Broward man wins kickoff to months-long Keys fishing tournament

Karl Paganelli shows of his 16-pound, 8-inch mutton snapper, the largest mutton caught in the kickoff.
Karl Paganelli shows of his 16-pound, 8-inch mutton snapper, the largest mutton caught in the kickoff.

Pat Bennett of Weston in Broward County released 31 barracuda and 14 bonefish to take top honors in two divisions of the Key West Fishing Tournament Kickoff 2015 that ended April 5.

The kick-off launched the 50th year of the popular multi-month Key West Fishing Tournament, which celebrates the rich variety of species found in Florida Keys waters.

Fishing on the Outcast with Capt. Tim Carlile of Sugarloaf Key, Bennett scored almost half of the tournament's 78 barracuda releases. Carlile was named the event's outstanding captain.

Other divisional winners included a father-daughter team of tournament veterans that released 14 permit while fishing on the Super Grouper III with Capt. Tyson Veach of Key West.

Laurie Dasher of Los Gatos, Calif., released nine permit while her father Ted Dasher of Birmingham, Ala., added five. Ted Dasher also was recognized for catching the tournament's heaviest blackfin tuna at 21 pounds, 8 ounces.

The father-and-son team of David Stern and Logan Stern of Fort Lauderdale outfished other tarpon contenders for the second consecutive year to win divisional honors. David Stern released six tarpon and Logan Stern contributed three while fishing on the New Horizons with Key West Capt. Bruce Cronin.

Contestants vied to post the most releases in six target species and catch the heaviest fish in nine other species.

Heaviest-catch winners included Karl Paganelli of Sand Lake, Mich., who boated a mutton snapper weighing 16 pounds, 8 ounces while fishing on the Super Grouper I with Capt. Chip Veach of Key West.

Ten-year-old Jaimie Fisher of Key West scored the heaviest catch by a junior angler: A barracuda weighing 21 pounds, 8 ounces. She fished on the Reel Easy with Key West Capt. John Jackson.

Fish caught during the kickoff also qualify for the Key West Fishing Tournament, which runs through Nov. 30 and is open to the general public. Nearly 40 species are targeted during the multimonth challenge, with divisions for men, women, junior anglers (ages 10 to 14) and Pee Wees (under 10 years old).

The kickoff tournament drew 65 anglers. For complete results, visit www.keywestfishingtournament.com.