The team fishing aboard Weez in the Keys released three sailfish in the final hour to win the sixth-annual Operation Sailfish tournament out of West Palm Beach, Florida.
The team released 14 sailfish and won $210,000 in the opening leg of the Quest for the Crest sailfish series, held Dec. 8-10 at Sailfish Marina. After the first day of fishing, Capt. Chris ‘Zig’ Zelienski and his crew had 11 releases. The Utopia team tallied release No. 12 just before 1 p.m. on Day Two and bumped Weez in the Keys from the lead. The late push meant Utopia finished second with 13 releases and $75,150 in prize money. The Seraphim team finished third with 13 releases and won $122,180. The Free Bird team finished fourth with 12 releases and Advanced Roofing/Sailsmen finished fifth with 11 releases.
The tournament included 42 teams and started with the “Take a Hero Fishing Day,” where 30 veterans, wounded warriors and active-duty military paired with elite sailfish anglers for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Stephanie Choate, from Miss Britt II, won the tournament’s Top Lady Angler honors for a second year in a row. She released seven sailfish. Weez in the Keys angler Wes Stevens released seven sails to win the Top Male Angler title, and Choate edged Stevens on time to claim the Master Angler award.
The Sailfish 400 is the next leg of the five-event series and will be Jan. 17-21, 2018.