Staring at the limestone wall surrounding Windley Key State Park in Islamorada, I can make out polyps of brain coral, tunnels dug by worms, and the filigree of sea fans– all while standing on dry …
Blazing Mako Lights Up the Night Sky in Islamorada
By Sue Cocking, Guy Harvey Outpost Travel Journalist
The Blazing Mako Tournament & Festival Father’s Day weekend at the Islander Resort, a Guy Harvey Outpost in Islamorada, celebrated a series of firsts:
– a 30-foot sculpture of a mako shark fashioned of rebar was set on fire on the beach;
-attendees were treated to an art show featuring all sorts of original works in various media;
– the 20-year veteran conservation biologist who heads the Guy Harvey Research Institute entered his first fishing tournament– and won;
–a 16-year-old caught and released his first tarpon in the same tournament–and won; And on and on.
The event’s primary goal was to raise money for scholarships for students at the Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography at Nova Southeastern University whose mascot is the mako shark. The scholarship recipients were hard at work as volunteers at the event. But everyone had a lot of fun along the way.
Dr. Mahmood Shivji–head of the Guy Harvey Research Institute at Nova–competed in the offshore division of the Blazing Mako Fishing Tournament aboard the very fast, very capable Advanced Roofing 39-foot center console. Running and gunning far offshore, the team encountered so many dolphin fish, according to Shivji, that they exclusively targeted the big ones. Shivji caught the contest’s largest — a 26.6-pounder. The crew caught two more, plus a 14-pound tuna for Bill Workman. Advanced Roofing won $10,000 for top boat.
“My first tournament!” Shivji said. “Terrific fun, a really good experience for me. Most of my time is spent catching and tagging sharks–no tournament fishing at all. These guys are amazing. All credit goes to them.”
The father-and-son team of Chip and Dan Lafferty of Hill/York, fishing the Everglades National Park back country with Captain Mike Haines, took the runner-up spot with a tarpon and five redfish. Dan, age 16, released the tarpon– his first– estimated at 50 pounds.
Said Dan: “It was awesome!”
Taking third place was Stu’s Crew, with International Game Fish Association Hall of Famer Stu Apte, Captain Steve Thomas, and me. Fishing in the ‘Glades back country, I released three snook–two on a chugger and one on a jig. The only reason I got to join the team was that the angler who bid $1,500 to fish with Apte and Thomas was forced to drop out at the last minute. So — lucky for me and what fun! We donated our prizes of a King Sailfish trophy and Guy Harvey print to the trophy room at the Islander.
About the time the prize-giving wrapped up on the beach, artist Pasta Pantaleo’s metal mako sculpture, stuffed with palm fronds and other flammables, was set on fire under the watchful eyes of members of the fire department. Several hundred festival goers rushed over to the roped-off scene and shot photos and videos with their smart phones. The Shane Duncan Band provided the live soundtrack as the blaze slowly burned out and left the metal framework intact. Pantaleo said he and the Islander plan to share custody of the sculpture and present it at special events around town.
Fifty artists displayed works including wall hangings made from spent shell casings recovered from the Everglades; fine art/photography; marine artwork; metal sculptures; fish crafted from palm fronds; hand-made jewelry and linens; guitars and banjos strung on recycled gas cans; clothing; and more. They visited booths staffed by ten non-profit groups that rescue stray animals; restore coral reefs in the Keys; care for injured birds and sea turtles; clean up the Everglades and conduct ocean research. They sampled several different brands of rum at the Rum Village and bid on jewelry, trips, hotel/golf/spa packages, family events, artwork, club level concert tickets, marine electronics, charter packages, fishing rods, restaurant certificates, signed memorabilia, and more in a silent auction. The auction alone raised almost $11,000! Kids caught fish and won trophies in a contest on the Islander pier and anglers got tips from several local experts at a fishing seminar at the nearby Angler House.
Too bad the party had to end. Here’s to the next Guy Harvey Outpost Bonfire Series event! Visit www.guyharveyoutpost.com for future events!
Sue Cocking chronicles the Guy Harvey Outpost travel and adventure experience in regular blog posts on GuyHarveyOutpostNews.com/. For 21 years, Cocking covered the full spectrum of outdoors adventure opportunities in South Florida and beyond for the Miami Herald, including fishing, diving, hunting, paddling, camping, sailing and powerboat racing. She is a certified scuba diver and holder of an IGFA women’s world fly fishing record for a 29-pound permit.
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