Mavericks Finish First and Second At Islamorada Bonefish Tournament
Slick calm conditions “plagued” skilled contestants at the 38th annual Spring Fly Invitational Bonefish Tournament, headquartered out of the iconic Islamorada Fishing Club in downtown Islamorada. The lack of wind resulted in a dearth of targeted “weight” fish, that is bonefish over 7 pounds, needed to establish a points per ounce base score. Only 2 precious weights were landed by the field in the 3 day event, but the average number of fish caught by the teams was the highest ever in the long history of the Spring fly, further attesting to the fact that, contrary to the incorrect negative rumor mill, South Florida’s bonefishery continues to elevate upwards in the positive direction!
Some legendary names are highlighted as past champions of this competition. Bob Reineman, George Hommell, Jose Wejebe, Harry Spear, Bob Branham, Duane Baker, Tim Klein, Rick Murphy form just a partial list of tremendous bonefishermen who have stood here in the Winner’s Circle.
Only three years ago, the young team of Tony Llera and Capt. Jeremy Alderman entered the Spring Fly for the first time and finished a respectable Third. Last year, Llera and Alderman continued on their incline to clinch a Runner-Up finish. Finally, 2018 brought the result they had been striving toward, but not without obstacles to overcome.
Other than the current challenging weather, the first problem in their way was crack angler Thane Morgan from Texas. Poled by Capt Mark Krowka, Thane was able to pick off a valuable 9 pound weight fish, a single cruiser in 3 feet of water in the late morning of Day One. He added a release to jump out in front and hold the lead through two days. In the glassy mirrored water, Llera and Alderman had great fishing that same day for smaller bones, racking up 6 releases using 7 & 9 weight Sage rods and clear Cortland lines, with their “bone toad fly” attached to the business end.
Battling the stillness, Tony and Jeremy stuck to their game plan, trying to spend as much time as possible fishing zones in Biscayne Bay with the highest incidence of larger fish. They added another release (barely missing weight fish measurements) on Day Two, matched with the day’s release by Morgan.
On the morning of the final day, the young guns knew they would have to capitalize immediately in the low light of morning, once again facing the same calmness that seems to make the larger fish hide. After only 10 minutes at the first stop, Tony delivered his tailing crab fly to a large single tailer that arched up, inhaled, and sped away on several blistering runs. At only 7:37a.m., the 11 pound 5 ounce bone was safely in the net, with another release added afterwards.
Fishing from a Mirage 17, Llera and Alderman claimed Grand Champion honors, Largest Bonefish and High Point Day Three in the victory, with the weight and 8 releases. Thane Morgan and Mark Krowka finished second, and took High Point Day One in a Mirage 18 HPX with the 9 pounder and 4 releases. The Most Releases Trophy was earned by Julian Robertson and Capt. Richard Black with an impressive 19 releases.
The scoring for the Spring Fly allows for all bones under 7 pounds to count as 200 points each. These release points deposit into the bank until matched with weight points from a fish that measures over 7 pounds. For most of the tournament’s past, weight fish were brought in alive, held in appropriately equipped tanks, then weighed and released at the Tournament Headquarters.
After changes in bonefish possession laws, and deep conservation concerns, larger fish are now photographed on a measuring device supplied by the tournament, and quickly released on the spot. This updated technique has no doubt improved the release process by returning the fish into its own zip code, eliminating the boat ride and relocation to new and unfamiliar waters, and further decreasing the handling time of this precious resource.
Bonefish of 7 to 7 pounds 15 ounces are worth 2 points per ounce. Eight pounds to 8 pounds 15 ounces worth 3 points per ounce, accelerating upward as fish get larger. Release points can match weight points, but can never exceed them. A maximum of 3 weight fish per team are allowed for measuring during the Spring Fly.
For information on the 2019 Spring Fly contact Chairman (and multiple tournament winner) Mark Richens at MarkRichens@icloud.com.
– by Capt. Mark Krowka