Facing glassy conditions, Key West-based angler Nathaniel Linville—guided by Capt. John O’Hearn of Big Pine Key—caught and released four permit to win last week’s March Merkin tournament. Linville, who was also victorious at the Del Brown tourney back in July, landed one permit on day one followed by three the second day for a total of 332 points.
“After coming in second at last year’s Merkin, this felt really good,” Linville says. “We didn’t win by a huge margin but with permit fishing… an inch is like a mile.”
Linville credited much of the victory to O’Hearn’s skill on the poling platform and his strategies for feeding tough fish. “He obviously had a lot more to do with it than I did, putting me in situations where fish were eating and coming up with a plan on how to catch them—everything from fly placement to the retrieve.” Winning patterns were created professional fly tier and photographer Dave Skok.
Twenty-five teams launched boats from Key West Yacht Harbor Marina and fished the flats- and fly-only tournament. First runner-up was John Holt of Bozeman, Mont., guided by Trevor Luce of Palm Coast, Fla. Holt released three permit with a combined point total of 327. He also earned honors for scoring the tournament’s largest permit, a 31-inch fish. Jeff Ferguson of Bozeman was named second runner-up. His guide was Bryan “Bear” Holeman of Key West.
Proceeds benefit the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust.