Bob Moller of Long Island, N.Y., and Ron Williams of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., took top honors at the 17th annual Swamp Guides Ball fishing tournament.
Guided by Islamorada’s Captain Lonnie Shaw, the team released one bonefish, four redfish and one snook to win the one-day team competition by a single fish.
The first runner-up award went to the team of Mark Cockerham of Islamorada and Captain Mark Gilman of Tavernier, Fla. They scored with two bonefish, two redfish and one snook.
Second runner-up was the team of Chris Gutierrez of Cooper City, Fla., and 14-year-old Austin Accursio of Homestead, Fla. Accursio earned top honors for releasing the most bonefish, winning on time. The two bonefish Accursio released were the first two he had ever caught.
Accursio hadn’t even planned on participating in the competition. He was in the Keys with two friends from Homestead who were fishing in the tournament, and went to the dock to see his friends off.
An hour before the 7 a.m. shotgun start, Gutierrez learned his teammate was ill and couldn’t fish. He found Accursio alone on the dock and invited the young man to be his teammate.
Paul DiMaura of Islamorada took top honors for catching the most redfish. Renny Scheerer of Key Largo, Fla., won for most snook.
Seventy-three two-angler teams released seven bonefish, 48 redfish and 85 snook that met the tournament’s 20-inch minimum length requirement. Tournament anglers reported releasing hundreds of redfish in the 14- to 19-inch range. Though too small to be counted for points in the tournament, these fish should grow to “legal” size by next year, promising a strong redfish fishery in the Keys.
The tournament and accompanying silent auction benefit the Don Hawley Foundation, which helps Florida Keys backcountry guides in times of need.