The east coast of the Dominican Republic is earning a reputation for a hot marlin bite in the late spring. This year’s Fishing Lodge International Cap Cana Billfish Shootout, held May 17th – 22nd, certainly reinforced this status when the 17 boat fleet released 106 whites, 17 blues and a sailfish in three days of fishing. Of this, Puerto Rico’s Efrain Rodriquez, on his November 2011-launched F&S 56, Doña Lucy, won Top Angler by releasing seven white marlin, a blue marlin and a sailfish, while Shark Byte, an August 2011-launched Bayliss 73 owned by New Jersey’s Pete Cherasia, released 13 white marlin and a blue to earn Top Boat.
This was the first tournament that Rodriquez and his team from the former Prime Time PR, with Capt. Paco Vela at the helm, were fishing since splashing the new Doña Lucy.
“The tournament was really exciting from start to finish,” says Rodriguez fellow angler on Doña Lucy, Rafael Caicedo. “We took the lead in the boat standings very early the first day with the release of a blue marlin and five whites to win the daily. The second day it was a little slower for us with the release of two whites and a sail that Efrain hooked up 30 seconds before lines out to regain the lead. The last day we were able to release four whites. We changed leads with Shark Byte a couple of times that last day. In the end, Efrain Rodriguez not only won as best angler but also caught the first blue and the first sail of the tournament. He went 9/9 (saw nine marlin and caught nine marlin). His right flat line was really hot!”
Meanwhile, the Shark Byte team, which homeports in Rumson, NJ, arrived to fish out of Marina Cap Cana about a month prior to the tournament. They got to know the fishing grounds, which are located around 12 miles offshore, really well, says Capt. Rich Barrett.
“The first day we caught four white marlin and missed a blue when it pulled the hook,” Barrett tells. “This put us in fifth.”
The next day, Shark Byte anglers went 6/6 or in other words caught all six white marlin they saw. This enabled them to win the daily prize and jump into second place in the boat standings only 90 points behind Rodriguez’s Doña Lucy.
“What really helped was that all of the anglers were really attentive,” says Barrett. “They never left their rods. They were always ready to drop back and catch a fish. That makes me happy as a captain.”
The third and final day proved a battle for first place between Shark Byte and Doña Lucy.
“We caught a white early and Doña Lucy caught a couple too,” Barrett relates. “They got ahead of us in numbers, so we knew we needed a blue marlin to win. (White marlin counted for 200 points while blues counted for 500.) Then, we had a blue come up. It was real aggressive and we missed it; it never came tight. The mood on the boat went from excited to quiet. But, we all kept our head in the game. Around 2:30pm. another blue came up on the teaser. John (Bayliss) pitched a bait and said it was one of his five favorite bites of all times! After that, the fish didn’t sound. It stayed on top and John released it in 13 minutes. That’s all we needed to win. It was a storybook ending!”
Proceeds from the Fishing Lodge International Cap Cana Billfish Shootout benefit Reel Life Adventures, a charitable organization that works with orphaned kids in the Dominican Republic.
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.