Annual Key West Fishing Tournament
For serious anglers, the only thing better than catching a big fish is getting an award for doing it, which is why anglers flock to the Annual Key West Fishing Tournament.
Fishing tournaments draw anglers in record numbers each year. Fortunately, in the southeastern states, there is a tournament for just about every type of fish and every type of angler; you could fish in a different tournament nearly every weekend throughout the year. But there is one tournament that covers every type of legally caught fish in a region, is open to every type of angler (young and old, male and female, professional and amateur), doesn’t care if you’re fishing from a boat, a bank, a beach, or a bridge, and runs continuously for six months. Welcome to the 54th Annual Key West Fishing Tournament, which begins on New Year’s Day and continues until August 31st.
It was founded in 1965 by a Key West legend, Capt. Gainey Maxwell, as a way to support the Lower Florida Keys fledgling charter fishing business. Today, the tournament’s goal is to promote sport fishing, conservation, and tourism in the Lower Keys. According to tournament officials, “Each year, more than 2,000 anglers receive the Outstanding Angling Achievement award to commemorate their catch or a Sportsmanship Award for released catches.”
Awards are available for 44 different species in nine different line classes from 8-pound to stronger than 50-pound test line. Categories also include fly, spin and plug tackle. As a way to promote conservation and the release of fish, the tournament sets minimum weights in each class to discourage the loss of smaller fish. Awards are also limited to minimum lengths for some species in the release category. Entering the tournament couldn’t be any easier. Just have your catch weighed at one of the participating weigh stations by an official weigh master, fill out an entry form and mail it to the tournament office or deposit it in one of the entry drop boxes at Garrison Bight City Marina, Esky’s Rod Shop, Sunset Marina, or Sugarloaf Marina.
Encouraging the next generation of anglers is an important part of the tournament’s mission. Two of the most popular categories are the Junior Division for anglers up to 15 years of age and the Pee Wee Division for anglers under 10.
By Bob Arrington, Southern Boating January 2018