Alikai takes Quickie to open TC Sailfish season

A sailfish is caught aboard the Rebel with Capt. V.J. Bell during the Quickie Sailfish Tournament. Photo credit: Kevin Britton.

By Ed Killer for CAM

STUART – The cold fronts have been coming across the Florida peninsula with regularity this season. And that is a good thing when it comes to sailfish action.

But the early part of the season, which kicks off right after Thanksgiving each year, also had warm air and strong southeasterly winds in between the fronts.

And that was not great for sailfish numbers.

So, when the Fish Heads of Stuart Quickie Sailfish Tournament ran through its two-day affair, the fishing was fair, but probably not what it would be later by late December.

Alikai, led by Capt. Patrick Price and fished by co-owners Geoff Mayfield and Joe Schoppe, both of Stuart, and anglers Marshall Busha, Dave Dalfo, Lach Cheathum, John Clarke Bills and Gunner Askland, won the Quickie with eight sailfish releases. The 16-boat fleet combined to catch and release 53 sailfish.

Price steered his anglers to five sailfish on the first day and the daily award, and three the second day. He held off the hard-charging efforts of Floridian with Capt. Glenn Cameron (6 sailfish), the Quickie tournament’s winningest captain, and Champagne Lady with Capt. Josh Chaney (5 sailfish).

Price knew the fish would be north on the critical second day and was concerned the old Alikai might not make good time running into a headsea to the fishing grounds. So he departed from Fort Pierce Inlet, planning to troll south if he had to.

“We moved south and hopscotched a few spots, and caught two singles,” Price said. “Then we picked up our lines and moved further south, and I saw where Glenn (on the Floridian) was fishing and knew he had caught three sailfish. We were two miles north of him and caught another one.”

In Treasure Coast area tournament sailfishing, teams employ trolling methods and drag dead ballyhoo behind their boats. Price said the “critter” fishing was so good his team went through 270 baits in two days catching dolphin, blackfin tuna, skipjacks, bonito and more.

Cameron said his team started south but moved north despite the rough seas.

“By 10 a.m. we went through 80 baits on junk,” Cameron said. “So I steamed north eight miles right into the headsea and was lucky enough to set out on top of them.”

Floridian’s anglers — Cameron’s wife, Jennifer Cameron; Jimmy Vaughan; Justin Drummond; Matt Driscoll; and Brexton Rigsbee — began reeling in the sailfish bites.

“We went from dead last at 11 a.m. to having enough bites to have won it by 1:30 p.m.,” Cameron explained. When the day began, Floridian had one fish to its credit and finished with six overall.

Alikai enters the Manatee Pocket on day one of the Quickie Sailfish Tournament after catching five sailfish and winning the daily award. Photo credit: Ed Killer.