Record-Breaking Sailfish Action in the Florida Keys


On April 22,2020 Capt. Sam Milazzo noticed the wind was lining up nicely for another tailing condition in Islamorada. Big numbers had been posted up by many Keys teams over the previous month, so he reached out to professional bass fisherman Scott Martin, owner of a 42-foot Freeman called Vice Versa, to find out if he’d be ­interested in going out; he was.

Looking for handle turners, Milazzo contacted freelancer Lee Gahagen, and shortly after, the Vice Versa team was assembled. The day started out just like any other fishing day in the Florida Keys would, meeting at the boat the next morning around 6:00. Milazzo, Martin, Gahagen, Ben Zdan, Tyler Rodriguez, Macoy Fisher, Brandon Simmons and John Polhill were excited to get after it, and scooped every last bait from the cage. By 8:30 a.m., they were hooked up to the first fish of the day in front of Tennessee Light off Long Key.

While Polhill fought the first fish, another sailfish was spotted tailing down-sea, and for the next hour, the team amassed eight releases. At 10:19 a.m., the 14th sail of the day was released, and for the next three hours, it was a 10-fish pick.

With Milazzo in the tower, Zdan, Gahagen and Rodriguez rotated from the deck to keep fresh eyes on the waves that were holding the tailing fish. Seventeen more fish were released by 3:07 p.m.—making the total 41—when just 20 minutes later, the floodgates opened. Single after single, a few doubleheaders and a triple had the numbers racking up as the team continued to bait fish, even when stretched out on others. Forty minutes later, the 50th fish of the day was released, and the team was working like a well-oiled machine.

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“There wasn’t a fish that made it past us,” Simmons says. “Milazzo kept us on them, making all the right moves and setting us up for some perfectly made casts.” Both agreed that 70 would be a hard number to beat but thought they had a real chance to exceed it.

By 5:00 p.m., the tension was growing, but the team kept their eye on the prize, reeling in the 70th fish just 24 minutes later. Zdan broke through the 70-fish barrier at 5:39 p.m., and the team went crazy with excitement.

Now at Alligator Light, the day had turned to dusk. Milazzo finally came down from the tower to fight the team’s last fish of the day, no doubt his reward for such a hard day’s work. “I felt honored that they wanted me to catch the last one,” Milazzo says. “Simmons and Gahagen put me on one. I made a cast and came tight, and after a couple of minutes, we had released number 76 and headed home.”

“It almost didn’t even feel real,” Simmons says. “We all worked our asses off, and 76 sailfish is an incredible number. Some of the best fishermen in the world fish in the Florida Keys, so it’s only a matter of time before someone else sets the bar even higher—and when that ­happens, we’ll be ready.”

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>