Puerto Rico boasts a reputation as a blue marlin hot spot. Results of this year's 57th San Juan International Billfish Tournament, fished August 18 to 22, only served to support this status. A fleet of anglers from 12 countries released a whopping 69 blue marlin in four days of fishing.
The boat, Islamar, from Puerto Rico, won the tournament with six blue marlin released, followed by Tati Way, in second with five releases. Three other boats released four marlin each. One of these was 50/50, aboard which angler Federico 'Fico' Lopez Juarbe won top angler by releasing three of the marlin.
"Determination, focus and luck, that's what led to our success," says Juarbe, who tells: "It was the second day of fishing, after 12 noon, that our captain saw a lot of bait fish on the depth finder and decided to work the area. We had the first fish come up and released it, then after that three more came up on my rod and I released them all. The last two days of the tournament we didn't catch a thing. It was nerve-wracking listening to the radio and wondering if another angler would beat me, but that's sports fishing."
Juarbe was followed in the angler standings by Tom Cordero in second and female angler, Christina Muñoz third.
Cordero was also a member of the USA team that won first place among the international teams. Cordero fished with Bill Crawford and Jamie Rezor.
"Our team managed to release four blue marlin in total," says Cordero, "and we felt that our success was in keeping … tight lines!"
The international team from Honduras (Rigoberto Alvarenga, Luis A. Rubi and Herbert Soto) aboard Ambush finished second and the British Virgin Islands (Joe Clark, Julio Betances and Alexis Barbosa Seijo), third.
Clark, from the BVI's Scrub Island, placed top International Angler, with Jay Iqbal from Pakistan and Clark Smith from Florida second and third, respectively.
MuÃ±oz not only won third place angler, but also Top Female Angler.
"My son asked me to go out with him and his friends to fish the tournament," Muñoz tells. "He has had lots of fishing experience and has competed in tournaments in Puerto Rico and St. Maarten. But it was my rod that was hot. The third day I caught my very first blue marlin. It was a two hour and 15 minute fight and I had it hard because it was my first and I was learning what to do. The last day, I caught another blue marlin at 2:30 pm, then another lady angler released a marlin and she was in the lead, then I released one at 3:30 pm to put me back on top. It was pure luck and so much fun." Muñoz adds, "Now the joke is that when my son's friends call to go fishing, they kid him that they want me to go and not him!"
Seven lady anglers showed some spectacular fish-catching abilities this year, including Carolina Figueredo who released two marlin and earned second best female angler.
Interclub Teams winners – Venezuela's Laguna Mar Club, Puerto Rico's Cangrejos Yacht Club and Club NÃ¡utico de San Juan (CNSJ) – were represented by William Morrison, Osvaldo de Leon and Jose Luis Ramirez fishing for Venezuela; Donald McLeod, Salvador Egea, Jr., and Manuel Matienzo fishing for Cangrejos Yacht Club; and Miguel Donato, René de la Cruz and Jose Diaz Umpierre for CNSJ.
"Puerto Rico is and remains one of the top marlin destinations in the world," says tournament chairman, Frankie Mirandes. "We were able to prove that with satellite information and other data we can guide participating boats towards the fishing hot spots with plenty of strikes, basically by concentrating on those coordinates suggested by the Organizing Committee. Now we begin planning next year's edition and keep our efforts across the world to bring to Puerto Rico the best deep-sea anglers."
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S.
Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.