Two weeks ago I spent the day fishing with team USI and a pair of Miami Dolphins in the Miami Dolphins Foundation Fishing Tournament.
The team caught seven sailfish. Too bad we weren’t fishing for sailfish — those didn’t count. It was an early morning start out of Miami Beach Marina where everyone was waiting to meet their team.
I stood along the docks and shook hands with Brian Hartline and some of the other Dolphins personnel.
It looked like rain but the ocean was calm — not a bad way to start. I didn’t mind the overcast shielding the sun for a few hours. The sun was up and my coffee was gone — it was time to go fishing.
I climbed aboard Wild Life, a 45-foot Hatteras Sportfish. There I met the skipper, Peter Munteanu, and first mate Johnny Vilorio.
Our team consisted of two Dolphins players — receiver Roberto Wallace and cornerback Nolan Carroll. It also included several business professionals — Thomas Uline, Paul Denn, Shawn Franklin and Jay Motsinger.
The tournament allowed you to catch and weigh-in kingfish, dolphin, tuna or wahoo.
So, with smooth seas ahead of we headed out of Government Cut to catch some Blackfin tuna.
The skipper took us several miles out and Vilorio worked like a puppet masters baiting and letting the lines out.
Along the way the players told us some stories about the past years in the tournament.
“I have been coming out to the tournament for the past three years,” Wallace said. “I caught a barracuda last year and the year before. [Nolan] caught a shark.”
Before Vilorio had all the lines in the water I could hear the captain shouting out: “something swirling back there.”
With a loud snap the reel started squealing the rod was bent.
“Fish on,” the first mate shouted.
Franklin grabbed the rod and got into the fight. We knew once the fish jumped several feet out of the water that it was a sail.
About halfway through Franklins fight another rod started screeching.
“We got another one,” Vilorio called out.
Now it was Carroll’s turn and the fish started running right at the start. Now his line had ran-out a few hundred yards and that fish was still fighting. This sailfish was about twice size of the one Franklin had on.
With all of the muscle this corner back had that fish had him flexing to bringing it in.
It took about a 30 minutes for both anglers to bring the sailfish in. From there the first-mate released the leader from the line and let the it swim free.
Most sportsman don’t keep sailfish cause it isn’t a fish that you eat, and it is such a majestic species that we all hope to preserve it.
After that Uline had his chance and caught nice sized bonito — still not a tournament fish.
Still looking to find some blackfin the skippered headed out towards Fowey Rocks.
There wasn’t enough wind for most of the morning to put out the kites, but in the afternoon a small squall had been building up off of the bow.
With the weather stirring up the wind had increased but they still didn’t want to put out the kites in fear that the static in the atmosphere would break the line.
We were still dry but the calm morning had to turned into a rough afternoon.
There was no other choice but ride out the waves and were eventually able to put out the kites.
After the kites were out Motsinger got his chance, and there it was another sailfish.
I had spent most of my life fishing in the Gulf of Mexico for grouper and snapper. I have never had the chance to catch a sailfish myself and when that fish was on I was the running for the rod.
“Pull the rod up and reel on the way down,” Vilorio coached.
So that is exactly what I did until I brought it all the way in about 30 minutes later.
My arm sore my wrist tired but I had a huge smile on my face as I released that beautiful fish.
Just about everyone had their chance to catch a sailfish but no one caught a fish for the tournament weigh-in. I learned something that day that I had probably heard before: A bad day out on the water fishing is better than any day on land.
It was a great day with the players and it was all for a good cause. The tournament had driven in approximately $750 thousand for the local community.