The biggest challenge to fishing these events is usually the weather, but if you’re willing to dodge the occasional thunderstorm or shower the action and camaraderie of these contests is well worth the effort.
This year’s Marathon Offshore Bull & Cow Dolphin Tournament was held May 2nd and 3rd. The event pulled together a great group of anglers and sponsors with lots of cash and prizes up for grabs.
Like most tournaments, the event was kicked off with a captain’s meeting. As part of the Papas Pilar Fishing Team, I had the benefit of being surrounded by great group of fishing freaks. Anglers were Mike Schmitt from Hooker Electric Reels, Steve Groth, CEO of Papas Pilar (AKA Godfather) and Captain Chris Morrison, a veteran charter boat captain from the Keys who temporarily took over the helm in the absence of Scott Walker. For seasoned tournament anglers, the event was a chance to size-up the competition and eye the prizes up for grabs—trophies and cash.
Friday there was a pre-fish tourney, but the fish caught in this one didn’t count towards the Bull & Cow. Dorado are fun to chase–often putting up acrobatic fights–but they’re also sustainable and, happily, one of the finest tasting fish around. Boats reported action all the way down the Keys, but the bite was a bit sporadic from 20 miles to 40 miles offshore.
When Saturday dawned, anglers faced overcast skies, scattered showers and enough wind to kick up a nasty chop. Still, by late afternoon, boats started coming back to the docks and there were plenty of fish to be weighed.
Sunday’s forecast called for a change in wind direction and stronger gusts. The team was not rattled by the weather, as we woke to winds that made it feel like we were winter fishing for sails. Our biggest obstacle was getting out to the Gulfstream. The weather models showed the stream was 40 miles from Sombrero light but to the north of us it was as close as 18 miles. We quickly opted for the 18 mile run.
Though the run seemed shorter, “the seas were angry, my friends.” We were greeted with 5-6 footers and the occasional 8-10 footer as we ventured farther offshore.
We had plenty of small fish on day one, but we needed a solid fish to be in the running. The plan was to work the birds and hope they could lead us to the big one. With only a couple of hours to go, Captain Chris spotted a frigate and we gave chase. “Grab a bait, Grab a bait” yelled the skipper. Steve and I jumped into action and, wham! Fish on.
Twenty-five minutes later we landed a 22-lbs. bull and we headed to the docks. We didn’t catch the biggest fish, but we still fought the weather and made a respectable showing. It wasn’t enough for a cash payout, but we did manage to win a Hemingway Day sunset, which included fresh fish and very tasty rum!
Special thanks to Papa’s Pilar For another great fishing adventure.