A tournament unlike any other that offers opportunity to be a part of a storied history.

Winning the Silver Sailfish Derby is where preparation meets persistence and a bit of luck; perhaps it’s fate. 43 boats took to the water this year in early January to compete in the 82nd running of this prestigious sailfishing tradition, chasing fish and seeking the thrill of winning that only the best of the best have been able to achieve. Crews were greeted by cool weather and northwest winds the first day of fishing out of Palm Beach Inlet.

The Rea Trophy and other Derby awards on display.

Capt. Joe Garberoglio and his crew aboard the 60’ Viking, Fragrant Harbor, found the sails and took an early lead. They were able to maintain throughout the day, earning Top Boat honors Day 1 with nine sailfish releases. Four fish separated team Sparhawk from the lead, as Joe Ferrulle and crew ended the day of fishing in 2nd place with five releases. Several teams, including past Derby Champions, Southern Run and the Native Son fishing team, put themselves in a position to make a run at winning it all headed into Day 2, posting four releases each. A total of 78 sails were released at the conclusion of Day 1.

Derby fleet kite fishing offshore.

The 2nd and final day of the Derby would produce 45 more fish than the following day, as the fleet recorded 123 sails bringing the grand total to 201 releases throughout the tournament. Another cool morning in the low 50’s and a northwest wind would start things off, only to have the wind switch around and blow out of the east for the final hours of the event. This changed sparked the bite as several teams hooked doubles, triples and even quads in the 4-line Derby. The 90’ Bayliss, Singularis, would taste redemption as they released ten fish after having none the day before. The ten releases would top the fleet, as Capt. John Van Dellen and crew claimed the title of Top Daily Boat on Day 2. The Singularis was not alone in their “donut day”; The Reel Captivating also struggled to find fish the first day. Capt. Travis Ralph and his A-Team bounced back releasing eight sails on Day 2, tagging six of them, earning the Top Tag Team award. The ever consistent 39’ SeaVee, Native Son, would again make their mark on the leaderboard with the 3rd most releases on the day, beat out on time, with eight fish.

The runner up, Native Son, flying all 12 release flags at the conclusion of the tournament.

Holding onto the lead makes minutes feel like hours and hours feel like days. David & Lynne Henderson, Trent Glaub, Ryan Hullihan, Owen Buckman, Tim Smith and Capt. Garbo of Fragrant Harbor experienced this phenomenon. Three fish were leadered and released by the crew early. The rest of the day was silent until one final fish later in the day.

Fragrant Harbor celebrating their win on the floating dock at Sailfish Marina on Singer Island.

A total of 13 releases was enough for Fragrant Harbor to claim their spot in the sailfishing history books as the winner’s of the 82nd annual Silver Sailfish Derby. The crew celebrated with a champagne shower after tying up to the floating dock at Sailfish Marina on Singer Island. A steady parade of fellow participants congratulated the winners as they passed by the dock, raising a glass in an act of comradery.

Mark Donohue, the Rea Trophy winner, next to the famous silver sailfish sculpture.

The Derby is hosted by the West Palm Beach Fishing Club (WPBFC) and continues to be organization’s marquee event. Part of what makes the event so special are the people involved. Many Derby awards are sponsored by families who have been associated with the event for decades. The Derby’s top angler award is the Mrs. Henry R. Rea trophy, a magnificent silver sailfish sculpture that dates back to the event’s origin in 1935 and is sponsored by Elizabeth Richebourg Rea of Connecticut. The Rea Trophy remains one of the crown jewels in all of angling. Mark Donohue of Jupiter earned the Rea Trophy this year aboard the Singularis, landing 6 sailfish all in one day. He is only the sixth individual to win the Rea Trophy more than once in the tournament’s 82-year history.

Megan Johnson, the Top Lady Angler of the Derby with WPBFC Chairman of the Board, Pete Schulz.

The Top Lady Angler trophy is sponsored by the Hampp Family of New Jersey in memory of Rose Hampp, who won the honor in the 1957 Derby along with many other awards throughout her accomplished angling career. Sailfish Marina’s very own, Megan Johnson, was awarded the trophy releasing 4 sailfish aboard the smallest boat in the fleet, the BeachKomer a 25’ Competition. Not to be out done was Capt. Paul Sabayrac and the Goin’ Raptor crew winning The Top Small Boat (35’ or less) with a strong finish landing 7 sails Day 2, ending with a total of 8 releases. Lastly, Danny Kleisley got it done on the 60’ Hatteras, Gratiot Beach, and was recognized as the Top Junior Angler of the Derby.

Danny Kleisley (center), the Top Junior Angler of the 2019 Derby.

The Silver Sailfish Derby, the world’s oldest sailfish tournament, again brought some of the finest captain’s and crews to south Florida at the height of sailfish season. The WPBFC is proud to continue this sportfishing tradition that represents an important part of the region’s identity.

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