Outdoors

Offshore Fishing League features fishing as centerpiece

In major league sports, the big-gun acronyms are the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL. Now there’s the OFL.

The Offshore Fishing League — a combination reality TV series and saltwater sport fishing competition — debuted last week at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show. Set for telecast on NBC Sports Network in the summer of 2015, the world’s first professional saltwater fishing league will showcase 30 teams chasing big game in 14 of the world’s best fishing destinations in the Atlantic and Caribbean, including Miami and Key West, according to Carlos Suito, league CEO.

All fish must be tagged and released, and the team with the most points at season’s end will be crowned world champion.

“It will be a new and powerful force for our industry,” said captain Peter B. Wright of Stuart, a world-renowned offshore authority who serves as league commissioner. “We’ll be advocates for captains, anglers and deckhands and even more for the marlin we tag and release.”

A portion of league proceeds will benefit the International Game Fish Association and the Billfish Foundation.

“This is not a competition for the weak of heart,” Billfish Foundation president Ellen Peel said. “It is not only going to test your abilities, but it is going to give back to conservation.”

It is unclear how many teams are on board for the series. Suito said six have registered to compete, but he declined to identify them. He also refused to release the fee for entry. Industry sources put the figure somewhere north of $250,000 with the seasonlong cost of competition about $1.5 million for an average boat 60 feet long.

“First we select who is capable of doing it, then we talk about the cost,” Suito said.

Suito is encouraging team owners to solicit sponsorships from large, mainstream corporations — not just those associated with the marine industry.

Serving as league advisors are four of offshore fishing’s biggest names: IGFA Legendary captains Ron Hamlin, Bark Garnsey and Charles Perry, as well as captain George Sawley. Sam White will be tournament director.

Anyone interested in joining the league can visit www.OFL.com for more information.

BIG 3 SYMPOSIUM

Flats fishing’s big three — bonefish, tarpon and permit — will take center stage at an international symposium and art and film festival Nov. 7-8 in Dania Beach.

The nonprofit Bonefish and Tarpon Trust will host the fifth edition of the science and fishing expo at the IGFA Hall of Fame and Museum. Fisheries researchers from South Florida and around the world will present studies showing what they know and don’t know about three of the most popular species targeted by fly and light-tackle anglers.

“These are species that need some scientific support because they command a multibillion dollar industry, and they are showing signs of wear and tear,” said Jerry Ault, professor of marine biology and fisheries and director of the Tarpon and Bonefish Research Center at the University of Miami.

In addition to the science presentations, some of the region’s most knowledgeable guides will hold panel discussions about their favorite species. There will be fishing clinics conducted by fly and light-tackle standouts captain C.A. Richardson, host of “Flats Class TV,” and world-class fly angler Andy Mill. Enrico Puglisi will demonstrate how to tie flies. South Miami professional wildlife photographer Pat Ford will hold a photo clinic.

Another highlight is a Friday evening art and film festival, including the premiere of World Angling’s short feature, “90 Miles,” about Cuba’s flats fishery. The event will conclude Saturday with a silent auction and banquet.

Admission to daytime sessions is $50; $35 for students; $25 for the art and film festival. The banquet is sold out. For more information, visit www.bonefishtarpontrust.org.

Sue Cocking

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