The 36th Annual Islamorada Bartenders Sailfish Open kicked off with great food and fun at the Lorelei Restaurant and Cabana Bar. 55 anglers, who are bartenders or restaurant employees representing 16 different bars, released 30 Sailfish on February 13th. With lines in at 8:30 it was only 5 minutes before the Olympic Gold fishing for the Islander Resort called in the first hook up of the tournament. It would be an early morning bite with multiple hook ups for the Olympic Gold, Quit Yer Bitchin fishing the Islamorada Fish Company, Last Dance with the gang from the Ocean View Inn and Sports Pub (OV) and the Broad Minded fishing last year’s champions from Dillon’s Pub and Grill, along with Cloud Nine fishing for Chef Michaels. As luck would have it, three of the boats released fish all at 8:57. First to release was angler Ramanda Bannenberg from Dillon’s followed by Britney Violette on the Olympic Gold then James Ewing on the Cloud 9.
By 9:36 teams had released 16 of the 30 Sailfish released during the tournament. Dillon’s Pub and Grill would be in the lead with three fish, two released by Ramanda and one by Skler McGarry. The Last Dance anglers Amie Smith, Kris Kuzmanic and Erica Rodgers caught and released a triple header of sailfish putting them in second place. The bite would remain good throughout the morning and by 11AM AJ Comeforo would release another Sailfish for the OV putting moving them into first place.
At 2:29 angler AJ Comeforo would hook up on the Last Dance. This fish would put them ahead by two fish sealing the deal for the OV. But the Broad Minded anglers from Dillon’s were not out of the game. While Last Dance was fighting their fish Skyler McGarry would hook up and release a sailfish at 3:03. Now tied with OV, Dillon’s needed one more before AJ released his fish. One minute later Last Dance’s captain Robert Collins called in the release of AJ’s fish boosting their lead by one release.
When the committee boat called lines out at 4PM it would be OV taking home top honors with 5 releases. The team would take the perpetual Grand Champion trophy to the OV to be proudly displayed for the next year. The team was also awarded a check for $1,000 sponsored in part by the Ocean View Lounge and Mangrove Mikes Café in memory of Trapper John, who was a long time bartender and participant in the event. In addition, the friends of Dirrk Reich sponsored cash awards for the winning captain and mate.
A beautifully designed Jimmy Mac bar trophy would go to second place Dillon’s with 4 releases. 3rd place, Chef Michaels also received a Jimmy Mac bar trophy with three releases, two by Evan Eyster and one for James Ewing. Tied on time, fourth through seventh place would all have 3 Sailfish releases. Forth would be Old Tavernier Restaurant, fifth our hosts from the Lorelei, in sixth place City Hall Café and in seventh the Islamorada Fish Company.
First place angler award would go to Ramanda Bannenberg with two Sailfish released on time. She received a beautiful painted bronze sailfish trophy. As our newest sponsor Dillon’s Pub also sponsored the Founders Award in memory of Jayanna Cohan, who founded the Bartenders tournament, 36 years ago along with a check to Ramanda as our high point angler.
2nd place angler award went to Evan Eyster from Chef Michaels who also released two sails. Samantha Donahue fishing aboard The Indigenous released two sails. She was awarded third place angler and Justin Beauregard fishing aboard the TIKI for the Lorelei also released two Sailfish and took home the fourth place angler award. Three more anglers each released two fish on time. They were Amberly Bowles fishing aboard the Buzz On for City Hall Café, Skyler McGarry from Dillon’s and Rick Granneman from the Islamorada Fish Company on the Quit Yer Bitchin.
The Lorelei treated anglers to a fabulous kick off and awards ceremony on the beach. “My favorite part of this tournament is that we have so many anglers who catch and release their first sailfish” stated tournament director Dianne Harbaugh. “The reason Jayanna Cohan started this tournament was because she loved to sailfish and she wanted others to have the same opportunity. I would like to extend a special thank you to all the local businesses who helped to support this event for our hard working bar and restaurant employees!”