Miami Dolphins’ Finsweekend fishing tournament back for more fun, charity

Miami Dolphins defensive end Olivier Vernon (back row, second from left) is pictured during the Fins Weekend Fishing Tournament.
Miami Dolphins defensive end Olivier Vernon (back row, second from left) is pictured during the Fins Weekend Fishing Tournament. Miami Dolphins

Over the course of 19 years the Finsweekend Fishing Tournament has brought together many professional players, anglers and fans for a fun day of fishing while raising funds for the local community.

While this fun fish tournament is a charitable event, it is also the first time a lot of the players are introduced to the world of sport fishing.

“A lot of times these guys have never experienced anything like this. They get out there on that blue water off of Miami and they are catching these big ’ol pelagic fish, and a lot of times they are only used to catching largemouth bass,” said Terry Claus Jr., captain of Qualifier. “They get on these boats, and they are seeing big tunas, sails and kings, and their eyes get all big when they see this stuff.

“It makes it exciting when you can expose someone like that — it is rewarding. We love being able to introduce the players to fishing, and they are catching some of the biggest fish they have ever caught. It shows them that there are no timeouts in fishing. One time I had Mean Joe Greene out with us; he wanted to call a timeout and I told him, ‘Joe, there are no timeouts, keeping fighting that fish, the clock is ticking.’ ”

A lot of big names from the Dolphins roster and coaching staff have participated in the event over the years.

“We have had players who have gone out and had great days. I can name many players who went out and caught their first sailfish with us; Ryan Tannehill is one. It is a fun day out,” tournament chairman Jeff Peck said. “If I go back to the very beginning, we had a Bimni start and the person who was working from the Dolphins side running the tournament and they didn’t know what a ‘Bimni start’ was.

“So at 8 o’clock all of the players were standing on the dock waiting to see where they were going out. So we loaded up Jack Nicklaus’ — Gary Nicklaus was my coach there at the time — 80-foot sportsfish the Sea Bear. So we loaded up about 20 players and ran them out to the other boats who were in the Bimni start. Most of the boats were smaller boats and some of the players didn’t want to get off after being on the 80-foot boat. Fortunately, it was a calm day, and we were able to get everyone transferred to the other boats.”

Peck talked about the mentality of the tournament: “About 10 years ago we were fishing in mid-June, and we had the first tropical storm of the season come in and we had to cancel fishing; it wasn’t safe to send the boats outs. So we pulled out a big wheel. On it we put different species and different weights. We had everyone spend the wheel for their catch. Not one person complained and not person asked for their money back. They came out and had a good time. It is about giving back to the charity.”

The foundation has recently partnered with City Year Miami to provide $1 million over the next four years to help provide educational support to local youths in the Miami Gardens area at Norland and Carol City High Schools.

“We want our kids to graduate; that is what we want to accomplish. We have already proven with City Year that graduation rates have improved by 14 percent,” Dolphins alumnus and current director of community affairs Twan Russell said.

The Miami Dolphins Foundation Finsweekend sponsored by Estrella Insurance kicks off with a golf tournament on Friday and is highlighted by the Hook and Tackle Captains Party at Miami Beach Marina, where there will be trips, memorabilia and more being auctioned off to support the foundation.

The weigh-ins are open to the public and will be held dockside at the Miami Beach Marina from 3-4:30 on Saturday.

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