Sailfish Season Less Than Stellar

Weston Russell poses with a gem of a catch. Because of the lack of cold fronts, sailfish did not concentrate in South Florida waters. (Courtesy of

Cold didn't blow sails into south Florida for annual tournaments

PALM BEACH, Fla. -- South Florida fishermen weren’texpecting the 2012-2013 sailfish season to break records like last season, butmost were expecting it to be better than “woeful.”

The sailfish migration didn’t concentrate this year like itusually does,” said Tony Rizzo, captain of Natural Sportsfishing Charters inStuart, Fla. “I’ve seen years similarly, but not quite as inconsistent as thisone.”

Weston Russell, owner of Reel Intense Fishing Charters inPalm Beach, agreed.

"It’s been a slow season, and since most tournaments’boundary lines end before Ft. Pierce, we haven’t been able to catch many,”Russell said.

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With a less than stellar season almost in the books, somehave worried that the sailfish fishery is in trouble. Tom Twyford, thePresident of the West Palm Beach Fishing Club, thinks that such thoughts areoverreactions, especially when considering the historic averages.

"Sailfishing is a game of timing,” he said. “When the timingof tournaments coincides with a cold front, you will have good numbers. Butthis year, we’ve had very few significant cold fronts.”

The sailfish season, which usually spans from November untilFebruary, with January being the peak, was crippled by the weather. Cold frontscause the fish to concentrate as they swim south. But a mild winter in SouthFlorida kept the sailfish spread out and many remained north.

In West Palm Beach, the Silver Sailfish Derby, which is runby Twyford’s West Palm Beach Fishing Club, has been the baseline for thesailfish season. During the 2011-2012 season, the date for the tournament wasnearly perfect. A cold front pushed through the area and brought the coldesttemperatures of the year.

"We had 46 boats with the best live bait in position tointercept the concentrated sailfish,” said Twyford, noting the result was aworld record catch of 1,174 sailfish.

Twyford believes that “personal perspective” will dictatewhether the 2012-2013 season was just slow or a bust.

The historic catch per boat day average in the SilverSailfish Derby has been between 1.3 and 1.5 sails,” he said. “The catch ratethis year averages out to be 1.4 sails per boat day. So even though it seemslike it was woefully slow fishing this year, it really falls within ourhistoric average.”

The 2012 contest saw 8.5 sails per boat day, and that throwscomparisons out the porthole.

"This year was definitely slow compared to the previous, butthat was a shattering year,” he said.

When sailfish haven’t been biting, which has been the casethus far in the season, “a lot of bottom fish have been biting, like kingmackerel, some yellowtail, and some 30 pound dolphin,” said Tom Schwier,captain of Sail King Fishing Charters in Jupiter.

Mike Mercado, captain of Right Hook Fishing Charters, saidhe’s seen a lot of fish that haven’t been worth keeping.

"There hasn’t been a lot of gamefish biting,” he said.

Strong cold fronts are slated to push through Central andSouth Florida in the coming weeks, something that’s highly anticipatedthroughout the marinas. Every captain is hoping to score big sailfish numbersto make up for the subpar season and to end it on a high note.

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