The blue marlin bite was hot off Port Antonio, Jamaica, in mid-October when the team of anglers aboard Diana, a 52 Hatteras owned by Richard Stewart, set a record for the near half-century old Port Antonio International Marlin Tournament by tagging and releasing eight blue marlin in four days of fishing.
"It was teamwork," says Stewart, "and being in the right place at the right time. Jamaica has quite a number of banks from five to 30 miles offshore that are quite productive."
The first day of the tournament, which based out of the Errol Flynn Marina, proved slow for the 25 boats and 117 anglers hailing from Jamaica, Cayman Islands, Honduras, Barbados, the British Virgin Islands, U.S. and Canada.
"We only caught two blue marlin that first day and it wasn't until the afternoon," says Stewart.
Luck aboard Diana changed the second day when the team released three blue marlin, one of which hooked-up three minutes before lines out for the day. The anglers nearly added a fourth marlin to their score, but lost the fish at the back of the boat. The third day, the team released another three blue marlin. Yet, they got skunked and went fishless on the fourth and final day of fishing.
"We weren't too worried that last day," says Stewart. "The next closest boat only had five releases. They released another marlin that day, but it still only put them at six compared to our eight."
In the end, Feeva finished as second place boat with the release of six blue marlin, and Daddy's Dream ended third with five releases.
All three teams qualified for entry into the prestigious and invitational 2011 IGFA Offshore World Championship, to be held in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, in May of 2011.
In other awards, Wendy McMaster, fishing aboard the Reel McCoy, earned Best Female angler by catching the Heaviest Fish – a 338-pound blue marlin. Krishna Vaswani on Daddy's Dream won Top Male, and fourteen-year-old David Levy, who was one of the Diana team, finished as Top Junior Angler.
Lady angler Paulette Tai Chun won the sportsmanship prize. Tai Chun was one of an all-female team fishing on the tiny 18-foot Gettin' Jiggy. When the boat broke down, Tai Chun ingeniously fixed a leak in the gas tank with her eyebrow pencil.
The blue marlin were definitely biting this year. In fact, two other boats, Integrity and Touch of Class, while not award winners, also released five blue marlin apiece.
In total, 55 marlin were tagged and released, 26 lost and two landed although one of the landed fish was disqualified for being under the tournament's minimum weight limit, thus making a total of 83 marlin.
"This is one of the most successful tournaments we've had in recent times," said tournament director, Dr. Ron DuQuesnay.
Perhaps one of the best fish stories came from a novice angler who caught his first blue marlin on the third day of the tournament. Danville Walker, Jamaica's Customs Commissioner, was invited out on Diana by Stewart, and ended up tagging and releasing an estimated 140-pound blue marlin after a 50-minute fight. It was a lifetime experience. At the awards ceremony, Walker, who is also on the island's Port Authority Board, voiced the support of the government and tourism in developing the sports fishing industry in Jamaica.
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.