Teamwork proved the ticket to success for Trinidad’s Jerome McQuilken, who with his team aboard the 50ft Viking, Vesper, won Best Boat with eight blue marlin releases at the 24th St. Lucia International Billfish Tournament. That’s not all! McQuilken caught seven of these blues to earn Top Angler. Plus, Vesper’s three times repeat win secured the team the prestigious Challenge Trophy in this tournament, held October 13th to 17th and hosted out of IGY’s Rodney Bay Marina.
“The first day we lost the first blue marlin we hooked up when the line became tangled in the prop,” explains McQuilken. “After that, we caught four blue marlin and I released three of them. This put us in the lead right from the start.”
On Day 2, the Vesper team returned to the southern coast of St. Lucia to fish. Fishing was slow, with the team only releasing two blues. Meanwhile, their fellow Trinidadian team fishing aboard Blue Fever hit it hot and released a foursome of fish. This tied both Vesper and Blue Fever on count, each with six blue marlin releases. Yet Vesper kept its lead on time by landing its marlin first.
On the third and final day, Vesper’s anglers released two blue marlin by 10am to stretch out their lead. Then, the real fun began. Blue Fever caught one blue, followed by another, tying both boats with eight blues apiece. Vesper remained in the lead on time, but there were several hours left in the tournament. Vesper hooked up and lost its fish. Ditto Blue Fever. The two teams traded hook-ups; both boats missing four or five fish throughout the afternoon. Finally, by lines out, Vesper finished in the lead.
“It was an extremely competitive tournament,” says McQuilken. “The third place boat, Pair A Dice, also from Trinidad, came on strong the last day with four releases. One more fish and they could have really challenged us for the win, but they finished with seven instead. There wasn’t one thing that led to our success. It was more overall team work. We’ve all fished together for a long time.
Vesper’s win qualified the team entry into the 2016 Offshore World Championship, which will be held in Costa Rica next spring.
“We fished the Championship a few years back and finished mid-fleet. We’re really looking forward to going back next year,” says McQuilken. “Let’s just say we have unfinished business.”
Twenty-two boats with 104 anglers hailing from Trinidad & Tobago, Barbados, St. Lucia, Martinique, Antigua, the UK and USA released a total of 49 blue marlin and four sailfish in the three-day tournament.
In other awards, Sandrine Mauggee won Best Female Angler fishing aboard Two Thou, and Nathan Jean-Joseph, on Hullabaloo, took home the trophy for Best Junior Angler.
“This was my first ever tournament as a committee member and as president of the host St. Lucia Game Fishing Association (SLGFA),” says Sean Devaux. “Along with the others, who are all young upcoming members eager to carry on the sport, we were pleased that the tournament was such a great success. With such a great facility as IGY Rodney Bay Marina and such great fishing, we hope to make the St. Lucia International Billfish Tournament one of the best in the Southern Caribbean.”
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.