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Pete Johnson

From left to right David Chouinard announcing, Dr. Lloyd Wruble, Chairman of the Herman Lucerne Memorial; winning Captain Jared Raskob, who guided Frank Delucas the tournament’s grand champion angler to seven species of fish, and trophy artist David Wirth.

ISLAMORADA, In the Florida Keys —  Frank Delucas, Plantation, Fla., a first time participant in the Herman Lucerne tournament but no stranger to Florida Keys backcountry fishing, won the 17th annual two-day event, as the only angler to catch all seven required saltwater species.

The unique competition, which attracted 118 anglers and 70 teams from 16 states, is a challenging two-day, “catch and release” event that is now the largest backcountry fishing contest in the Keys. The Islander, a Guy Harvey Resort, served as the event headquarters.

The seven species were snook, snapper, redfish, trout, bonefish, tarpon, and black drum or a black bass from one of the Everglades interior freshwater lakes. Anglers used bait, artificial or fly tackle, and could be guided or unguided. Men and women anglers of all age levels competed including a youth division for youngsters under 10, and juniors 16 and under.

Delucas, was guided by Islamorada Capt. Jared Raskob who won the top guide title.

Other first place winners included:

  • Robert Collins, Islamorada, Top Male/Guided – 6 species;
  • Paul Ross, 16, Islamorada, Top Male and Top Junior/Unguided – 5 species;
  • Betsy Bullard, Islamorada, Top Female/Guided – 5 species;
  • Stephanie Parsons, Naples, Top Female/Unguided – 6 species;
  • Ray Fernandez, 14, Miami, Top Junior/Guided – 4 species;
  • Blaise Walczak, Naples, Top Youth Angler under 10 – 4 species;
  • Brian Gwilliam, Islamorada & Mitch Gaither, Mills River, NC, Top Guided Team – 7 species;
  • Stephanie and Gary Parsons, Naples, Top Unguided Team — 6 species
  • Capt. Mark Gillman, Islamorada, Top Hell’s Bay Guide

Anglers releasing the largest species:

  • Bass, Scott Cohen, Miami,  19”
  • Blackdrum, Steve Tartarchuk, Ft. Collins, CO, 30.5”
  • Bonefish, Rob Talford, Naples, 24”
  • Redfish, Jon Robertson, Naples, 33.5″
  • Snapper, Mike Venezla, Islamorada, 18″
  • Snook, James Lytle, Orlando, 35.5″
  • Tarpon, Mike Holliday, Stuart, Fla., 59″
  • Trout, Tim Wallace, Ft. Myers, Fla., 23″

Top Division Grand Champions (# species)

  • Fly guided, Markham Cronin, Coral Gables, FL (5)
  • Fly unguided, Paul Ross (3)
  • Artificial guided, Andre Serafini, Miami (5)
  • Artificial unguided, Scott Cohen, (5)
  • General guided, Rob Talford, (5)
  • General unguided, Paul Ross, (3)
  • Hell’s Bay guided angler, Robert Collins (6)
  • Hell’s Bay unguided angler, Stephanie Parsons (6)

The event salutes Lucerne, the Homestead – Florida City community activist and legendary backcountry fishing pioneer a man known warmly as Mr. Everglades. Famous for his ubiquitous red bucket hat, he spent 40 years exploring the twisting myriad of mangrove mazes, covered canals and fishing its many bays and promoting the park’s protection. Celebrity anglers competing were Flip Pallot, Chico Fernandez, Rick Murphy and C.A. Richardson.

Hell’s Bay Boatworks was the presenting sponsor. Platinum sponsors were Raymarine, Beachsound, Falcon Graphite Rods, Montauk Tackle, Markham & Stein and Evinrude donating an E-TEC G2 150 HO engine being raffled on the 2017 website.

All proceeds from the tournament benefit Everglades National Park, a designated World Heritage Site. ParkSuperintendent Pedro Ramos was presented with a check for $50,000 raised from last year’s event to support resource protection and environmental programs further enhancing the fishing experience in the park.

Pete Johnson, Johnson Communications, Inc.

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