Texas Angler Wins Florida Keys March Merkin Tournament

Grand Champion Robert Dougherty (left) and Guide Nick LaBadie (right)

Robert Dougherty, of Dallas, Texas, caught and released two permit to win the 2024 March Merkin Permit Tournament that ended March 14.

Dougherty’s permit, both caught on the tournament’s third and final fishing day, measured 56 and 74 centimeters for a combined total of 130 centimeters. Metric measurement is used to conform with International Game Fish Association preferences.

Fishing with guide Nick LaBadie, of Key West, Dougherty was named grand champion angler in the hotly contested tournament.

Acclaimed as among the globe’s most competitive catch-and-release permit challenges, the March Merkin began in 2006 and is hosted by the Lower Keys Guides Association. The nonprofit is an organization of professional fishing guides dedicated to sustainable fisheries management and a flourishing sport-fishing community.

“Most anglers and guides say permit are the hardest fish to catch consistently in the entire Florida Keys island chain, but this is one of the best years of fishing we’ve had in recent history,” said Allison Delashmit, the association’s executive director.

“There were 11 fish caught this year, and our anglers felt fortunate to have this many on the scoreboard,” Delashmit added.

The first runner-up angler was Mike Ward, of Spokane, Washington. Guided by Brandon Cyr, of Key West, Ward released two permit with a combined length of 115 centimeters.

The largest individual permit released during the tournament measured 77 centimeters. It was caught by Jose Ucan, of Punta Allen, Mexico, who was also named the second runner-up angler. Ucan was guided by Justin Rea, of Sugarloaf Key, Florida.

Twenty-four teams of permit enthusiasts fished the 2024 March Merkin.

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1st Runner Up Angler Mike Ward (left) and Guide Brandon Cyr (right)


Largest Permit Guide Justin Rea (left) and Angler Jose Ucan (right)


2nd Runner up Guide (Justin Rea) and Angler Jose Ucan (right)


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