Hurricane Tomas delayed, but didn't stop anglers from competing in the St. Lucia and Martinique 20th annual International Billfish Tournament in November. In fact, the weather was 'no problem at all' for winner, Par-T-Time, a 53-foot Viking owned and captained by Robert Stauble of Trinidad and Tobago, which released two blue marlin during the St. Lucia leg of the tournament to successfully defend its champion title. "We arrived ahead of the storm," says Stauble. "Rodney Bay Marina is a first-class hurricane hole."
Thirty boats and over 125 anglers cast off with a traditional Bimini start outside Rodney Bay for the four-day tournament split this year between St. Lucia and neighboring Martinique, with a travel lay-day in-between.
"The weather was reasonably good throughout with the exception of day one in Martinique which was a bit lumpy," says Stauble. "We have a spot we like on the northwest of St. Lucia that we visit each year as a starting area. We released a total of one sailfish and three blue marlin in that area."
Par-T-Time, which has won this event two years in a row, doesn't lack for talent aboard.
"We had my usual 'old boys' team that has been fishing together for 30-plus years. So we all have the skills required to compete at a high level," says Stauble. "Plus, a good friend of mine flew all the way from Scotland to fish his first billfish tournament and caught his first marlin."
The pressure is on for Par-T-Time to make it three-in-a-row next year, but fishing isn't the only reason Stauble and his team travels to this tournament each year. "Apart from catching fish, the camaraderie among the competitors is unbeatable," he says.
Par-T-Time's win earns them an invitation to the IGFA World Championships, to be held in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, in 2011.
In other awards, Gustavia 2 of Martinique earned Second Best Boat, while Super Cool of Trinidad and Tobago placed third. Rachel Johnson, aboard St. Lucia-based Grey Ghost, won Best Female Angler. Par-T-Time also took the Best Foreign Boat award and Exodus of St. Lucia picked up the Best Local Boat prize.
Fifteen billfish were released during the St. Lucia leg of the tournament.
In addition to billfish, there were awards for game fish. Sean Devaux on Hullabaloo out of St. Lucia reeled in the heaviest tuna, Jimmy Jack on Braveheart of Scotland, caught the largest wahoo, and Steven Rolland on Reel Extreme out of St. Lucia landed the heaviest dolphin (mahi-mahi).
"At the Awards Ceremony," says tournament director, Anne Hamu, "Mr. Rolland made an incredible offer and donated his prize money back to St. Lucia for Hurricane Tomas disaster relief. This gift extended to all of the other cash prize winners and, in the end, over EC$16,000.00 (USD$ 6,000) was raised for Soufriere assistance."
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.