Former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, a two-time Super Bowl winner, didn’t win any prizes in Saturday’s UM Sports Hall of Fame Celebrity Dolphin Tournament in Islamorada. But you couldn’t tell it from the cheers that erupted and the flashes of cellphone cameras as the star former UM linebacker helped weigh seven dolphin to 31 pounds caught by his fishing team aboard the Tropicat.
“I wanted to come back and share with my brothers the importance of fellowship,” Lewis said. “It isn’t hard to bring me back home. We have a special knit family. This trip only bonds us closer.”
More than 60 former Hurricanes star athletes — including Warren Sapp, Ted Hendricks, Gino Torretta, Randal Hill, Melvin Bratton, Michael Irvin and Brett Romberg — were spread among the fleet of more than 90 boats gathered to fish, party and raise money for the UM Hall of Fame, as well as the Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis and Habitat for Humanity of the Upper Keys. Lewis got to fish with his son Ray III, 18, who will play for the Hurricanes this fall. Both caught dolphin in the 20-pound class Saturday, and the father delighted in coaching his son.
“Come on, now, reel down and come up,” the senior Lewis directed. “You can do it, baby.”
The Tropicat’s fishing day was pretty slow until the last half-hour of the tournament when first mate Mario Valladares used binoculars to spot a small flock of sooty terns hovering in about 850 feet of water.
Captain Fritz Herman, standing high in the boat’s tuna tower, steered toward the birds and spotted a cruising bull dolphin beneath them. Herman directed Valladares where to pitch a live cigar minnow, and the fish ate it without hesitation. At least a dozen more dolphin of similar size appeared in the area, and most of the members of the Tropicat crew got to land fish.
“I like the ambience of it,” the elder Lewis said of offshore fishing. “It teaches you so much patience.”
The five-person team on A Salt Weapon took the top prize of $3,000 for a dolphin weighing 43.6 pounds caught by Michael Vera of Miami. Vera pitched a ballyhoo to the winning fish in 1,000 feet of water off Islamorada.
Following the tournament, anglers attended an awards dinner and auction at the Postcard Inn Beach Resort & Marina.