The crew of the Main One tags a sailfish for research before releasing it.

The 83 anglers in last weekend’s Marathon Premier Sailfish Tournament enjoyed a welcome change from the 2022 tournament’s 30 mph wind gusts and four- to eight-foot seas as the contest’s 2023 iteration treated them to calm seas, a light breeze and sunny skies.

On April 21 and 22, the goal was simple: race to catch and safely release as many sailfish as possible over 15 hours of competition, with an option to apply research tags supplied by Gray Taxidermy to caught fish. By the end of the tournament’s second day, only two fish separated the top three podium positions, with three boats reporting hooked fish a mere minute before tournament officials called “lines out” at 3 p.m.

Tales of the ones that got away were told at an awards banquet on Saturday night hosted by Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters and catered by Brutus Seafood Restaurant and Market. Winners received trophies from Gray Taxidermy along with artwork by Eddie Forbes Art, with top teams earning cash prizes.
Now in its second year, proceeds from the tournament will benefit Mission Fishin’, an organization dedicated to providing memorable fishing trips and other marine adventures for special needs children, foster children and their families who would not otherwise be afforded these opportunities. Tournament director Katie Lewis confirmed that the contest will return in 2024. More information is at marathonsailfish.com.

Team Winners
ViceVersa – 500 points – Capt. Sam Milazzo, mate Tyler Rodriguez, anglers Justin Miller, Marc Toledo, Scott Stoky, Doug Mientkiewicz, Brandon Simmons and Trevor Finns.
Big Game – 400 points – Capt. Ariel Medero, mate Robert “Reggie” Hiro, anglers Doug and Lorri Cwanek, Brandon Biffell and Trace Goodwin.
No Slack – 300 points – Capt. James “Bucko” Platt, mate Ely Hernandez, anglers Melissa Bennet, Jared Dieguez, Kavon Mehranipornejad and James Platt III.

Top Male Angler – Tyler Rodriguez/ViceVersa
Top Female Angler – Jill Paglia/Executive Decision
Top Junior Angler – Corbin Buckley/Killbox

Alex Rickert made the perfectly natural career progression from dolphin trainer to newspaper editor in 2021 after freelancing for Keys Weekly while working full time at Dolphin Research Center. A resident of Marathon since 2015, he fell in love with the Florida Keys community by helping multiple organizations and friends rebuild in the wake of Hurricane Irma. An avid runner, actor, and spearfisherman, he spends as much of his time outside of work on or under the sea having civil disagreements with sharks.