March Merkin Official Rules
1.01 The March Merkin permit Tournament is the premiere permit on fly tournament, and the purpose of these rules is to promote and foster the legacy of sportsmanship and fair competition among friends in pursuit of landing permit on fly tackle.
1.02 The Tournament shall take place each year in Key West, Florida, beginning on the 2nd Tuesday in March, and shall continue for three full fishing days through Thursday. (There will be a kick-off and registration banquet the Monday evening before the first day of fishing, a Rules Meeting immediately following the second day of fishing beginning immediately after the scoring deadline, and an awards closing event after the last day of fishing.)
1.03 The Tournament shall be governed by the fly fishing rules of the International Game Fish Association (“IGFA Rules”) and these MM Rules, as amended from time to time. In the rare instances when the MM Rules may conflict with the IGFA Rules the MM Rules shall supersede the IGFA Rules. It is the responsibility of each Angler and Guide to know the IGFA Rules and the MM Rules.
1.04 The Tournament shall be conducted by the Board of Directors of the Lower Keys Guides Association. The LKGA Board is the governing body of the March Merkin Tournament. Committees may be created by the LKGA Board to address any needs of the Tournament. Recommendations made by Committees must be approved and adopted by the LKGA Board. The chairperson for the Tournament will be the President of the LKGA as determined by the Board of Directors.
1.05 The March Merkin is a flats permit fly fishing tournament.
II. ANGLERS AND GUIDES
2.01 The Tournament is open to a limit of 25 Anglers by invitation only. The admissions guidelines are below, and Anglers can submit an application to the Invitation Committee by following the directions on the March Merkin website.
Entry into the March Merkin Permit Tournament is determined by the Admissions Committee. The Admissions Committee is determined by the LKGA board, and as of 2021 includes the following individuals:
Tom Del Bosque
The Admissions Committee makes the final decision regarding who will be invited to attend or not, and their decisions are final. The Admissions Committee does not have a chairman, and acts as a group to determine the next angler to be offered a spot in the tournament. In the event that the committee is split on a decision, they will not be able to make an invitation until a majority of the members agree. Once an angler has a spot, they are permitted to continue to fish the tournament until they decide not to. In events of conflict and years off, the LKGA has adopted the policy that it is allowed for a single year, with good cause, by an angler in good standing. Cases of multiple years of absence will be addressed on a case-by-case basis by the Admissions Committee. In the event that an angler is unable to fish the tournament but wants to retain their spot for the following year they will be required to pay their entry fee for that year and the LKGA will decide which angler shall be invited to fish in their stead. Both the angler that is taking the year off and the angler that is fishing in their place will provide an entry fee, though for the angler fishing, it will be reduced by 20%. The reason for this policy is to both discourage anglers from taking a year off as well as to reflect the fact that for the angler fishing in the open spot without a guarantee of re-admission the following year the entry fee has reduced value. An angler that is asked to fish by the Admissions Committee to fill a spot may, though is not required, be placed at the top of the list in the event that a permanent spot is available the following year.
The Admissions Committee works to cultivate a field of anglers that is competitive in their skills, supportive of the LKGA, and sportsmanlike in their conduct. These three criteria are equally important to the Admissions Committee.
The following guidelines are what the Admissions Committee uses when evaluating a new angler:
– Years on the waiting list
– Performance in other tournaments, specifically permit tournaments
– Support of the LKGA
– Guide, especially when the guide has been a past Guide to Grand Champion and/or supportive of the LKGA
– Past conduct in tournaments
The following guidelines are what the Admissions Committee considers when evaluating an angler returning to fish the tournament:
– Past number of years fishing in the March Merkin
– Past performance in the March Merkin. Specifically, once an angler has won the March Merkin they will be given preference to enter it again, even after an absence
– Past conduct in tournaments
– Support of the LKGA
These lists are meant as guidelines for the Admissions Committee and are considered in whole regarding each individual that is on the waiting list. Each invitation is issued based on the best faith effort of the committee to cultivate and preserve the environment of sportsman-like conduct, support of the LKGA, and competitive abilities during the tournament.
2.03 USCG Licensed guides may fish as anglers.
2.04 Each team will be comprised of two individuals; one “Guide” and one “Angler”. Prior to the start of the tournament each team member must be designated as either “Guide” or “Angler”. This designation cannot be changed during the tournament.
2.05 Only the registered Guide and Angler may occupy the skiff during fishing hours unless approved by the Tournament prior to the days fishing.
2.06 The Tournament shall set an entry fee which shall include all banquets and other daily and evening activities for the Angler and Guide. Guests may be added to these activities for an additional fee set by the Tournament.
2.07 The Angler or his Guide must attend the pre-tournament kick-off banquet to confirm registration, receive Tournament information, and pick up measuring packets.
3.01 Only fly casting will be permitted, and only single hook artificial lures may be used. Only one-handed rods and single action reels are eligible to be used. The rod may not be altered after a fish is hooked.
3.02 Tippet will be 20 lb. maximum manufacturer’s stated test. Any brand may be used.
3.03 Leaders must contain not less than 15 inches tippet material. Leader can be any length.
3.04 A broken rod, above the reel seat, will not disqualify a caught or released fish.
3.05 A net may be used, but overall length shall not exceed 8ft
3.06 No chunking or tipping of the fly with scent or bait is allowed. No bait or
spinning/casting tackle is allowed on board during fishing hours.
IV. FISHING TIMES, TERRITORY, AND RULES
4.01 Each day the fishing shall begin at a Fishing Headquarters selected by the Tournament, and all teams must sign-in prior to lines-in. Failure to do so will incur a penalty as set forth in Section VII.
4.02 All boats must depart from and return to Fishing Headquarters by water. Teams may fish any areas accessible by boat from Fishing Headquarters. Failure to do so will incur a penalty as set forth in Section VII.
4.03 Teams may leave the Fishing Headquarters or area as designated by the Tournament at 7:30.
4.04 Fishing may begin as soon as a skiff arrives at a fishing spot. Fishing may continue until 4:00 PM at which time lines must be out of the water. A fish hooked prior to 4:00 PM may be fought, caught, and released after 4:00pm. At 4:00 pm, if the boat is on a flat, the angler must sit down and the guide will pole the boat promptly off the flat. If a fish is hooked prior to 4:00 pm it may be caught after 4:00 pm but after it is caught, the Angler must sit down and the Guide must promptly pole the boat off the flat. However, all boats must return and check in at Fishing Headquarters by 5:00pm. Boats returning to Fishing Headquarters after 5:00 pm may incur a penalty as set forth in Section VII.
4.05 The start on any day may be delayed by the Tournament in the event of imminent inclement or dangerous weather. In the event of severe weather the Tournament may reduce the number of fishing days.
4.06 The policy of the Tournament is that the first skiff to reach a spot is entitled to fish there. The Tournament strongly recommends strict observation of all recognized courtesies and sporting practices between skiffs. This includes giving way and sufficient room to other boats in an area that typically accommodates more than one skiff under normal fishing conditions. Understanding that the Florida Keys waters are fished by many skiffs each day, it is considered unsportsmanlike and a rules violation to have a spot “saved” by another boat. The LKGA Code of Conduct shall be considered the standard for proper etiquette.
4.07 No assistance may be given to any Angler other than by his Guide who handles the boat, nets or grabs fish, and measures fish. Only the Angler may touch the rod, reel or line while line is outside the boat. Except when the Angler is landing and releasing the fish, the Guide may then touch the line, but no more than the length of the rod from the hook.
4.08 No team shall fish before or after fishing hours.
4.09 No cell phones shall be used to obtain or communicate fishing information.
4.10 Permit must be fished in water that is no deeper than eight feet. Permit must be on a flat or flat edge, but not in a channel. Catching fish over natural structure is permitted as long as the natural structure is on a flat in less the eight feet of water. Fishing over artificial structure is prohibited and subject to penalties as listed in Section VII. For the purpose of these rules the channel edge will extend out 8ft perpendicular to the flat edge. Beyond that will be considered channel.
4.11 Wading is permitted.
V. SKIFFS AND BOATING
5.01 The fishing boat shall be a traditional flats skiff design.
5.02 Each skiff shall be properly equipped with Coast Guard safety equipment. Guides are expected to operate skiffs in keeping with applicable boating laws and traditional fishing and boating norms for the areas fished.
5.03 Electric motors are not allowed. The Tournament may waive this rule for valid medical reasons.
VI. MEASURING AND SCORING
6.01 The Tournament Grand Champion shall be the Angler who accumulates the most points during the three days of fishing. In addition, the Tournament also recognizes point totals or fish caught by other finishers for other awards.
6.02 For purposes of measuring and scoring, the Tournament shall issue to each Team a measuring packet including: a measuring board, a measuring tape, a pen, and catch forms. The Angler or Guide shall provide a digital camera.
6.03 To score, all fish must be measured and photographed on the measuring device provided then released alive.
6.04 To score a fish, the measuring tape should be laid out in the measuring devise with the grommet thru the peg. The fish should be placed on the device and tape with the fork of the tail touching the peg. The tape on the measuring device shall be marked at the end of the nose of the fish. The time of the catch must also be noted on the tape. Photograph of the entire fish on the measuring device with the tape marked is required to score the fish
6.05 For scoring purposes, the length of the fish shall be measured from the edge grommet closest to the fish to the mark on the measuring tape. 1 point will be earned per quarter inch.
6.06 There is no minimum length for scoring fish.
6.07 All required photographs must be shown to the score-keeper for the fish to be scored.
6.08 The daily catch form must be returned to the Scorekeeper by Angler or Guide at the end of each fishing day along with the marked tape when one or more fish are caught.
6.09 All boats must check in at Scorekeeper’s table by 5:00 pm. No fish will be scored after 5:00 pm.
6.10 Any ties shall be broken by the earliest time of the last caught fish.
VII. GOVERNANCE AND DISPUTES
7.01 The Tournament shall be conducted and governed by the LKGA Board of Directors. Volunteer committees of Anglers and Guides may be set up as directed by the LKGA Board.
7.02 There will a standing Rules and Arbitration committee to deal with all rules questions and violations that occur during the Tournament. This shall be an odd numbered committee of volunteers appointed by the LKGA Board of Directors.
7.03 The Tournament may hire professional administrators to assist with operations, bookkeeping, marketing and public relations, logistics, and other duties. In addition, the Tournament shall secure judges to oversee daily sign-in, start and return times, fish scoring, total point calculations, and scorekeeping.
7.04 There shall be a Kick-Off event at 5:30 pm on the Monday evening prior to the tournament. As a part of the Kick-Off, there shall be a Captains Meeting at 6:00 pm when MM Rules shall be explained. Both/either Angler and Guide must attend the Captains Meeting or the team shall be assessed a 150 point penalty. In the event of emergency or other unforeseen conflict, the Rules Committee may waive the penalty if no team member is able to attend the Captains Meeting.
7.05 There shall be an annual Anglers/Guides’ meeting after fishing on the Wednesday of the Tournament week to conduct any business of the Tournament. All Anglers and Guides are invited to attend and are entitled to vote on matters that come before the group. This is an opportunity for the rules to be discussed and amended. If a proposed rule change receives a majority of vote from Guides and Anglers, the Board of the LKGA may create a Rules committee, comprised of both Board and non-Board volunteers, to write language for a rule change that will be presented to the LKGA Board for review. The LKGA Board can present proposed rule changes back to Tournament participants for vote at these meeting, however, LKGA also retains the power to enact rule changes without further participant approval. Not all rule changes will be considered, but it is the intention of the Tournament to hear and consider the voice and concerns of its member participants.
7.06 All grievances concerning the rules shall be in writing, signed, and submitted to the Tournament by 5:30 pm on the day of the alleged infraction; oral or anonymous grievances, or those filed after 5:30 pm, will not be considered. The matter in dispute shall be referred to the three person Rules Committee who shall determine the proper treatment of the issue. If there is a conflict of interest with a member of the Rules Committees, the Tournament Director (LKGA President) will appoint replacements. All decisions by the committee shall be final and irreversible as of 5:00 pm on the last day of fishing.
7.07 Any infraction of the rules will result in the Angler losing all points for that day of fishing.
8.01 The Tournament operates on the honor system, and as such, relies on the integrity of its participants to guard its reputation. Any Angler or Guide found to have knowingly or willfully violated this or another tournament’s rules may not be issued an invitation.
8.02 The intent of these MM Rules is to create an understandable and fair environment where the Angler and Guide’s expertise in locating, hooking, landing, and releasing permit on fly is rewarded.
8.03 The use of aerial equipment, including but not limited to drones, during the tournament days is not allowed. This includes using aircraft to scout outside of tournament hours as well as during fishing hours.
8.04 The prohibition on aerial scouting in 8.03 extends for all tournament guides and anglers beginning 14 calendar days prior to lines in on the first day of the tournament. Any team member found to be in violation of this rule in the 14-day period leading up to the tournament will be prohibited from fishing that year’s tournament, and possibly future events.