A Canadian man and a local lady angler teamed up with five releases of sails to win Capt. Al Flutie’s 24th Over-the-Hill Rip-Off Sailfish Tournament, Jan. 21-22, in a one-day Atlantic Ocean catch and release fishing event, benefiting two Florida Keys charities.
With their first place finish Darrell Choronzey of Ridgeway, Ontario and Katie Bajnalc, of Islamorada, were the recipients of the tournament’s Michelle Snyder Overall Grand Champion Trophy. They were guided by Capt. Scott Stanczyk and mates Hunter Barron and Jeff Peltin on the Catch 22 from Bud ‘N Mary’s Marina in Islamorada.
The popular tournament drew 28 boats with 74 anglers – 25 of them from out of the state or country and from as far away as Kosovo and France. There were 61 hookups with 37 releases at the boats and two sailfish tagged for scientific research.
Second place went to anglers Jack Long, Hyatt, Md., Andy Wold, Manitowoc, Wisc., and Craig Lindback, Tavernier, who with Capt. Roy Lindback and mate Spanky on the Tiki, had three releases. They beat third place winners Bill and Teresa Hendrix of Islamorada and Kathy and Joe Hendrix of Homestead on time also with three releases fishing on the Fearless, with Capt. Joey Hendrix and mate Jimmy Hendrix.
Catching and releasing the most fish for the High Point Angler was Paul Varney, Key Largo with three releases fishing on The Reel Job.
The reception, awards, live and silent auctions and dinner for the historic seniors’ competition was held at Gary Dunn’s Ocean View Inn (MM 84.5 bayside). Anyone can participate but only those 50 years and older were eligible for trophies and prizes.
Flutie, a popular Keys guide and radio fishing show host along with Dick Sheppard, Socko Gorenflo and Rip Tosun, began the competition to help those in need in the island chain and a quarter century later it’s still the only senior’s sailfish tournament in the world. Today, it benefits two very worthy causes; MARC the Monroe Association of ReMARCable Citizens of the Keys and the Redbone celebrity tournaments for cystic fibrosis cure research.
“It’s a very important local charity event that unites the community,” said Capt. Gary Ellis of the now 25-year old Redbone series. “Though the Redbone has grown internationally CF is a disease that has a face here in the Keys. It’s a great coming together of two charities appealing to a group of dedicated fishermen. These over 50 guys are hardcore,” laughed Ellis. “And it’s to the point each year that they are on point waiting for this event.”