Fishing in the historic Silver Sailfish Derby is more than just another trip offshore. The two-day tournament off Florida’s Palm Beaches is where crews have a chance to experience sailfishing nostalgia. A sold-out 50-boat fleet celebrated this crown jewel of sport fishing in early January, competing with the same passion that so many past participants before them brought to the fishery throughout the tournament’s storied history. Anglers have to capitalize on every bite to have a shot at winning the Derby.
When the tournament started in 1935, the fleet didn’t go far to start fishing and would set up soon after clearing Lake Worth Inlet, and that’s exactly where the team on Priceless won the 86th running of the world’s oldest sailfish tournament.
A total of 223 Atlantic sailfish were released over the duration of the 2023 Derby; five of those sails were tagged. Calm conditions offshore on the first day weren’t ideally suited to spark a productive bite, but when some of the finest captains and crews take to the water at the same time, sailfish will be caught.
Capt. John Galvin and the team on El Diablo, a 72-foot Viking, made a splash among the competitive sailfishing crowd, taking top daily boat honors on Day One with five releases. All five of El Diablo’s fish were caught by angler Dylan Torey, and he would earn the title of top angler in the 2023 Derby. This honor is awarded with the Mrs. Henry R. Rea trophy, a magnificent silver sailfish sculpture that dates back to the event’s origin in 1935 and is sponsored by Elizabeth Richebourg Rea of Connecticut.
The second and final day of the Derby would produce 21 more fish than the previous day. A cold front pushed through that night and the wind picked up, blowing out of the north—it just felt like sailfish season. When the weather makes drastic changes from one day to the next, there is opportunity for teams to go from zero to hero by adapting to new conditions offshore. Capt. Nick Carullo and the Goombay Smash team, fishing on a 39-foot Front Runner, had just one fish the first day. Their goal for Day Two was to close the gap and make a comeback; they would do just that. Goombay Smash didn’t win it all, but seven releases on the final day of fishing was good for second place with eight total releases.
While the boats get bigger and faster with each passing season, sometimes it doesn’t always take a big move to the boundary line to find sailfish. Anyone who has spent time fishing off the Palm Beaches knows that there’s plenty of opportunity right out front. Capt. Jorge Sanchez and the Priceless team, fishing on a 48-foot Viking, are no strangers to the Silver Sailfish Derby. Hailing from Coral Gables, Florida, the crew have frequented this historic tournament in recent years. Priceless was off to a cold start on Day One but ended with a hard push for the finish line that afternoon, releasing four after lunchtime. Despite the change in conditions, the team picked up right where they left off on Day Two, firing on all cylinders to start the second and final day of fishing. They landed 10 sailfish that morning and two more in the afternoon before the 4 p.m. call for lines out. It would be enough to claim their spot in the history books as the winners of the 86th-annual Silver Sailfish Derby with a total of 16 sailfish releases in two days.
Capt. Brian Komer and the BeachKomer team took home top small-boat honors with six releases aboard their 29-foot SeaVee. This was the smallest boat in the fleet, making this achievement that much more impressive.
The top lady angler trophy is sponsored by the Hampp family of New Jersey in memory of Rose Hampp, who won the honor in the 1957 Derby, along with many other awards throughout her accomplished angling career. Tatiana Usova was awarded the trophy this year, releasing four sails aboard the 46-foot Release Boatworks Charlie. Another lady angler, 14-year-old Myla Alligood, was named top junior angler. She released three sailfish aboard the 76-foot Viking Just Chillin’. Alligood has now earned this honor for the second year in row.