No one reeled in a 'Grand Slam' and pocketed the $50,000 cash prize at the 3rd Palmas Del Mar International Billfish Tournament, held May 14 and 15, out of Palmas Del Mar Marina, in Puerto Rico. But that didn't mean there wasn't the real possibility of doing so. The fleet of 20 boats, carrying over 80 anglers, released a total of 14 blue marlin, two white marlin, one sailfish, one spearfish and a swordfish as well as many wahoo, tuna and mahi-mahi.
"The fact that the five billfish species were caught means that the possibility of catching a Grand Slam during our tournament is great," says marina manager, Juan Boschetti.
What first put this tournament on the map was the catch of an island-record 522-pound swordfish during the event's inaugural year. This fish made international headlines and heated up interest in the relatively unexplored fishery on the south coast of Puerto Rico's off-shore island of Vieques, where there are several sea mounts.
"The south of Vieques has been very hot during this time of the year for a few years," says Ricardo Lefranc, one of the tournament anglers who fished aboard the 31-Bertram, Predator, captained and owned by Davis Iglesias. "A fair number of boats have been targeting swordfish in this area with great success. We have too, using 80 and 50-pound rod and reel with mackerel, mullets and squid."
The Predator team didn't land on the prize scoreboard. However, if there was an award for Best Mystery Fish, they would have won it.
Lefranc tells the tale: "We were targeting swordfish with 50-pound line at a depth of 1,780 feet, a mile south of Vieques, when we noticed what seemed like a typical sword nibbling on the bait."
The anglers and crew observed the fish taking the bait (squid) a few times, and then decided to give it a try and wound all the other lines back in. That's when Predator angler Luis Cordova went one-on-one with the fish. He felt the tension on the line and thought it akin to a swordfish swimming to the surface with the bait. A few minutes later the fish started to put up a real fight and Cordova again thought if felt like a small swordfish.
"You should have seen the look on our faces when the fish finally surfaced," Lefranc recalls. "We didn't know if we could get close to it; none of us had ever seen anything like it. The fish looked dead, so we decided to bring it on board and take it home. Even the guys from the Department of Natural Resources were clueless as to what it was. Now we know it was a 54-pound Tapertail Ribbonfish (Trachipterus fukuzakii). It was a very interesting fishing trip!"
Largest Swordfish: Ramón Santiago, Beba
Largest Dorado: Sofia Falgueras, Poco Loco
Largest Tuna: Ivan Morales, Unika
Largest Wahoo: Luis Lomba, Jr., Let It Be
Jr. Angler: Eduardo Montano, Pink Lady
Best Lady Angler: Sofia Falgueras, Poco Loco
Best Angler: Rey Contreras, Unika
Best Boat Overall: Unika, Agustín Crespo
Second Best Boat: Prime Time,
Third Best Boat: Intermission, Raúl Fuster
Best Fun Fish Overall: Sofia Falgueras,
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.