KEY WEST, Florida Keys — Anglers are to seek top catches in 15 species in the Key West Fishing Tournament's Kickoff 2017, presented by Dream Catcher Charters and set for Friday through Sunday, April 7-9.
The kickoff offers $5,000 in cash prizes to be split between the winning anglers. Participants are to vie for cash awards for catching the heaviest mutton snapper, dolphin fish, cobia, kingfish, wahoo, mackerel, blackfin tuna, mangrove snapper and grunt. Other cash awards recognize the most releases of tarpon, permit, bonefish, barracuda, marlin and sailfish.
Anglers under age 15 can vie for heaviest catch honors in the tournament's junior division.
Registered anglers also can compete in the yellowtail snapper division for an additional entry fee.
The kickoff's final registration is set for 6-8 p.m. Friday, April 7, at the VFW Post 3911, 2200 N. Roosevelt Blvd. The location was a favorite of the late Captain Gainey Maxwell, who founded the Key West Fishing Tournament in 1965.
Lines are to be in the water the following two days from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
An awards dinner is scheduled at 7 p.m. Sunday, April 9, at the VFW Post.
The entry fee is $250 per boat for up to six anglers, and includes two social passes for the awards dinner. Yellowtail division entry is an additional $50 per boat. Additional passes for the awards dinner are $30 per person.
Entries in the kickoff also qualify for the 52nd annual Key West Fishing Tournament, which runs through Nov. 30, 2017, and is open to the general public.
Nearly 40 species of fish are targeted during the Key West Fishing Tournament, with divisions for men, women, junior anglers (ages 10 through 14) and PeeWees (under 10 years old). Visiting and resident fishing aficionados are invited to enter their catches, at no charge, at a tournament weigh station during the event.
The Key West Fishing Tournament strongly encourages the release of all game fish and will not recognize killed sailfish, marlin, spearfish, tarpon or sharks for award purposes.
All participating anglers receive certificates noting their catches and qualify for a variety of prizes.
Event information and registration: keywestfishingtournament.com
Key West visitor information: fla-keys.com/keywest or 1-800-LAST-KEY
Florida Keys fishing information: fla-keys.com/fishing
Matt Paganelli shows off one of his snapper catches in the 2016 challenge.