The 610lb blue marlin Trinidad’s Alan Sheppard landed in the St. Lucia International Billfish Tournament, held October 19th to 23rd out of IGY Rodney Bay Marina, didn’t earn his new Bertram 54, Abracadabra, the top boat prize. However, it did net him the trophy for Heaviest Blue Marlin as well as a boatload of bragging rights.
“I’ve fished this tournament for many years, but have never won,” says Sheppard, who confided that his new boat, 19ft longer than the previous one that he fished aboard in last year’s tournament, may have been a good luck charm.
“The seas were lumpy the first day, but it not too bad on the new bigger boat,” Sheppard says.
The Abracadabra team headed 18 miles north of St. Lucia and east of Martinique to fish an area where they enjoyed success the year prior. The first day was slow for them, with one bite in the morning and the release of a 250lb blue marlin after a short fight later in the day. This put Abracadabra in the top ten. However, two boats – Vesper and Pair A Dice – released three blue marlin for the day and these vessels topped the leader board after the first day of fishing.
The second day, Sheppard and his team headed back to the same spot.
“We didn’t have a single bite all day. Everyone was disappointed,” he tells. “Then, at 3:30pm the big lure we had off the short corner exploded. I was sitting right next to my rod at the time and heard the line start to scream. I saw the fish come up and eat. It took me about three seconds to get the rod out of the holder because there was so much pressure on it.”
The big blue marlin tail walked for a couple of hundred yards behind the boat and then sounded. Fourteen minutes later, Sheppard and his crew had the whopper up beside of the boat.
“I thought it was around 400 pounds at first,” he says, “but the longer I looked at it the larger it got.”
Back at the dock the weigh master called out 610lb. The minimum release weight for this tournament is 300 pounds, so this blue marlin was over twice this limit. In addition, this fish was only 97 pounds less than the St. Lucia record of 707lbset in 1996.
“The excitement was unreal,” Sheppard says.
The next and final day, Abracadabra had five or six tournament boats follow them out to their hot spot. Yet in spite of a few bites of blue marlin and sailfish, the Abracadabra team didn’t have any more luck and finished sixth on the scoreboard.
Trinidad’s Carolina Girl won Top Boat and Top Foreign Boat with five blue marlin releases, followed by St. Lucia’s Exodus IV with four blue marlin and three sailfish (which also netted them the Best Local Boat prize), and Trinidad’s Vesper in third with four blue marlin and a sailfish.
Antigua’s Ruth Liney, aboard Rum N Coke, won Top Angler and Top Female Angler with three blue marlin releases. Marylyn Sheppard, fishing from the Reel McCoy, followed as second best angler with three blues and Alan Sheppard was third with his landed blue.
A total of 48 blue marlin and 9 sailfish were released in the four days of fishing.
In the game fish category, Trinidad’s Andrew Rapson on Pair A Dice caught the largest wahoo, a 32-pounder. St. Lucia’s Brian Hamel-Smith, on the Lucky Strike, reeled in the heaviest tuna, an 87-pounder.
A total of 117 anglers from Antigua, Trinidad/Tobago, Barbados, Guadeloupe, the U.S., U.K. and St. Lucia fished aboard 24 boats in this 21st annual event hosted by the St. Lucia Game Fishing Association.
“It was a fantastic tournament,” says Sheppard. “We’ll be back next year!”
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.