CUDJOE KEY, Florida Keys — Lisa Benfield captured a 58.55-pound dolphin fish after a 25-minute fight to win first place in the Cudjoe Gardens Dolphin Tournament that ended June 21. Benfield, who fished on Captain Richard Pietruszka’s Filleting Nemo, said the massive dolphin hit her skirted ballyhoo in about 610 feet of water.
“I’ve been looking for a big dolphin like this for a long time,” said Benfield, a Key West resident who scored her catch on the tourney’s first fishing day. “I know this is the fish of a lifetime.”
Benfield gave significant credit to Pietruszka for his boat-handling skills during her grueling fight to subdue the jumping dolphin.
“You have to reel really fast — you can’t get any slack on the line — and he drove the boat so that I could keep up with it,” she said.
Anglers in the tournament, organized by Cudjoe Key’s Pirate Wellness Center and benefiting local charities, were allowed to weigh in one dolphin per fishing day. Benfield’s arrival at the weigh station caused quite a stir.
“When I brought this fish in, people were screaming and running down to the boat — no one could believe it,” she said.
Second place in the tournament’s open division went to Gary Hickman of Placida, Fla., for a 36.2-pound catch. He fished aboard the First Draw and also skippered the boat.
Cudjoe Key angler Bill Harrison took third place in the open division, scoring a 35.5-pound catch while fishing on the Hornet with Captain Wade Graft. Harrison also led the senior division with a fish that weighed 29.45 pounds.
Karin Sturla of Key West took first place in the women’s division, catching a 31.45-pound dolphin. Winner of the junior division for anglers under age 16 was Michael McPhillips of Cudjoe Key with a 30.25-pound catch.
The tournament’s 181 anglers fished on 43 boats and weighed in more than 100 dolphin.