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Sailfish Season on Florida's East Coast

Sailfish Season on Florida's East Coast
Sailfish Season on Florida's East Coast

With the recent arrival of cold fronts to South Florida waters, billfish anglers are wondering: Will this winter bring a repeat of the record-smashing sailfish bites witnessed last season? Even a taste, if not a repeat, would be welcome news for local anglers, many of whom suffered through a stormy and largeless fishless summer.

In the November 2004 issue of Florida Sportsman, currently on newsstands, veteran tournament reporter Ed Killer looks back at the incredible spindlebeak action that lit up the Treasure Coast and Palm Beaches during the winter of '03-'04.

Among the defining events was the West Palm Beach Sailfish Club Silver Sailfish Derby, a three-day tournament held January 8-10. Here, 59 boats released 636 sailfish in three days. The winning boat, Miami-based Get Lit, tallied 45. Those are numbers more commonly associated with travel destinations like Guatemala, Mexico and Costa Rica.

In Killer's exclusive report, expert local fishermen discuss weather conditions, bait migrations and other factors that may have led to the awesome bite. Biologists talk about burgeoning sailfish stocks.

Here, as a Web Site bonus, we offer some extra photos courtesy of the Silver Sailfish Derby. For readers unfamiliar with the proceedings of sailfish tournaments, this selection offers a good window into the action.



Multiple hookups are the norm during winter sailfish season. On a flybridge sportfisher like the Get Lit, that may mean anglers walking to the bow to fight fish.




Sailfish are the most acrobatic of bluewater fish, and it's not uncommon to see several boats simultaneously backing down on high-jumping fish

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The scoreboard at the Derby. Points are based on number of fish released.




Triangular pennants on the outriggers represent released fish. Sailfish tournaments are serious competition, but there's a gentlemanly spirit at these events. Congratulatory handshakes are passed from boat to boat.




Tagging a sailfish for research purposes may add points at some tournaments.




This fish is ready to be leadered, released and recorded.




The crew of Get Lit—including angler Peter Miller, top individual angler at the Derby--celebrates after stringing up an amazing array of release flags.

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