For a guy with a passion for fishing, it’s like living next door to heaven. Dr. Howard Khani has a house in Pompano Beach, Fla., on a deep-water canal with no fixed bridges just 14 minutes by water from the Atlantic. And thanks to his unconventional schedule — he has a select group of private patients — he can take advantage of the location.
“I’m usually able to go fishing three or four days a week,” says the 50-year-old physician, who runs a 2000 Contender 31. “And sometimes I can sneak away for a fifth.”
For Khani, it’s a late-blooming passion. He did some fishing as a child growing up in Cocoa Beach, wetting a line in canals and lakes. But he dropped the sport as an adult, going to medical school.
While an intern in the mid-1980s, he joined a boat club and started going out on the water once a week, scuba diving and fishing. A few years later, he partnered on a fishing boat with a friend. “He got into it less and less; I got into it more and more,” Khani says.
In 2003 came what Khani calls the “life-changing moment.” He bought the house on the canal. “And I had a 25-foot outboard-powered custom sportfishing boat parked out back,” he says.
The boat was simple, the fishing a thrill. “It had a T-top, a leaning post and a single outboard, and we mounted outriggers on the gunwale and did a lot of trolling and scuba diving,” he says. Khani and his growing family, including a son and daughter, used it a lot and, finally, it started to fall apart — literally. “We were coming home in a storm, holding on to the T-top, and the whole console was lifting off the deck,” he says. “I thought it was time for my dream boat.”
Khani began looking at SeaVees and Contenders, both South Florida-built, in the 30-foot range. “I like the hull and the look of those boats, and as I got more and more into fishing I was looking for the perfect machine,” he says. “Those two are great boats.”
Khani also wanted to make a switch from fishing with lures to live bait. “I wanted to change to a more aggressive kind of fishing,” he says. “So the one thing I wanted in the boat was a live well. I felt that I was missing out on a type of fishing by not having a live well.”
During his search, Khani got a call from The Boat Center in Miami. “Doc, you gotta come down and see this,” was the message. It was a 2000 Contender 31 with a pair of Yamaha 250 OX-66 2-strokes and just 700 hours. “It was not real clean, but I could see past that, and it really was in mint condition,” Khani recalls. “I just stood there. I knew right off that this was the dream boat I’d been looking for.”
He bought the boat in May 2010 for $45,000, and the doctor figures he has spent another $10,000 in repairs, equipment and maintenance. One major buy was a Garmin 545 GPS with a depth sounder. “I have a through-hull transducer, and the unit works great,” he says. “We like to fish with music, so I added a new stereo system, too.”
The purchase has paid off in some outrageous fishing, Khani says. “The first time out, we went out Hillsboro Inlet about 10 miles — just trolling, which I love to do — and got right into some mahi-mahi and took two right off. We came back with a full coffin box.”
Then, Khani confesses, he went “crazy live-bait fishing,” drifting with a kite. “Our first live-baiting trip we were three for four on sailfish.” He was hooked, so to speak.
The boat certainly fits its mission. The wide beam is “wonderful,” Khani says. “There’s really room to move around. There’s a recessed handrail all around — I really love that — and a nice high T-top with plenty of headroom.”
Hooked tops out near 52 mph with the Yamahas, and Khani usually runs about 3,500 rpm, about 29 or 30 mph. “In 6-foot seas, we keep it about 3,000 to 3,200 rpm, just under 30 mph,” he says. “In 4-foot seas, we can go 30 to 35 mph.”
His fishing grounds now extend from Boca Raton to Fort Lauderdale, and Khani believes he has the boat to take them on. “I’m very happy with the Contender,” he says. “It’s an aggressive fishing boat.”
The Contender 31 Open rides a deep-vee hull with 24.5 degrees of deadrise designed for serious fishing. The Florida-built center console has the distinctive look associated with many of the region’s fishing machines. The sheer forms a subtle “S” as it sweeps from the wide, flared bow to the low transom, and the engines are mounted on a platform. The boat comes with such standard fishing equipment as a raised live well, a transom door and in-deck fishboxes (250-quart and 400-quart) fore and aft.
The deck layout also is fishing-oriented, and the single-level cockpit, with recessed handrails, makes it easy to cast for and handle fish anywhere around the boat. The roomy cockpit is the result of the ample 9-foot, 4-inch beam.
The helm comes with a standard bench seat/leaning post and a T-top, and the instrument console can be customized to suit the angler’s requirements. And there’s room inside the step-down console for storage or a marine head.
The Contender 31 Open appeared in the mid-1990s, along with the Contender 27, and the two fishing machines designed by company president Joe Nebber were an instant success. The 31 Open, with many standard fishing features and a rugged offshore hull, quickly earned a reputation as a high-performance, well-finished fishing boat that “puts anglers in the winner’s circle,” as boating writer Ed McKnew says. As a testament to its enduring popularity, the Contender 31 remains in production, and today it comes in Fisharound, Cuddy and Tournament models. Used 31s from the late-’90s and early 2000s typically can be found for about $55,000 to $75,000.
LOA: 31 feet, 3 inches
BEAM: 9 feet, 4 inches
DRAFT: 1 foot, 6 inches
WEIGHT: 3,500 pounds
HULL TYPE: deep-vee
PROPULSION: twin 250-hp outboards
FUEL CAPACITY: 240 gallons
BUILDER: Contender Boats, Homestead, Fla.