Key Wast, Florida Keys — Releases of a white marlin and a sailfish proved to be the winning combination for the Outer Limits team, skippered by veteran Key West captain Jay Miller, at the 41st annual Key West Marlin Tournament that ended Saturday, July 22, off the Florida Keys.
The two billfish releases earned the team first place and a prize estimated to exceed $100,000, according to tournament director Tim Greene.
Eric Harpel of Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, released the sailfish on the second day of the three-day tournament. Not long afterward, Outer Limits teammate Tyler Whitmore of Lawrence, Kansas, released the white marlin.
“We caught the sailfish first and immediately got the baits out there, and it wasn’t but just a couple of minutes that elapsed and the white marlin came up on the right outrigger,” said Miller, who has been in the Keys charterboat industry for 22 years. “It popped the lure, but then went to the left rigger and bit a balao.”
Miller, who said he has fished the tournament since 2004, credited the first-place finish to his anglers’ skill.
“They did an excellent job,” he said. “I’ve had the tournament in my grasp but just never have been able to solidify it — but we did it this year.”
Linda D V, with Key West’s Captain Billy Wickers III at the helm, ended the tournament in second place. Team member Nicholas Cioffi of West Palm Beach, Florida, released a blue marlin estimated at 400 pounds on the first fishing day after a fight that lasted nearly four hours.
Sanctuary, skippered by A. J. Barry and part of Key West’s Cowboy Cowgirl fishing fleet, placed third after angler Craig Vaughn of Richardson, Texas, released a blue marlin estimated to weigh 250 pounds. According to Barry, the marlin was the first offshore fish Vaughn had ever caught.
Organizers said the 2023 Key West Marlin Tournament drew about 175 anglers fishing on 32 boats. It took place in conjunction with the annual Hemingway Days festival that salutes the literary talent and angling prowess of the late author, who lived and wrote on the island in the 1930s.
Greene announced July 17-20 as dates for the 2024 tournament.
Key West Marlin Tournament: www.KeyWestMarlin.com