With a 500 year history, fishing has always been an important part of the Key West legacy. That legacy is celebrated with an annual fishing tournament every May.
If you're an island 100 miles from the mainland with the Gulf of Mexico on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other, you better believe that fishing is a large part of your history. Key West, Florida celebrates that history this year and every year with the annual Yamaha Dolphin Masters Invitational. This event, now in its 13th year, brings world class anglers from all around the globe to compete for cash and prizes, while also enjoying another one of their amazing island vacations.
"It's something that our servers and bartenders have to deal with on a weekly basis," laughed Norman Vogel, owner of the Roof Top Cafe. "First time visitors see dolphin on the menu, or they've passed a sign on the way here that said dolphin fishing, and they can't believe that we are serving 'Flipper' as tonight's special."
Of course, they aren't dolphins. Dolphin fish is simply one of many names used to describe the same fish that is found around the world. With a strong population off of Key West, Florida, it can be found in tropical waters all the way around the world, with names such as Dorado, Lampuka and the name most restaurants now use, the Hawaiian Mahi-Mahi. None of this confusion has stopped recreational fishermen from seeking that prize catch.
"We get a lot of groups that are in town for island weddings that want to eat something they can't find back home," said Ronnie Welles, captain of the Double Down charter boat. "Everybody wants to try deep sea fishing, but nobody knows how hard it can be. Mahi-Mahi are the perfect first time fishing target. They're plentiful, gorgeous with all their colors, not too big so the fight isn't too difficult and best of all, they are delicious."
Anyone taking their island vacations during the last weekend in May can see how the professionals get the job done. Although the action takes place far out in the water, everyone can tell you that the next best thing of fishing is hearing the stories about it. No matter which of the amazing Key West restaurants a person enters that weekend, they are sure to hear stories about all of the prize-winning fish that were caught, with just as many stories about the one that got away.
For more information on the Key West Dolphin Championship visit: www.floridakeysdolphinchampionship.com and to learn more about the Roof Top Cafe, visit: www.rooftopcafekeywest.com
Jack Terry is a food and lifestyle writer who spent nine years in the Florida Keys.