While the opening game of the 2008 NFL season is still weeks away, more than 60 Miami Dolphins players, coaches, cheerleaders and alumni were hard at work at the 12th Annual Miami Dolphins Fishing Tournament, held at the luxurious Miami Beach Marina. The weekend’s event, presented by Stiles Corporation, was held in honor of the late Scott Chait, an avid angler and member of the Miami Dolphins Community Relations staff who passed away at the early age of 23 after a lifelong battle with cystic fibrosis.
While still raising $80,000 for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, in its previous year the tournament was cancelled due to rough seas and stiff winds associated with Tropical Storm Barry, and this made for some anxious and excit ed anglers come 2008. While there is no money awarded to the tournament victors, the real winners are the Dolphins fans and the numerous charities that benefit from the Miami Dolphins Foundation.
he 12th Annual Miami Dolphins Fishing Tournament kicked off in strong fashion, beginning with the Hook & Tackle Captain’s Party Friday evening. The party was a huge success, and the tent was packed tight with eager bidders ready to pounce on the opportunity to vie for some amazing items in both the silent and live auctions. Some of the unique items up for grabs included: two tickets to the 2009 Super Bowl along with a four-night stay at an NFL team hotel, Carnival Cruise Lines Owners Penthouse Suite, and two seats on the Dolphins Charter to an away game, along with a stay at the team hotel and bus ride to the stadium with VIP seats.
I was graciously invited to fish along with Captain Chip Falkanger and Team Aetna on the 44-foot Egg Harbor Our Falkan Way. As a lifelong Dol-fan and born and raised South Florida native, I was ecstatic with the opportunity to participate in this amazing event. When and where else would I ever get the chance to hang out and fish with NFL superstars?
I met Captain Chip on Friday morning as we prepped the boat for the weekends tourney. With a few last minute additions, we departed Port Everglades en route to the Miami Beach Marina. The calm seas provided us with a smooth ride, allowing first mate Captain Ben Espinoza and myself a chance to feel out the cockpit of the 44-foot Egg Harbor. We didn’t plan on fishing Friday, but with a clean blue-water edge enticing us, we had no option. Within minutes of deploying our spread, the long-rigger popped and a quick drop-back resulted in a solid hook-set. After a short battle, we had a chunky blackfin boatside. We reset the spread and re-rigged the purple and black Ilander/ballyhoo combination that was ruthlessly ravaged by the busty blackfin. Shortly after, another knockdown had a 15-pound bull to the boat, not bad for the first 30-minutes on the water. With two fish in the box and thunderstorms forming all around us we brought in our spread and set our sights for South Beach.
Friday’s practice run had us tuned-in and ready for Saturday’s competition. With both of our fish caught on purple and black Ilander/ballyhoo combinations, it was obvious that this would be our offering-of-choice come tournament morning.
After giving the 44 a quick washdown – and preparing the blackfin for a little sashimi appetizer – we were off to the Hook & Tackle Captain's Party. There were over 1,300 guests in attendance including: #1 draft pick Jake Long, star running backs Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, quarterback John Beck, defensive end Matt Roth, Head Coach Tony Sparano and General Manager Jeff Ireland.
Although our livewell was loaded with fresh goggle-eye, threadfin and pilchard, we were no match for the superbly outfitted center-console kite-fishing machines that were loaded with over 200-gallons of livewell capacity and rod-holders every ten-inches! We were going to stick with our game plan of trolling Ilander/ballyhoo combinations and pitch live baits if presented with the right opportunity. While Ben and I finished the early morning rigging duties and readied the cockpit for the days fishing, we were anxiously waiting to see which Dolphins players would be joining us. Soon after, two large gentlemen began their stroll down Miami Beach Marina’s Dock F. Cornerback Joey Thomas and linebacker Junior Glymph were the Dolphins players that would be joining us for their first ever deep-sea fishing adventure.
Eager to put Joey and Junior on a hot-bite, we departed Government Cut in search of our piscatorial pay-dirt. With a clean-edge and scattered weed just offshore of Fowey Light, we deployed our spread in hopes of drag-screaming success. Both Joey Thomas and Junior Glymph were offshore virgins, and the three-foot rollers were an anomaly they had yet to experience. With a bit of queasiness affecting our NFL guests, we gave our newfound friends a healthy dose of Dramamine. No sooner than Joey and Junior hit the rack for a bit of shut-eye, the long-rigger popped and with a quick drop-back, we were hooked up. Aetna sponsor Mike Beagley was first in-line with both players down and out in the salon.
Mike put a hurt on the unsuspecting game fish, and within minutes he had the leader to the rod-tip. The fish didn’t show itself until the last second. “It’s a wahoo,” yelled Captain Chip from the fly-bridge. After hearing these magical words, Ben launched into action and quickly gaffed the toothy-predator. As Ben brought the fish over the transom, Junior popped his head from the salon and posed for a quick picture. “Damn,” he said. While unbeknownst to what creatures lurk in the deep-blue, it was apparent that Junior was not expecting a fish of such caliber.
With one quality fish in the box, we picked up and headed south for the Keys. We tried the run-and-gun approach for a few hours, but the scattered weeds and lack of flotsam had yet to provide us with a second catch. After spending some more time searching for an oceanic oasis, we headed back north towards Fowey Light.
We deployed our spread in hopes of hooking up with one last fish, and no sooner than we hit the edge, our shotgun bait was hammered. Once again, the fish concealed itself until the very last moment when it finally showed its stripes and teeth.
While we had a great day catching two wahoo, many of the other boats were crushing kingfish and blackfin tuna. Although we were nowhere close to winning the overall weight, we did take second and third place in the wahoo division.
Florida Sport Fishing’s Southeast Field Reporter Captain Dean Panos also took part in the weekend’s activities. Captain Dean had the honor to fish with Miami Dolphin alumni OJ McDuffie as well as his charter from Steel Fab and Stiles Construction. Captain Dean and crew ended the day with three blackfin tuna and six kingfish. OJ McDuffie caught his very first sailfish and although it wasn’t an eligible species, he had a blast with his first encounter with a South Florida spindlebeak.
Fishing aboard the Troublemaker, star running back Ronnie Brown caught a 20.1-pound blackfin tuna.
Kicker Dan Carpenter caught his first ever wahoo and claimed, “It was actually pretty easy.” Carpenter’s 30.5-pound ‘hoo landed him first place in the wahoo division.
The Dolphins number one draft pick, offensive lineman Jake Long, caught a 9.1-pound dolphin aboard Weez.
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