Two Islamorada anglers recorded near-world-record dolphin and bonefish catches recently, angling achievements that un’erscore the Keys¿ continuing vitality as world-class fishing grounds.
Nick Stanczyk, a 16-year-old high school student, caught a 51.5-pound dolphin on fly tackle with 15-pound-test tippet on March 25. The amazing catch, after a 5.5-hour battle, was accomplished on the Catch 22, skippered by Sco’t Stanczyk, Nick’s uncle.
“It’s probably the best catch I ever made,” said Nick Stanczyk, winner of the junior master angler title at both the 1999 and 2000 Metropolitan South Florida Fishing Tournament. “It would be an incredible fish on any tackle, bu’ on a fly rod it’s really s’ecial.”
Stancyk’s catch, on a pilchard-patterned fly, was made about 35 miles south of Islamorada. Although the fish broke the old state record by 13 pounds, according to the International Game Fish Association, it was just two pounds shy of the 53.5-pound world record dolphin caught on fly tackle off Isla Muejeres, Mexico, in 1990 by Rufus Wakeman of Jensen Beach, Fla.
The big bull dolphin was among a half-dozen 30- to 40-pound fish that had schooled behind the Catch 22, said Richa’d Stanczyk, Nick’s father a’d own’r of Bud N¿ Mary’s Fishing Marina in Islamorada.
“We had all six slammers on at once,” Richard Stanczyk’said. “We couldn¿’ chase down Nick’s dolphin, though, until we boated the other fish. It was one heck of a long fight.”
A considerably shorter struggle for a near world record was experienced by Jim Bokor, a veteran bonefish angler who competed in the Islamo’ada Fishing Club’s 2001 bonefish tournament April 4.
Bokor and guide Paul Tejera had just begun their tournament fishing near Shell Key when they spotted a bonefish “mudding,” or feeding, about 200 feet away.
“This fish was really rooting because his whole tail was coming out of the water,” said Bokor, who was using 10-pound-test spinning tackle and a live crab for bait. “Paul got me within 40 feet and I had a crosswind shot (cast) at the fish.
“It was difficult to see the fish because we were against the sun,” Bokor continued. “We were waiting and waiting and all of the sudden the fish tails up where we think the bait is and there is an explosion in the water.”
Bokor said the bonefish took off on a lightning-speed run of 250 to 300 yards. But then it settled down and seven minutes later the fis’ was in the boat’s live well and en route to be weighed and subsequently released.
“We were hoping it would weigh 13 pounds to put us in contention,” Bokor said. “When we weighed it in at 15 pounds 11 ounces, I started screaming and Paul was jumping up and down.”
A radio broadcast to the 31 other tournament participants announcing the big bonefish elicited admissions of defeat from other competitors.
“Many of them radioed back that even though there were more than six hours of fishing remaining, the tournament was over,” Bokor said. “But we went back out, because I figured that if I could get a 15-pound 11-ounce fish that someone could catch a 16-pou’der.”
That didn’t happen, however, and Bokor won grand champion honors in the one-day ‘ournament. Bokor’s fish was just five ounces shy of the world record for 12-pound-test line class, achieved in 1971 when Jerry Lavenstein caught a 16-pound bonefish in Bimini, Bahamas.