Giant 78.66-Pound King Mackerel Wins SKA Tournament at Key West, FL


KEY WEST, FLORIDA. The nineteenth annual Stock Island Marina Village King Mackerel Tournament promoted by Lee Murray of Murray's Marine and sponsored by Evinrude Outboards, Yellowfin Boats, and Continental Trailers was held January 29th thru the 31st. 72 of the top Kingfish teams in the country participated with some coming from as far away as North Carolina. It was the opening event of the Southern Kingfish Association's (SKA) Mercury Outboards Tournament Trail plus the first event of this year's SKA Mercury Professional Kingfish Tour events, a special series of five tournaments from Key West to North Carolina and west to Biloxi, Mississippi.

"The SKA teams enjoy coming to Key West each year and have never been disappointed in the quality of big fish," explained Murray. "But this year was exceptional!"

As the team's returned to the Stock Island Marina Village weigh in dock Friday afternoon, the large spectator crowd was treated to some trophy catches, none better than that of Charles and Christopher Cone's spectacular catch. "We knew she was a good fish but we had no idea it would be a record catch," said Charles. Weigh master, Bob Flocken needed help to hoist her onto the electronic hanging scale. As the scale settled he bellowed out 78.66 then Jim Butler immediately announced the weight to the large spectator crowd over the PA system as they erupted in amazement. It was a pending world record on twenty pound test line and the biggest fish ever scaled in the 24 year history of SKA competition and 19 years of Murray's event. Needless to say, no one would come close to this weight the rest of the weekend. This was that "once in a lifetime" trophy fish. That fish netted them the $10,000 top prize. Charles is from Newport, North Carolina and son Christopher is the Commander of the Coast Guard station in Key West.

"My son and I ran 40 miles west of Key West," began Charles. "We worked an area from 70' up to 130'. Our first strike acted just like a big Wahoo but ultimately we lost her. It could have been a big King also; we just never got a look at her. The second strike came at ten-thirty. A medium lined goggle eye near the surface did the trick but after the initial 300 yard run and diminished line on the reel, we still couldn't get the rod out of the holder. We never saw this fish either." Charles went on to elaborate, " We finally got the rod out and commenced to gain line. After an intense half hour struggle we had her in our sights but hoisting a big King in the boat was no easy task. When she hit the deck we both could not believe our eyes. We had no idea just how big she was but neither of us had ever seen one that big either. She was a very special fish! I'll never forget this day."

Shortly after the Cones' left the stage the West Palm Beach team, Lost Boys, led by Captain Richard Cook watched as the scale settled at 67.30 for their big fish. "We've been fishing this event for many years," he said. "But this is truly the biggest we've ever caught." They fish a Mercury powered Island Runner and earned second place. John Heiser IV and Mike Schoettle were the teammates.

To put this king mackerel into perspective, only a dozen anglers have ever scaled a fish of this size and in any other King Mackerel event on the SKA Tournament Trail would have certainly captured top honors. King Mackerel in this size range are extremely rare. Tournament entrants certainly understand that coming to Key West in January they have a chance for at a trophy king.

Third place in the event was won by Arik Bergerman's, Under Armour team from St. Petersburg, Florida, scaling a 55.43 "We only had caught a 46 on the first day but knew we could find a stronger leader board fish the next day and we did", he explained. The Mercury powered Yellowfin team of Randy Keys, Seth and Jordan Funt, Jamey Caldwell, and Dan Hamilton also won the first leg of the Mercury Professional Kingfish Tour and its $20,000 top prize. (The SKA's Pro Championship series, unlike most tournaments, is a two-day aggregate event).

Fourth place fell to Keith Powell's team from Mount Pleasant, South Carolina who had a trophy 54.48. Members of the team include Billy Powell, Jason Hogg, Scott Flanders and Phillip Dixon, who fishes a 31' Suzuki powered Prowler, named Low Country Native.

The winner of the Small Boat Division (boats with a waterline length not exceeding 23' 11 inches) was a local team captained by Chris Hall from Key West. They scaled a 51.30 fishing their 24 foot Yamaha powered Speed Craft named Go West.

Spiced Rum III, a 35' Yamaha powered Contender. With Bill Wummer leading the team, picked up fifth after scaling a 53.93 on day two. His team came down to fish from Lake Worth, Florida. Sherri Beswick, one of the top lady anglers in Florida brought the King mackerel to gaff and earned Top Lady Angler honors.

Finally, Jett and Chase Perry on Choppy, a team from Lake Worth, Florida, won the Junior Angler category. They weighed a 48.04.

Key West, Florida is blessed with a unique fishery. From the warm waters of the Gulf Stream to the imaginary line that joins the Atlantic to the Gulf of Mexico and the abundant shallow waters all produce trophy catches and unforgettable memories. Lee Murray's Stock Island Marina Village King Mackerel is but a mere part of that spectacular fishing. Murray added, "We invite you to join us next year for our biggest event ever, our spectacular 20th Anniversary edition of the event!"

Jack Holmes
Holmes Communications