Sailfish Season Less Than Stellar
Cold didn't blow sails into south Florida for annual tournaments
PALM BEACH, Fla. -- South Florida fishermen weren’t
expecting the 2012-2013 sailfish season to break records like last season, but
most were expecting it to be better than “woeful.”
The sailfish migration didn’t concentrate this year like it
usually does,” said Tony Rizzo, captain of Natural Sportsfishing Charters in
Stuart, Fla. “I’ve seen years similarly, but not quite as inconsistent as this
Weston Russell, owner of Reel Intense Fishing Charters in
Palm Beach, agreed.
"It’s been a slow season, and since most tournaments’
boundary lines end before Ft. Pierce, we haven’t been able to catch many,”
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With a less than stellar season almost in the books, some
have worried that the sailfish fishery is in trouble. Tom Twyford, the
President of the West Palm Beach Fishing Club, thinks that such thoughts are
overreactions, especially when considering the historic averages.
"Sailfishing is a game of timing,” he said. “When the timing
of tournaments coincides with a cold front, you will have good numbers. But
this year, we’ve had very few significant cold fronts.”
The sailfish season, which usually spans from November until
February, with January being the peak, was crippled by the weather. Cold fronts
cause the fish to concentrate as they swim south. But a mild winter in South
Florida kept the sailfish spread out and many remained north.
In West Palm Beach, the Silver Sailfish Derby, which is run
by Twyford’s West Palm Beach Fishing Club, has been the baseline for the
sailfish season. During the 2011-2012 season, the date for the tournament was
nearly perfect. A cold front pushed through the area and brought the coldest
temperatures of the year.
"We had 46 boats with the best live bait in position to
intercept the concentrated sailfish,” said Twyford, noting the result was a
world record catch of 1,174 sailfish.
Twyford believes that “personal perspective” will dictate
whether the 2012-2013 season was just slow or a bust.
The historic catch per boat day average in the Silver
Sailfish Derby has been between 1.3 and 1.5 sails,” he said. “The catch rate
this year averages out to be 1.4 sails per boat day. So even though it seems
like it was woefully slow fishing this year, it really falls within our
The 2012 contest saw 8.5 sails per boat day, and that throws
comparisons out the porthole.
"This year was definitely slow compared to the previous, but
that was a shattering year,” he said.
When sailfish haven’t been biting, which has been the case
thus far in the season, “a lot of bottom fish have been biting, like king
mackerel, some yellowtail, and some 30 pound dolphin,” said Tom Schwier,
captain of Sail King Fishing Charters in Jupiter.
Mike Mercado, captain of Right Hook Fishing Charters, said
he’s seen a lot of fish that haven’t been worth keeping.
"There hasn’t been a lot of gamefish biting,” he said.
Strong cold fronts are slated to push through Central and
South Florida in the coming weeks, something that’s highly anticipated
throughout the marinas. Every captain is hoping to score big sailfish numbers
to make up for the subpar season and to end it on a high note.