Outdoors

For tournament kingfish anglers, it’s the best time of the year

Catch and release fishing

Catch-and-release fishing has become essential to insuring there will always be adequate stocks of fish. Each of us must help conserve our fisheries by practicing catch-and-release fishing whenever possible. http://myfwc.com/fishing
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Catch-and-release fishing has become essential to insuring there will always be adequate stocks of fish. Each of us must help conserve our fisheries by practicing catch-and-release fishing whenever possible. http://myfwc.com/fishing

Tournament kingfish anglers are perhaps the most hardcore competitors, willing to go crazy lengths for a chance at the top prize. With tournament season in full swing along Florida’s west coast, last weekend saw one of the heaviest leaderboards possible for a local tournament.

Originally scheduled for April 26, the Wild West Kingfish Tournament was delayed one day due to the high seas forecast, allowing anglers to fish in calmer seas Sunday.

For Roy Carter and Team Fountain of Youth, the change of days meant an entirely different tournament game plan.

“We had it planned out to fish with Tommy Butler and head up north,” Carter said. “When the weather changed the days, Tommy couldn’t fish. That’s when boat owner Jeff Putney said ‘we’re going south.’ “

Putney’s 38-foot Fountain with tuned 350-Mercury Verados was loaded down with not only the 420 gallons of 93-Octane in the tanks, but an additional 200 gallons on deck. As the tournament started Sunday morning, the additional weight was felt as they pointed to their extreme southern destination.

“We were going to run 201 miles one way to an area near Key West called the rockpile,” Carter said. “As we took off Sunday morning we couldn’t quite get on plane right away but eventually got going.”

As seas allowed, they eventually sped to around 60 mph, but the trip still took nearly four hours. There were two other tournament boats that beat them to the spot, but it the run was worth it as red hot fishing started immediately.

“The bite was epic!” Carter said. “We caught one after another. Double hook ups, triple hook ups, it was awesome. We would hook a fish, I’d gaff it, re-rig, and get a bait back out. It was nonstop. The problem was we only had an hour and 45 minutes of fishing time.”

Seemingly as soon as they arrived, fishing time ended as lines were reeled in and their course was pointed north. Carter looked at the clock, not sure if they’d make the weigh in.

“It was an insane run back. We started by running 55. Then it started to smooth out and we did 60. Then we were doing 70. In the last hour we were running 80!”

They made it back in the nick of time running on fumes. At the scales, they weighed a 27.76-pound fish. The problem they faced were all the massive kingfish that weighed ahead of them, eventually landing them in 22nd place.

First place was taken with a huge 64.11-pound kingfish caught by team Liquid Buzz. Second went to Lined Out with a 53.81, and third weighed in at 50.49. Even back in 10th place was a 41.21-pound fish.

“I bet all the boats who had 50-pound fish probably thought they won,” Carter said. “It was one of the best leaderboards any of us have ever seen.”

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