The 19th Saint Martin Billfish Tournament is certainly one for the history books. Not only was there great fishing with 26 blue marlin caught, it was the best turnout of boats and islands represented in recent years.
Held June 15 to 18 out of Marigot, the camaraderie proved stellar in good times and not-so-good times with the St. Maarten-based team aboard the Striker 42, Striker, which earned both Champion Boat and the Blue Marlin Challenge, ending the tournament in an extremely generous way.
“We got our first blue marlin strike right after lunch and released it in 20 minutes,” explains Striker’s Capt. Alen Comlekcioglu, as he recapped the team’s win. “The second day, we decided to go higher up the Marlin Boulevard. We had a couple of beautiful strikes with no success followed by a nice mahi mahi and a wahoo. Come 2:30pm we got our big strike.
We took a big gamble, estimating it at around 450lb, and brought it in where the reality of it was 403lb. Thank goodness for those three pounds otherwise it would have been under the minimum weight to land and we would have lost 200 points. Our fish was in the boat at exactly 3:59pm and they called lines out at 4pm. Perfect timing to a perfect day.
The last day we released a blue marlin before noon. So we finished the tournament with 1003 points. That 3-point lead gave us the champion boat title.”
Anglers on Team Striker were Jan van der Plas, Dan Hack, Richard Popken and Eric Danet.
Meanwhile, it was St. Barths’ Jeremy LaPlace fishing aboard the Taotira that earned the Best Angler award. LaPlace reeled and weighed-in a 404lb blue the first day and ended the tournament by bringing a 494-pounder to the scales.
“This is the second time he (Jeremy) fished in this tournament,” says LaPlace’s uncle Olivier Brin. “He wasn’t able to catch a fish last year because the line broke. This year, he prepared very well ahead of time and was successful.”
In total, 21 blue marlin were released and five landed. In addition, five white marlin and one spearfish were released.
In other awards, the Largest Tuna, a 49-pounder, was caught aboard the boat, Ipamol. An angler aboard Hang Over reeled in the Largest Wahoo at 50lb. The Largest Mahi Mahi, a 63-pounder, was caught aboard One Shot.
Thirty-one boats, with 180 fishermen hailing from Curaçao, Trinidad, Antigua, St. John, St. Croix, Tortola, Guadeloupe, St. Barths and both French Saint Martin and Dutch St. Maarten, competed in the 2016 Saint Martin Billfish Tournament.
Dockside parties with live music and food added to the fun at weigh-ins and into the evening.
“We want to invite everyone to fish with us in 2017,” invites tournament director, Stephan Petit.
For full results, visit: www.facebook.com/StMartinBillfish Tournament
A GENEROUS DONATION
Trouble struck the fleet the first day when a fishermen fell from the boat’s tuna tower into the cockpit, landing unconscious. In addition, another vessel suffered engine trouble off Tintamarre and was unable to make it back to shore without assistance. Both incidents ended happily thanks to the fast-response of the St. Martin SNSM and St. Maarten Sea Rescue Foundation. In acknowledgment, the 2016 Saint Martin Billfish Tournament Champions, Team Striker, divided and donated the entirety of their $22,700 winnings between both volunteer life-saving organizations.
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.