It’s not every day you’re recognized for your expertise and a job well done. Yet that day came for Puerto Rico’s Juan Carlos Torruella when he was named one of the 50 Top Charter Captains by Salt Water Sportsman magazine. Torruella is the only Caribbean captain on a list that includes sports fishing professionals in five countries and international greats such as Capt. Bubba Carter, Capt. Alan Card and Capt. Ron Hamlin.
“It is a very humbling award,” says Torruella, who started his San Juan-based ‘Extreme Fishing Puerto Rico’ in 2011. The name was chosen because Torruella pursues big fish – everything from monster tarpon in the backcountry lagoons to tuna and blue marlin offshore – on a 20ft power catamaran using very light tackle. “Being voted in by customers who have fished with you means that you are doing a good job and that is very rewarding.”
Born and raised in San Juan, Torruella started fishing as a young boy with his grandfather in Little River, North Carolina. The two would catch largemouth bass, perch and catfish. Torruella caught his first billfish, a white marlin, off Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic in June 1983, at the age of 13.
“That catch ignited the fire inside me,” Torruella explains. “I worked that summer as a mate with my uncle, Capt. Jorge Torruella, aboard the Gin Pole out of Club Nautico de San Juan. I learned how to rig baits, hook fish, wire and gaff gamefish. In September of that same year, I caught my first blue marlin in the waters off San Juan, aboard my father’s 45ft Chris Craft, Sharon.”
Torruella spent the 1980s and early 1990s captaining the Sharon in marlin tournaments in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, British Virgin Islands and Dominican Republic. In 1996, he launched his sport fishing career. He purchased an 18ft Hewes flats skiff which he named Tight Loop and specialized in light tackle charters. Success came immediately. In his first year, local angler Frankie Jaen caught a Puerto Rico all-tackle rod-and-reel record 158lb tarpon with Torruella at the helm. In December 2001, Torruella set the Puerto Rican record for most tarpon caught in one day with 56 tarpon releases by two anglers.
Since this time, as a professional captain, Torruella has guided customers and friends to six IGFA (International Game Fishing Association) World Record catches and over 40 Puerto Rican national records. As a recreational angler, Torruella’s resume is equally impressive. He’s caught over 300 billfish, including 185 blue marlin. Even more remarkable, he caught a 350lb swordfish on 50lb stand-up tackle!
“My favorite species are blue marlin and tarpon,” Torruella explains. “Blue marlin because it’s awesome to watch them strike a bait or teaser. Bait and switch is definitely the way to go. The bites are just out of this world. Tarpon because of their wild jumps. Catching tarpon on a long rod with flies is a lot harder but a lot more rewarding.”
Torruella, like his father and grandfather before him, enjoys sharing the sport with the next generation, namely his son.
“My favorite and most rewarding tournament win was with my son when he won the 18th Annual Cangrejos Yacht Club Tarpon Tournament,” says Torruella, who has won nearly 30 marlin and tarpon tournaments, including the prestigious Club Nautico de San Juan International Billfish Tournament twice. “My eight year old caught four tarpon to win the event in a field of 27 boats and 79 anglers.”
Looking ahead, Torruella will continue charter, tournament and recreational sports fishing. One goal is to someday travel to the Pacific in hopes of catching a black marlin and striped marlin to complete his personal Royal Slam (all nine billfish species).
“I enjoy being on the water,” he says. “I feel like I’m in my own world and disconnected from everything else! Professionally it’s very rewarding to watch your customers catch a nice fish. The look in their eyes when they catch that fish is priceless.”
For more info, visit: extremefishingpr.com