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Puerto Rico International Billfish Tournament

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The luck of fishing in Club Nautico de San Juan’s 63rd International Billfish Tournament (IBT) for the first time combined with skills gained billfishing in the waters off South Florida, the Florida Keys and the Bahamas, earned AD/HD and its owner, Palm Beach, Florida-based Lamont Harris, the Top Boat and Top Angler prizes, respectively, in this September 12 to 18 event. What’s more, the competition’s exciting finale came down to the wire between newcomer visitor, AD/HD, and Sea Dream, a local Puerto Rican boat back in competition after a hiatus of a dozen years.

“The first day we saw five blue marlin and released three,” says James Barnett, captain of the 58ft Revenge, AD/HD. “Lamont released two and Mark Wodlinger the other. That put us in the lead on the first day.”

The next two days of the four day tournament weren’t as productive for the AD/HD team, with zero bites day two and only one release by Harris on day three.

Meanwhile, the fish catching action started much more slowly for Puerto Rico’s Juan Pepe Donestevez and his team aboard the Cabo 43, Sea Dream.

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“The first day we saw two marlin, but one broke the line and the other we couldn’t hook up,” says Donestevez. “The second day, we saw two more. I released one after over an hour fight and the other didn’t eat. The third day we had another two. Our visiting angler from Costa Rica caught one and the other struck my bait, but let it go within seconds.”

This meant AD/HD led the fleet going into the final day with four blue marlin releases, compared to Sea Dream’s two.

“The last day was amazing for us,” says Sea Dream’s Donestevez. “We saw three blue marlin and released all three. Our visiting angler from Puerto Rico, Alberto Regis, released one in the morning, followed by another by Edgar Stokes. Regis then released the team’s fifth marlin, an estimated 400-pounder, at 2:47pm.”

However, 26 minutes before Regis final release, AD/HD angler Emilio Fernandez caught the Florida team’s fifth blue marlin. Thus, AD/HD won the Top Boat prize by being the first to release five blue marlin. Plus, AD/HD’s Harris’ total of three blue marlin also won him Top Angler because second place angler, Sea Dream’s Regis, caught his third blue after Harris.

“It was pretty awesome. That last fish we hooked up after Sea Dream, but we caught it before them. It was about a 450-pounder we released in four minutes flat,” says AD/HD’s Capt. Barnett. “One of our mates, Jose Castillo, from Puerto Rico, played a big part in our success. We had been in Puerto Rico fishing for four months before the tournament and we practiced together often. That made us a well-oiled machine which means we could make the bites count when we got them.”

AD/HD angler, Mark Wodlinger, hooked up
AD/HD angler, Mark Wodlinger, hooked up

AD/HD owner, Harris, decided to enter the IBT after one of his businesses, Rita’s Italian Ice, took him to Puerto Rico and he heard about the great billfishing. Rita’s, the world’s largest Italian ice concept, opened last year in Old San Juan.

IBT organizers, headed by chairman Salvador Egea, Jr, prepared for the tournament by deploying eight FADs (Fish Aggregating Device). One was eight miles off the San Juan Harbor, the prime fishing grounds for the tournament. True to form, AD/HD’s Barnett says his team hooked up all of their marlin within sight of FADs.

The 44 boat IBT fleet released a total of 58 blue marlin.

In other awards, Puerto Rico’s Ana Maldonado won Best Female with the release one blue marlin on the last day. The international team award went to United States 9, composed Harris, Wodlinger and marine artist, Carey Chen. Puerto Rico’s Jose Diaz Umpierre, Manuel Hernandez Faure and Eduardo Rodríguez Piñero took the InterClub prize.

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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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