THIS WEEKEND: 2ND ANNUAL JEFF LEONIA REEL & STEEL CLASSIC TO OPEN GROUPER/HOGFISH SEASON

The grouper and hogfish seasons both open this Saturday, May 1. Celebrate the day by joining the 2nd Annual Jeff Leonia Reel & Steel Classic, the only fishing/spearfishing tournament in the Keys. There’s a 7 a.m. start, and weigh-ins and afterparty will take place at Angler House Marina (80500 Overseas Hwy., Islamorada). 

Jeff Leonia was an avid waterman and captain in the Upper Keys. His passing in Nov. 2019 left a legacy of living large and loving big that his friends and family continue to honor to this day. 

Leonia’s friend and fellow captain Tony Young, of Forever Young Charters, said, “I think of Jeff every day, whether I am on the water or not. I would give anything to catch one more fish with him.” 

Grouper opener was Jeff’s favorite day of the year, Young said. Fittingly, the annual tournament arranged in Leonia’s honor invites fishermen and divers out on the water to enjoy that day and honor his legacy. 

Tournament rules allow for fishing anywhere in Monroe County. Prize categories include men’s and women’s divisions for scuba spearfishing, freedive spearfishing and rod/reel. First through third place wins will go to the highest aggregate weight (in pounds) of the largest grouper and hogfish (combined) per person. 

The not-for-profit tournament will also raise money for The Keys Sea Camp for kids, which encourages young anglers and divers to explore and enjoy the ocean like Jeff did.  A foundation established in Leonia’s honor ‒ the Live Like Jeff Foundation ‒ will host the camp. 

The tournament website explains that Jeff’s “happy place” was “on a boat somewhere in the ocean” and that the event is their way to honor his passions for fishing and spearfishing, with all proceeds going towards his other passion, teaching kids.

“This tournament is an opportunity to bring our community together and raise money to get the next generation on the water,” Young told the Weekly. “Jeff would have loved nothing more than seeing the community get together and catch big fish, share memories, and support the youth.”

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Registration is $150 and will be capped at 100 participants. Weigh-ins will be individual, not team. For more information and to register, visit https://jeffstourney.com/.

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