Mark your calendars
Jan. 1 – Aug. 31: Key West Fishing Tournament. Key West. More than 40 species of fish are targeted during the multimonth tournament, with divisions for men, women, junior anglers (ages 10 to 15) and Pee Wees (under 10 years old). The Key West Fishing Tournament strongly encourages the release of game fish. All participating anglers receive certificates noting their catches and qualify for a variety of prizes. Visit keywestfishingtournament.com.
Jan. 5-7: Key Largo Sailfish Challenge. Key Largo. Held at the height of the sailfish season, this event follows a boat-tournament format. Prizes and trophies await first-, second- and third-place teams and proceeds benefit the Coral Shores High School Band program. Call 305-240-9337 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jan. 11-14: Key West Kingfish Mayhem. Key West and the Lower Keys. Headquartered at Stock Island Marina Village, this newly formatted four-species event enhances what was formerly a king mackerel tournament by adding tuna, mahi and wahoo. Anglers are to vie for cash prizes. Visit meatmayhemtournamentsfl.com/key-west-kingfish-mayhem/ or call 954-605-8282.
Jan. 22-23: 29th Annual Al Flutie Over the Hill Rip-Off Sailfish Tournament. Islamorada. Dubbed “almost too much fun for old guys to handle,” the tournament is locally referred to as the Flutie. Proceeds benefit “Catch the Cure” for Cystic Fibrosis and the Monroe Association for ReMARCable Citizens, which provides life services for Monroe County’s adult intellectually disabled residents. Anglers age 50 and over are welcome. Visit marchouse.org/content/fundraisers.
Jan. 24-25: IFC Sailfish Tournament. Islamorada. Presented by the Islamorada Fishing Club, the event this year is the second leg of the three-pronged Florida Keys Gold Cup Championship series. It typically draws a field of up to 30 boat teams of elite sport fishermen. A total cash payout for a full field at the IFC Sailfish Tournament could reach $30,000. Visit theislamoradafishingclub.com.
Jan. 26-28: Cheeca Lodge Presidential Sailfish Tournament. Islamorada. The Presidential is one of the most prestigious offshore tournaments in the Florida Keys, and this year serves as the third and final leg of the three-pronged Florida Keys Gold Cup Championship. The 2018 challenge is to be held at Harbor Events at Whale Harbor. Visit cheeca.com/presidential.
Feb. 1-3: Cuda Bowl. Key West and the Lower Keys. Shallow-water flats anglers and guides are invited to hook up and fight their barracuda rivals. The event is headquartered at Hurricane Hole Marina on Stock Island. Prizes are to be awarded to the top angler and guide in light-tackle, spin and fly divisions. Visit cudabowl.com or email email@example.com.
Feb. 2-4: 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. Other awards are presented for the high-point angler; outstanding catch; largest tuna, dolphin fish and kingfish; most tagged sailfish and hard luck. Proceeds benefit the Cancer Foundation of the Florida Keys. Call 305-240-9337 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Feb. 2-3: Swamp Guides Ball. Islamorada. 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. Visit fkfga.org.
Feb. 11-12: Islamorada Bartenders Sailfish Open. Islamorada. This fun day of fishing is only for actively employed bartenders and restaurant employees. Trophies are awarded to individual anglers as well as the bar a team represents, with the huge perpetual trophy going to the winners along with bragging rights for the year. Contact Dianne Harbaugh at 305-522-4868 or email email@example.com.
Feb. 23-24: Costa Backcountry Fly Championship Series. 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 and runner-up, and to the anglers who catch the largest snook and redfish. The field is limited to 30 boats. Visit BFCtournament.com.
March 6-9: Jim Bokor’s Islamorada All-Tackle Spring Bonefish & Redfish Shootout. Islamorada. Up to 25 anglers vie for top-honor trophies for catches of bonefish and redfish in this event, formatted to appeal to a broad spectrum of anglers. Divisions include bait, artificial and fly, and an overall grand champion is to be named for each species. Additional awards go to the high-point angler each day. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
March 9-10: Jimmy Johnson’s National Billfish Championship. Key Largo. Hosted by Jimmy Johnson, two-time Super Bowl winning coach and former head coach at the University of Miami, the prestigious event benefits the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center and other charities. Anglers on the winning boat receive custom-designed Jimmy Johnson’s NBC Championship rings. Visit jjfishweek.com.
March 12-15: March Merkin Invitational Permit Tournament. Key West and the Lower Keys. This charity flats-and-fly-only tournament challenges anglers to catch, tag and release silvery permit to vie for elite titles. The event is held at the Key West Harbour Yacht Club on Stock Island. Visit marchmerkin.com.
April 17-21: The Final Sail. Key West. This four-day challenge is the “grand finale” of the four-leg Quest for the Crest Sailfish Series. Team prizes include trophies and $50,000 for first place and $18,000 and $10,000 to second- and third-place teams, respectively. Visit bluewatermovements.com/final_sail/.
April 20-22: Robert James Sales Sunrise/Sunset Tarpon Tournament. Islamorada. The Upper Keys competition is one of dozens of fishing events held each year whose proceeds benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Visit redbone.org, contact Gary or Susan Ellis at 305-664-2002 or email email@example.com.
April 27-29: Islamorada Spring Classic. Islamorada. This family-formatted boat tournament targets nine Gulf and backcountry species. Trophies are awarded to the top boats in weight and release categories, as well as private vessel and charter divisions. Junior and teen divisions also are awarded. Visit islamoradaclassic.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
April 29 – May 2: Cheeca Lodge and Spa Tarpon Invitational. Islamorada. Up to 15 elite fly anglers use only a tournament-furnished tippet not greater than 16-pound test to land tarpon that must measure at least 48 inches and up. Call 305-587-1460 or email email@example.com.
May 4-6: Marathon Offshore Bull and Cow Dolphin Tournament. Marathon. Over $30,000 in cash and prizes awaits the top anglers who catch the largest bull and cow combined, while other prizes are awarded to anglers catching the largest dolphin fish, wahoo, tuna and tripletail. Visit marathonoffshoretournament.com.
May 4-6: Nick Sheahan Dolphin Rodeo. Islamorada. Honoring the memory of Nick Sheahan, a Florida Keys student, this tournament benefits a namesake community scholarship fund that has distributed over $160,000 to date. Hosted at Tavernier Creek Marina, the event features cash prizes and $25,000 to the angler with a dolphin fish that beats the state record. Visit nicksheahan.com.
May 5-9: Tarponian Tournament. Marathon. Rules of this high-energy three-evening tournament mandate that each team fishes 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
May 18-20: Key West Co-Ed Mahi Masters. Key West. In this challenge, cash prizes are awarded to the male and female angler scoring the highest total combined weight of three dolphin catches. There is no limit on the number of participating boats. Call 305-296-0364 or email email@example.com.
May 20-23: Loop Golden Fly Invitational Tarpon Tournament. Islamorada. Special flies, accurate casts and a bit of luck are the recipe for winning this prestigious challenge that is limited to 28 anglers. Competitors use a tournament-furnished tippet not greater than 16-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. Call 305-587-1460 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
June 1-3: Fourth Annual Skippers Dolphin Tournament. Key Largo. This tournament is headquartered at Skippers Dockside Restaurant behind Key Largo’s Holiday Inn. Cash prizes of over $60,000 include a first-place prize of $25,000 as well as prizes for the top six teams and top lady and junior anglers. Visit skipperstournaments.com or email email@example.com.
June 1-3: Original Big Pine & Lower Keys Dolphin Tournament. Big Pine Key. The Lower Keys Chamber of Commerce presents this annual event where anglers contend for more than $35,000 in cash prizes and awards. A special cash prize of $20,000 is awarded for the largest dolphin over 50 pounds. Additional prizes await winners in open, ladies and youth divisions. Visit lowerkeyschamber.com/tournaments.php or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
June 3-8: Don Hawley Tarpon Fly Tournament. Islamorada. Up to 25 of the world’s top fly-rod anglers endure a five-day test of patience and finesse, fishing Keys waters using fly tackle and 12-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 guidestrustfoundation.org or email email@example.com.
June 8-9: Fifth Annual Ladies Dolphin Tournament. Tavernier. Hosted by the Florida Keys Elks Lodge, this event welcomes female angler teams to compete for the highest aggregate weight of three dolphin fish. Cash and prizes are awarded to first- through third-place finishers, and for the largest dolphin caught. Visit floridakeyselks1872.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
June 13-15: 41st Annual Ladies Tarpon Fly Tournament. Islamorada. An all-release invitational tournament, this event represents a rich history of premier lady fly anglers who love the sport of saltwater fishing in the shallow waters of Islamorada and Florida Bay. Visit facebook.com/keystarpon, contact Heidi Nute at 917-607-8779 or email email@example.com.
June 18-22: 55th Annual Gold Cup Tarpon Tournament. Islamorada. This annual challenge appeals to “tarpon addicts,” and both experienced and novice anglers can apply to compete. Held the third Monday in June each year, the event is limited to 25 anglers by invitation only. Proceeds are to benefit the Florida Keys’ fishing industry’s Guides Trust Foundation. Visit goldcuptt.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
June TBA: University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame Celebrity Dolphin Tournament. Islamorada. Anglers can fish with some favorite former Miami Hurricanes All-Stars in the one-day tournament that features cash prizes for the heaviest dolphin fish. Other attractions include a charity auction. Visit canesfish.com or email email@example.com.
July 6-8: Islamorada Summer Classic. Islamorada. This family-formatted boat tournament features nine target backcountry and oceanside species. Trophies are awarded to the top boats in weight and release categories, as well as private vessel and charter divisions. Junior and teen divisions also are awarded. Visit islamoradaclassic.com/ or contact Dianne Harbaugh at 305-522-4868.
July 9-11: Islamorada Fly Dolphin Tournament. Islamorada. This new two-day fly-fishing event features three-person angler teams competing for cash and prizes for the largest fish, combined weight, most releases and more. Visit islamoradaclassic.com/ or contact Dianne Harbaugh at 305-522-4868.
July 13-15: Marathon Marlin Tournament. Marathon. Teams in the pre-tournament for the Key West Marlin Tournament are to compete for marlin division trophies as well as fun fish awards for the three heaviest dolphin fish, wahoo and tuna (yellowfin, blackfin and skipjack). The top-scoring team in the pre-tournament is to be entitled to free entry into the following week’s Key West Marlin Tournament. Visit keywestmarlin.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
July 15-18: Del Brown 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 delbrownpermittournament.com or email email@example.com.
July 18-21: Havana Club 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. Visit keywestmarlin.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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. Visit redbone.org, call 305-664-2002 or email email@example.com.
Sept. 21-23: Herman Lucerne Memorial Backcountry Fishing Championship. Islamorada. Named after the man known affectionately as “Mr. Everglades,” the event is headquartered at the Islander Resort. Anglers are challenged to target fish in multiple species only in the boundaries of Everglades National Park, fishing areas that Lucerne favored. Visit hermanlucernememorial.com, call Kellie Trotta at 561-346-3193 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sept. 28-30: Take Stock in Children Backcountry Challenge. Key Largo. This annual tournament offers anglers the opportunity to win coveted trophies for trout, snook and redfish. A popular weekend auction showcase and Sunday evening dinner are open to the public. Proceeds support local vocational scholarships for all ages and Take Stock in Children scholarships for financially challenged Upper Keys students. Visit keylargorotary.org/.
Oct. 5-7: Robert James Sales Baybone Celebrity Tournament. Islamorada. The second tournament in the Redbone Trilogy targets permit and bonefish to raise money for cystic fibrosis research. Past participants include legendary angler Stu Apte, former Denver Bronco and Tampa Bay Buccaneer Mark Cooper and Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Wade Boggs. Visit redbone.org, call 305-664-2002 or email email@example.com.
Oct. 7-10: Islamorada All-Tackle Bonefish & Permit Championship. Islamorada. Dubbed the “Fall All-Tackle,” the three-day challenge attracts energized newcomers to face seasoned veterans in a competition that has taken place since 1970. One angler per boat pairs with a licensed captain to vie for division winners’ trophies for the three longest bonefish and three longest permit. The field is limited to 25 participants. Contact Kellie Trotta at 561-346-3193 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Oct. 27-28: Fall Backcountry Fly Championship Series. 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 series grand champion, the anglers who catch the largest snook and redfish and the king of the backcountry, among others. Visit BFCtournament.com.
Oct. TBA: “Ladies, Let’s Go Fishing!” Keys Fishing University. Islamorada. Female fishing fans can learn or polish angling skills during the award-winning weekend seminar. More than 8,000 female graduates have immersed themselves in the lighthearted yet skill-heavy curriculum to learn and hone abilities in offshore, bottom, inshore and fly fishing. Visit ladiesletsgofishing.com or email email@example.com.
Oct. TBA: 10th Annual Mad Dog Mandich Inshore & Offshore Fishing Classic. Islamorada. Entrants compete for cash prizes in an offshore division targeting dolphin fish, kingfish, tuna, wahoo, snapper and grouper; or an inshore division for mangrove snapper, spotted sea trout, redfish, snook and tarpon. A portion of the proceeds of this boat/team tournament, which is headquartered at Postcard Inn Beach Resort & Marina, benefits Mariners Hospital Oncology Services. Visit maddogclassic.com/fl-keys.
Nov. 2-4: Robert James Sales 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 Trilogy tournament series. Visit redbone.org, call 305-664-2002 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
November 8-10: Cheeca Lodge & Spa All-American Backcountry Tournament. Islamorada. Anglers compete for prizes and trophies in this annual event targeting snook, redfish, bonefish, tarpon and permit. The tournament salutes war heroes and proceeds benefit the Guides Trust Foundation. Highlights include a beachside barbecue and an awards banquet characteristic of Cheeca’s casual elegance. Visit cheeca.com/allamerican.
Nov. 29 – Dec. 2: Islamorada Sailfish Tournament. Islamorada. The first leg of the triple-crown Florida Keys Gold Cup Championship series is the only tournament in the series to offer a junior division for anglers ages 16 and younger. Unlimited anglers are allowed per vessel. Visit islamoradasailfishtournament.com or email email@example.com.