Key West sports $250,000 Marlin Grand Prize

KEY WEST, Fla.A marlin tournament in the spirit of legendary angler Ernest Hemingway, who fished Key West waters for more than a decade, is scheduled for Wednesday through Saturday, July 1619, with a legendary prize at stake.

Anglers in the Drambuie Key West Marlin Tournament are to compete for a cash purse of more than $250,000. The tournament takes place in conjunction with Key West's Hemingway Days celebration, held each July to honor the legacy of the literary giant.

Anglers fishing on the tournament's first 75 registered boats can compete for a guaranteed $100,000 for the heaviest marlin weighed in at more than 784 pounds, and a guaranteed $100,000 for the heaviest dolphin weighing more than 62 pounds.

Teams can win substantial cash prizes for accumulating the most points for blue marlin, white marlin and spearfish. The first-place team earns $25,000, while second- and third-place prizes are $10,000 and $5,000, respectively. Teams also can enter one fun fish (dolphin, tuna, wahoo or released sailfish) per boat per day to add to their point total.

All marlin must be tagged and released unless their weight exceeds 600 pounds.

Boats entered in the marlin division can pay an additional fee to compete for $10,000 cash to be awarded in the fun fish division. Cash prizes are to be presented for the three heaviest dolphin, three heaviest tuna (yellowfin, blackfin and skipjack) and three heaviest wahoo.

The Key West Marlin Tournament is to kick off with Mote Marine Laboratory's blessing of the living coral reef that parallels the Florida Keys. The Florida-based marine research organization is the tournament's nonprofit beneficiary. It operates a Tropical Research Lab on Summerland Key and recently debuted its Living Reef Exhibit at the Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center in Key West.

The blessing of the reef is scheduled to begin at noon on Wednesday, July 16, at Conch Republic Seafood Co. at 631 Greene St. The public is invited to participate and travel to the reef on a glass-bottom boat. Cost is to be determined.

Final registration is set for 46 p.m. Wednesday at the same location. A captains' meeting begins at 6 p.m. with a tournament auction and raffle to follow.

Lines are to be in the water from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday and Friday, July 17 and 18, and from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, July 19. Weigh-ins are scheduled for 46:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday and 35 p.m. Saturday at the Conch Republic Seafood docks.

Thursday's weigh-in is to be followed by a 6:30 p.m. cocktail party and island pig roast at the Doubletree Grand Key Resort, 3990 S. Roosevelt Blvd. Following Friday's weigh-in, anglers can enjoy 6:30 p.m. dockside cocktails and a fish fry at the Conch Republic Seafood Co.

In addition, a gala benefit cocktail party and celebrity dinner are being planned Friday night in support of Mote Marine Laboratory. A separate ticket is required for this charity event.

The tournament awards banquet is scheduled for Saturday, July 19, at Beachside Resort & Conference Center, 3841 N. Roosevelt Blvd. Cocktails and a silent auction are to begin at 6:30 p.m., with dinner and awards presentations starting at 7:30 p.m.

Tournament entry fees are $1,500 per boat before June 15 and $1,800 per boat after that date for two anglers to compete in the marlin division and attend tournament social events. Marlin division competitors can qualify for cash prizes in the fun fish division for an extra $300 entry fee per boat.

There is no maximum number of anglers per boat, and additional anglers over two can register for $200 apiece, which includes social privileges. Additional social tickets can be purchased for $150 each.

For more information and registration, visit www.KeyWestMarlin.com, call (305) 292-2710 or e-mail scott.greene@KeyWestMarlin.com.

For lodging information in Key West, contact the Key West Chamber of Commerce at 1-800-LAST-KEY (800-527-8539) or visit the Keys Web site at www.fla-keys.com.