A fleet of 29 boats competed for two days to catch the heaviest fish in the fifth Wahoo Smackdown out of the Bimini Big Game Club on Friday and Saturday the Bahamas, with the six-man Broward County team on Cash Out taking the $10,000 prize with a 47.3-pounder.
But on Thursday, one day before the contest opened, Boca Raton angler Michael Ghanem, who wasn’t even signed up for the tournament, reeled in a new Bimini record of 122 pounds aboard his 65-foot sportfishing yacht Enigma. Ghanem is a car dealer (michaelghanem.com).
Enigma captain Brian Greik said the boat was “screaming down the edge at 15 knots” — referring to high-speed trolling the Bahama Bank south of Bimini — when they hooked the fish on a blue-and-pink Ilander lure.
The fish won’t be eligible for any IGFA world records because it was caught using an electric reel, but the news galvanized the Smackdown fleet, all of whom longed to catch a wahoo that size or larger.
But it didn’t happen.
Captain Jimmy Wickett on the Cash Out said his 46-foot HydraSport motored more than 100 miles one way to Cay Sal Bank on Saturday where they encountered their winning fish.
It hit a trolled green-and-black Andy Moyes lure, according to crew member R.J. “Bobby” Boyle.
“We caught it in the first two minutes, and it was the only real wahoo bite we had,” Wickett said. “It was slow — but it was good enough.”
The crew of Island Runner, skippered by Joe Slobodian of Jacksonville, caught the second-largest fish, a 46.1-pounder reeled in by boat owner Doug Williams of Atlanta.
A junior angler, William Thomas, 14, of Orlando, caught the third-place fish, a 45.4-pounder, aboard Fishing Alone.
Spiny lobster, barracuda and noise suppressors on hunters’ guns highlight the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission meeting Thursday and Friday in Key Largo.
Commissioners will be asked whether they want to proceed with drafting rules that would allow commercial divers to harvest lobsters using casitas — underwater structures that congregate the creatures. Commission staffers advise against permitting the gear because of jurisdictional hurdles with the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, Florida Department of Environmental Protection and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Commissioners will also be asked to decide whether to lift a moratorium on issuing new commercial dive endorsements, which is set to expire next summer.
Staffers suggest keeping the freeze in place but allowing divers to transfer existing permits.
Also on the agenda Thursday is a proposal to regulate the harvest of barracuda in Florida waters. Currently, the state has no regulations specific to barracuda, and anglers and guides said they have noticed a decline in the species in the Keys and elsewhere in Southeast Florida. Commissioners are expected to decide whether to hold public workshops on the issue, then proceed with rule making.
The commission is set to make a final decision on allowing noise suppressors on rifles and pistols used to hunt deer, wild turkeys, squirrels, rabbits and quail on public and private lands.
The panel gave the measure the preliminary green light at a meeting last summer in Kissimmee.
The meeting will be at the Hilton Key Largo, 97000 Overseas Highway.
Meanwhile, to encourage more young people to get outdoors, Gov. Rick Scott last week issued an executive order that lowers dramatically the cost of a lifetime sportsman’s license for children and young adults.
From Nov.24 through Dec.31, the license will be reduced from about $1,000 to $500 for Florida residents ages 5 to 21. The license covers freshwater and saltwater fishing, hunting and associated permits.
It’s available at county tax collectors’ offices, and online at License.MyFWC.com or by calling 888-FISH-FLORIDA.