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2023 Fishing Tournaments in the Bahamas and Caribbean: A Year-Round Guide and Qualifying Events for the Offshore World Championships

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Whether it’s the catch-and-release of big billfish like blue marlin, white marlin, and sailfish, or the catch-and-keep of good-eating gamefish like tuna, wahoo, and dolphin, there’s a tournament held in the Bahamas and the Caribbean to suit every sport fisherman. The migration of species, as well as the natural abundance of fish in the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea that borders the islands, means that something is always in season. This means that one or more tournaments are happening every month of the year somewhere in this region. Case in point, Grenada’s Spice Island Billfish Tournament kicks off the year in late January, and this year welcomed boats from four islands, with Hard Play from Tobago the winner. Bonaire also ran its Nos ku Nos Billfish Tournament in Bonaire in January. Some islands, like Aruba, with its International Classic Billfish Tournament in October, round out the end of the year. For these events, it’s BYOB (bring your own boat) or charter.

Notable too is that many Caribbean tournaments are qualifiers for the Super Bowl of Sportfishing, namely the Offshore World Championships (OWC), held each April in Quepos, Costa Rica. The Top Boat teams from Qualifying Events earn an entry. Qualifying tournaments in the Caribbean in 2022 included the Marina Casa de Campo Open in the Dominican Republic in March, the Cayman Islands Fishing Tournament in April, Antigua & Barbuda Sport Fishing Tournament in June, the Port Antonio International Marlin Tournament and Montego Bay Yacht Club’s Annual International Blue Marlin Fishing Tournament in September, the Martinique International Fishing Tournament in October, and St. Maarten Wahoo Tournament in November. In 2016, out of 66 teams representing 29 nations, the OWC winner and runner-up were Caribbean teams from Trinidad & Tobago and Jamaica, respectively. Talk about putting the Caribbean on the global fishing map. Over a half dozen teams from the Bahamas and Caribbean are fishing in the 2023 OWC, April 16-21 (www.offshoreworldchampionship.com).

Here’s a sample of what’s happening fishing-wise and tournaments taking place in 2023:

The Bahamas

The Abaco Beach Resort & Marina is the venue for three tournaments. The first of these is the White Marlin Round-Up, April 19-22. “Over 30 boat’s fish and the number of fish caught is impressive,” says Captain Skip Smith, tournament director. The other two are the Shootout – Production Vs. Custom, on May 3-6; and the Custom Shootout, May 17-20. “The big trend is sonars. We thought dredges were the fad, but sonars are the new big thing.” Good fishing over the past few years, plenty of bars and restaurants to reach by boat, and fun fishing for bonefish and snapper on the tournament lay days are what makes Bahamas fishing great, says Smith. www.skipstournaments.com 

WineCellar Tournament.
WineCellar Tournament.

Turks & Caicos Islands.

The Wine Cellar Golf & Fishing Tournament, March 9-12, is a fun-filled, family-oriented, three-day weekend event that moves back to IGY’s Blue Haven Marina this year in Providenciales. “Two days of fishing, March 10 and 11, are each followed by a fresh fish auction of the day’s catch, music, and entertainment. Species allowed are wahoo, dolphin (mahi mahi), and tuna,” says Desmond Williams, an organizing committee member. The golf tournament happens on March 12. All proceeds are donated to charity. In eleven years, the event has raised nearly $400,000 for youth organizations. golfandfishingtci.com

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Marina Casa de Campo Open
Marina Casa de Campo Open

Dominican Republic.

Major fishing tournaments take place out of Punta Cana and Casa de Campo. In Casa de Campo, the billfish season runs from February 1 through May 30. The Marina Casa de Campo (MCDC) Open, March 16-18, features awards for blue marlin, white marlin, and sailfish. Trends are sports fishermen being more interested in preserving the species with the Open 100% catch-and-release, according to Vilma Nunez, MCDC marketing manager. “New too, people are finally more willing to travel after the pandemic. We have a new Premier Club for those who want five-star service and accommodations along with world-class fishing.” The MCDC Cup is in April. marinacasadecampo.com.do

International Billfish Tournament 2022. Credit Club Nautico de San Juan
International Billfish Tournament 2022. Credit Club Nautico de San Juan

Puerto Rico.

Club Nautico de San Juan’s International Billfish Tournament (IBT) celebrates its 70th annual Platinum Edition, August 21-27. A big part of the fishery here is FADs or Fish Aggregating Devices. “They generate a lot of food in their surrounding area and attract fish,” says Tito Saavedra, owner of the 2022 Top Boat, Sari Victoria, a 72’ Viking. Last year too, the Legado Azul Foundation and the group Bluetide installed 22 FADs, 8 on the surface and 14 underwater, in the zone where the tournament takes place. A signature feature of the IBT is the unique rotation system, which allows visiting anglers to fish on different competing boats every day. www.sanjuaninternational.com

Wahoo: don’t they have tails?

2022 Wahoo Windup - OS Big Fish
2022 Wahoo Windup – OS Big Fish

U.S. Virgin Islands.

The Dolphin Derby (April 2) and Wahoo Windup (October 22) are the two big gamefish tournaments hosted by the Virgin Islands Game Fishing Club, in St. Thomas. “Traditionally, we saw a lot of big boats from Florida come down. The owners of those boats are getting older now and the younger generation either doesn’t want a whole fishing program with a hired captain and crew. There’s much more interest in smaller center consoles. So, for us, it’s all about focusing locally and reinventing our events to attract the next generation,” says Kelvin Bailey, Jr., Club president. The Club hosts a Kid’s Tournament (September 30) at IGY’s American Yacht Harbor, which features free handlines, pizza, and prizes. www.vigfc.com 

St. Maarten.

The 2023 SXM Wahoo Tournament will return to two days of fishing, says Sergio Hodge, president of the Sint Maarten Sportfishing Foundation (SSFF). “The tournament attracts fishermen both locally and regionally to compete each November for lucrative prizes and bragging rights. November is in the midst of our wahoo season and over the years has earned the reputation of a well-attended fisherman pelagic showdown.” One of the top Caribbean fishing trends Hodge sees is high-speed trolling. Fishermen have noticed the difference in results between the different trolling techniques.” sxmsportfishing.com 

Antigua & Barbuda.

Last year saw the Antigua & Barbuda Sports Fishing Tournament (May 25-28) in a new venue at Falmouth Harbour Marina. “This will be another exciting year with boats competing in two divisions, Marlin (blue marlin, white marlin, and sailfish) and Sport (wahoo, kingfish, tuna, and dolphin),” says Robert Hall, tournament director. A newer variety of food and entertainment for anglers and patrons ashore after fishing is also on tap. There will be new prizes too. www.antiguabarbudasportsfishing.com 


The latest and most exciting trend here has been the Government’s FAD program. In November 2021, eight FADs were deployed along the island’s west coast to encourage fishermen to target larger pelagic rather than reef fish. “By utilizing these FADs, fishermen have experienced more consistent success targeting species such as wahoo/kingfish, dolphin, amberjacks, tuna, blue marlin, and sailfish,” says Paul Hamel-Smith, Barbados Game Fishing Association (BGFA) director. The BGFA’s biggest tournament is the Sir Charles Williams International Fishing Tournament, set for Port St. Charles Marina, April 11-16. The target species are billfish (i.e. blue marlin, white marlin, sailfish, and spearfish). There are also fantastic prizes for other pelagic fish species such as wahoo/kingfish, dolphin, and yellowfin tuna. bgfa.profishingtournaments.com

Trinidad & Tobago.

The Trinidad & Tobago Game Fishing Tournaments are back on the schedule after a pandemic pause. These include a marlin tournament, April 25-29; a junior angler tournament, July 8; a tarpon tournament, July 29-30; and a kingfish tournament, date pending. “The marlin tournament will be in Charlotteville, Tobago. Prizes will be awarded for dolphin, wahoo, yellowfin tuna, blue marlin, white marlin, and sailfish. The other three tournaments will be held in Trinidad. We are hoping for an exciting and successful tournament year,” says Monique Sheppard, office administrator. www.ttgfa.com

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Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.

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