Florida Keys fishing tournaments provide a test of skill for anglers and a chance for captains and guides to share their knowledge of the Keys’ diverse fisheries. While tournaments and other events in the Keys may undergo schedule changes or cancellations because of the COVID-19 pandemic, all tournament dates and information are accurate as of the writing of this release.
Dec. 1, 2020 – July 31, 2021: Key West Fishing Tournament. Key West. More than 40 species of fish are targeted during the multimonth tournament, with divisions for men, women, junior anglers (ages 10 to 15) and Pee Wees (under 10 years old). The Key West Fishing Tournament strongly encourages the release of game fish. All participating anglers receive certificates noting their catches and qualify for a variety of prizes. Visit keywestfishingtournament.com.
Jan. 5-7: Islamorada SailFly Tournament. Islamorada. This time of year, the weather is typically ideal for a hot Atlantic sailfish bite. Entrants can compete in one of the toughest and most exciting angling events of the year. Call Randy Towe at 305-394-2667 or email " target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">.
Jan. 8-9: Fish for Holly Sailfish Tournament. Islamorada. Created to raise money for Keys scholarships and domestic violence initiatives, this memorial tournament honors the late Holly Given, a Keys resident and avid angler. Participants are to gather at Whale Harbor Marina to compete for top male, female and junior angler awards as well as top offshore, bay boat and fun fish categories. Visit fishforholly.com/tournament/.
Jan. 14-17: Key West Kingfish Mayhem. Key West and the Lower Keys. Headquartered at Stock Island Marina Village, this four-species event enhances what was formerly a king mackerel tournament by adding tuna, mahi and wahoo. Anglers are to vie for cash prizes. Visit meatmayhemtournamentsfl.com/key-west-kingfish-mayhem/ or call 954-605-8284.
Jan. 18-19: Capt. Al Flutie Over the Hill Rip-Off Sailfish Tournament. Islamorada. Dubbed “almost too much fun for old guys to handle,” the tournament is locally referred to as the Flutie and welcomes anglers age 50 and over. Proceeds help “catch the cure” for cystic fibrosis. Visit redbone.org.
Jan. 19-20: IFC Sailfish Tournament. Islamorada. Presented by the Islamorada Fishing Club, the 2021 event is the second leg of the three-pronged Florida Keys Gold Cup Championship series, attracting teams of elite sport fishermen. A total cash payout for a full field at the IFC Sailfish Tournament could reach $30,000. Visit theislamoradafishingclub.com.
Jan. 22-24: Cheeca Lodge Presidential Sailfish Tournament. Islamorada. The Presidential is one of the most prestigious offshore tournaments in the Florida Keys, and serves as the third and final leg of the three-pronged Florida Keys Gold Cup Championship. Visit cheeca.com/presidential or email " target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">.
Jan. 28-30: Sugarloaf Showdown. Lower Keys. Angling teams can pit their skills against the Lower Florida Keys’ wiliest in-water inhabitants during this catch-and-release tournament that was rescheduled from November 2020. With target species of bonefish, permit and barracuda, the challenge benefits the Florida Keys Guides Trust Foundation. Visit sugarloafshowdown.com.
Jan. 31 – Feb. 1: Islamorada Bartenders Sailfish Open. Islamorada. Headquartered at the Lorelei Restaurant & Cabana Bar, this fun fishing event is only for actively employed bartenders and restaurant employees. Trophies are awarded to individual anglers as well as the bar a team represents, with the huge perpetual trophy going to the winners along with bragging rights for the year. Contact Dianne Harbaugh at 305-522-4868 or email " target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">.
Feb. 2-3: Poor Girls Sailfish Tournament. Islamorada. This regional charity competition raises monies to spay and neuter feral cats in the Upper Keys. Trophies are awarded to first-, second- and third-place teams, grand champion and runner-up grand champion anglers as well as for the largest dolphin fish, kingfish and tuna, among others. Visit castingforcats.org/poor-girls-sailfish-tournament.
Feb. 5-6: Swamp Guides Ball. Islamorada. Sponsored by the Florida Keys Fishing Guides Association, this all-release event offers team and individual awards to anglers for bonefish, redfish and snook. Anglers fish the shallows of the Florida Keys and the saltwater fringes of the Everglades. The tournament is headquartered at the Lorelei Restaurant and Cabana Bar. Visit fkfga.org.
Feb. 5-7: Islamorada Women’s Sailfish Tournament. Islamorada. In this light-tackle challenge, awards await the grand champion team (boat), first runner-up and second runner-up team, captain and mate. Other awards are presented for the high-point angler; outstanding catch; largest tuna, dolphin fish and kingfish; and hard luck. Proceeds benefit Keys charities. Call 305-240-9337 or email " target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">.
Feb. 26-27: Costa Backcountry Fly Championship Series. Islamorada. Tournament anglers are to compete to catch the most inches of snook and redfish on fly in a challenge where 1 inch equals one point. Awards are to be given to the grand champion and runner-up, and to the anglers who catch the largest snook and redfish. The field is limited to 30 boats. Visit BFCtournament.com.
March 2-6: Jimmy Johnson’s National Billfish Championship. Hosted by Jimmy Johnson, two-time Super Bowl winning coach and former head coach at the University of Miami, the prestigious event benefits the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center and other charities. Anglers on the winning boat receive custom-designed Jimmy Johnson’s NBC Championship rings. Participants fish in 100 miles of waters from Key Largo to Palm Beach. Visit jjfishweek.com.
March 8-11: March Merkin Invitational Permit Tournament. Key West and the Lower Keys. This charity flats-and-fly-only tournament challenges anglers to catch, tag and release silvery permit to vie for elite titles. The event is held at the Stock Island Yacht Club & Marina on Stock Island. Visit marchmerkin.com.
April 23-26: Redbone @ Large Sunrise/Sunset Tarpon Tournament. Islamorada. The Upper Keys competition is one of dozens of fishing events held each year whose proceeds benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Visit redbone.org, contact Susan Ellis at 305-664-2002 or email " target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">.
April 25-28: Herman Lucerne Memorial Tarpon Cup. Islamorada. This is an old school, “downtown Islamorada” type of tournament. True to the Herman Lucerne spirit of inclusiveness, the Tarpon Cup includes both guided and unguided divisions. Teams are limited to 20. Visit hermanlucernememorial.com.
April 30 – May 2: Marathon Offshore Bull and Cow Dolphin Tournament. Marathon. Over $30,000 in cash and prizes awaits the top anglers who catch the largest bull and cow dolphin fish combined, while other prizes are awarded to anglers catching the largest dolphin, wahoo, tuna and tripletail. Visit marathonoffshoretournament.com.
April 30 – May 2: Nick Sheahan Dolphin Rodeo. Islamorada. Honoring the memory of Florida Keys student Nick Sheahan, this tournament benefits a namesake community scholarship fund that has distributed over $170,000 to date. Hosted at Tavernier Creek Marina, the event features cash prizes and $25,000 to the angler catching a dolphin fish that beats the state record. Visit nicksheahan.com.
May 2-5: Tarponian Tournament. Marathon. Rules of this high-energy three-evening tournament mandate that each team fishes with a different captain each evening. Teams also rotate among the three major bridge channels in Marathon so any potential “hot spots” are shared among all anglers. Call 215-542-1492 or email " target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">.
May 17-20: Faro Blanco Invitational Tarpon Tournament. Marathon. This team tournament in the heart of tarpon season, with two to four anglers per team/boat, allows anglers to fish three of the four nights with three different captains at three different bridges: Bahia Honda, Long Key and the world-famous Seven Mile bridges. Proceeds from the charity tournament benefit Ronald McDonald House. Call Donna Vankirk at 305-393-0699 or email " target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">.
June 4-6: Seventh Annual Skippers Dolphin Tournament. Key Largo. This tournament is headquartered at Skippers Dockside Restaurant behind Key Largo’s Holiday Inn. Cash prizes of over $60,000 include a first-place prize of $20,000 as well as prizes for the top six teams and top lady and junior anglers. Visit skipperstournaments.com or email " target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">.
June 4-6: Original Big Pine & Lower Keys Dolphin Tournament. Big Pine Key. The Lower Keys Chamber of Commerce presents this annual event where anglers contend for over $35,000 in cash prizes and awards. A special cash prize of $20,000 is given for the largest dolphin fish over 50 pounds. Additional prizes await winners in open, ladies and youth divisions. Visit lowerkeyschamber.com.
June 7-11: 47th Annual Don Hawley Tarpon Fly Tournament. Islamorada. Up to 25 of the world’s top fly-rod anglers endure a five-day test of patience and finesse, fishing Keys waters using fly tackle and 12-pound tippet. Named for the late fly fisherman and conservationist Don Hawley, the tournament benefits the Guides Trust Foundation, assisting professional fishing guides and supporting backcountry fishery conservation programs. Visit guidestrustfoundation.org.
June 11-12: Eighth Annual Ladies Dolphin Tournament. Tavernier. Hosted by the Florida Keys Elks Lodge, this event welcomes female angler teams to compete for the highest aggregate weight of three dolphin fish. Cash and prizes are awarded to first- through third-place finishers and for the largest dolphin caught. Visit floridakeyselks1872.com or email " target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">.
June 11-13: ‘Ladies Let’s Go Fishing’ Screamin’ Reels Tournament. Islamorada. Intended for novice anglers, the weekend is about learning and a nonintimidating, fun competition with the “Ladies Let’s Go Fishing” university organizers. Participants can charter a professional boat or fish on their own boat. This is a casual tournament with prizes for the heaviest offshore fish and longest inshore fish, drawings for prizes for those who caught fish and bonus drawings. Visit ladiesletsgofishing.com/.
June 18-20: VFW Fishing Tournament. Key West. A family fun tournament, this event awards up to $3,000 for the heaviest dolphin fish. All proceeds benefit disabled and needy veterans in Monroe County. Visit vfwpost3911.org.
June 21-25: 58th Annual Gold Cup Tarpon Tournament. Islamorada. This annual challenge appeals to “tarpon addicts,” and both experienced and novice anglers apply to compete in what is referred to locally as the “Wimbledon of tarpon fishing.” Headquartered at the Lorelei Restaurant and Marina, the all-release event is limited to 25 anglers by invitation only. Partial proceeds benefit the Guides Trust Foundation of the Florida Keys. Visit goldcuptt.com.
June 23-24: IFC Captains Cup Dolphin Tournament. Islamorada. Teams of up to four anglers compete for top prizes and the total combined weight of three fish determines the winning team. If up to 25 boats register, first-prize cash winnings can reach $25,000. Visit theislamoradafishingclub.com/.
July 18-21: Del Brown Permit Tournament. Key West. Anglers fly-fish on the flats in a challenge that honors the late angling pioneer Del Brown, who caught and released more than 500 permit off the Keys. Professionals and guides are allowed to compete as well. Visit delbrownpermittournament.com or email " target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">.
July 21-24: Stock Island Marina Village Key West Marlin Tournament. Key West. Anglers ply the waters once fished by novelist Ernest Hemingway while vying for $50,000 in guaranteed cash prizes. Held in conjunction with Key West’s annual Hemingway Days festival, the event awards $25,000 to the first-place team. Teams can enter one fun fish (dolphin, tuna, wahoo or released sailfish) per day to add to their point total. Visit keywestmarlin.com.
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