Big Kingfish biting in shallow water

Tony DiGiulian, left, Branson Fitzpatrick and his brother Travis with three of the 40-plus-pound kingfish that they caught fishing north of Lake Worth Inlet in the Sailfish Challenge.

(Tony DiGiulian\courtesy / Sun Sentinel)

Steve WatersContact Reporter

There were good numbers of sailfish caught in the Sailfish Challenge last week, but the impressive news for Capt. Tony DiGiulian was the number of big kingfish that were biting.

Wish List had the heaviest fish of the tournament, a 52.1-pound kingfish, which was one of several smoker kings caught by DiGiulian, of Fort Lauderdale, and brothers Travis and Branson Fitzpatrick of Lighthouse Point, who fished on the 37-foot Willis with Capt. J.P. Wolf.

The big king, which Travis caught, won the kingfish division, worth $1,000, plus another $15,660 as the heaviest fish in the value-added Big Fish Bonanza.

"None of us has ever seen a bite like that," DiGiulian said. "We caught one after the other. Every single fish was 40-plus pounds.

"The reports are there's big kings from Haulover Inlet to Jupiter, and everything's been in 50 feet or less."

Boats were allowed to fish out of Government Cut, Hillsboro Inlet or Lake Worth Inlet. Wish List kite-fished with goggle-eyes and threadfin herring a few miles north of Lake Worth Inlet and caught all the kingfish no deeper than 90 feet, with most of the bites coming in 45-55 feet. The anglers also caught a couple of sailfish, one as shallow as 37 feet.

On Friday, Wish List had a big king of 51.8 pounds. The 52.1 was hooked at 1 p.m. Saturday and landed in about 15 minutes using 20-pound line.

"Travis was on fire all day long, he never missed a fish," said DiGiulian, noting that they were using circle hooks and three-foot wire leaders connected by swivels to monofilament leaders. "A big king can easily swallow all three feet of that leader, so you have to be on it, otherwise it'll chop off the line at the mono connection."

DiGiulian said he and his teammates got information on where to fish from some friends and also used satellite imagery to find temperature breaks and clean water. The fish they caught were inside the breaks, which is not unusual.

Allowed to have seven lines in the water, DiGiulian said it was apparent the kingfish preferred kite baits, which swim at or just under the surface. So he and the Fitzpatricks changed from four kite lines and three flat lines to six kite lines and one flat. All the kingfish they caught were sent to a smokehouse that will provide chunks of smoked kingfish as well as smoked fish dip.

Kraken had the big dolphin at 43.2, Keri-N-On had the heaviest cobia at 34.3 and South Florida Boat Center had the biggest tuna at 19.

Jichi won the sailfish part of the tournament with a total of 18 releases, 11 of them the first day, to take home $163,460.

Sandman was second with 13 releases to win $44,000. Fish Tales was third on time with 13 fish, nine of them on Saturday, to win $66,190. Seraphim was fourth with 12 and Lions Den was fifth with 11.

Bass results: Josh Welks and Anthony Parrillo caught 16.8 pounds Sunday to win the Bass-N-Fools club tournament on Lake Okeechobee out of Clewiston. Paul D'arcy and George Williams were second at 16.57, followed by Mark Escobar and Greg Moule at 13.33, Doug Browning and Greg Branom at 11.53 and Chase Cooney and Chris Parrillo at 11.06. Dan Stubbs had the big bass at 8.83.

Billfish tournament: The Fort Lauderdale Billfish Tournament is Saturday out of Bahia Mar Marina. Owned by the Marine Industries Association of South Florida, the tournament will benefit the Marine Industry Cares Foundation, which helps children and families in need. The captains meeting and kickoff party are Thursday at the Captain's Lounge at Bahia Mar. Entry fee for the family fun division is $500 and $1,000 for the big boat billfish division. For information email or visit

Fishing seminar: The Salt Water Sportsman National Seminar Series is 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday at the Port St. Lucie Civic Center in Port St. Lucie. Topics include fishing for everything from snook, redfish, sea trout and tarpon to cobia, snapper, dolphin and kingfish. Tickets are $55 and available by calling 800-448-7360 or online at

Waterway Cleanup: The Marine Industries Association of South Florida and the Marine Industry Cares Foundation have the 39th Broward County Waterway Cleanup from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. March 5 at 35 sites. Last year, almost 2,000 volunteers removed 17 tons of trash and debris from local waters.

Volunteers can pre-register and can take part on land, boats, kayaks and paddleboards. After the event, participants can attend the Trash Bash at Briny Irish Pub in Fort Lauderdale, where there will be food, beverages, live music and raffles.

A list of sites and registration information is available at There are also scholarships and community service hours available to middle- and high-school students as well as patches for Scouts who participate.

Billfish tournament: The Jimmy Johnson Billfish Tournament, with a guaranteed general entry purse of $100,000, is March 9-12 out of JJ's Big Chill Restaurant in Key Largo. The event kicks off with JJ's Celebrity Pro-Am from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on March 10, with a private celebrity celebration for Pro-Am participants March 9, followed by the kickoff party. The Billfish Championship is March 11-12 and JJ's Sportfish Championship is March 12. Anglers can participate in one, two or all three tournaments. Visit or Twitter @WatersOutdoors

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