Fishing has always been a family affair for Captain Michael ‘Mickey’ Hall, one of Antigua’s most experienced and winning sports fishermen.
“I started fishing at age seven with my late father, the Honorable Robert Hall, and with my brothers and sometimes my mother,” says Hall. “My first efforts actually involved skin diving both as a reef diver and open water diver taking part in the Pan Am Airways tournaments. We targeted reef species and pelagic and normally would go from the boat.”
Hall’s sports fishing education took a leap forward during his teenage years under the tutelage of the late Ralph Camacho, Antigua’s first sports fisherman.
“We all attended fishing tournaments from an early age during the late ’60s and early ’70s,” Hall explains. “My brother Vernon then got his own boat and we fished tournaments with our wives whose names are all recorded in the Antigua & Barbuda Sport Fishing Club’s records.”
Today, Hall says, his favorite type of fishing is live baiting for pelagics on the drop-off using strong spinning gear. He also enjoys deep-sea trolling for wahoo, tuna and dolphin. Wahoo is his favorite specie to catch, followed by black fin tuna as a close second. His preferred equipment is a rod in the 20lb to 30lb class and a Shimano Baitrunner 6500 series reel loaded with 20lb Suffix yellow monofilament line.
“My best fish story happened when I brought an 80lb yellowfin tuna to gaff only to discover that the fish had actually survived being pierced through and through by a large billfish and that the wound had actually begun to heal over,” Hall tells. “I sent a picture of it to the magazine Florida Sportsman and it was published.”
Hall caught a sizeable wahoo during another good day of fishing. Ironically, he hooked up the fish while making a close pass to another fishing vessel whose angler’s line went off at the same time.
“We came to find we were both hooked up to the same fish,” he says. “The big question was who hooked it first. Probably one of the lines went down the other and the hook slid along and ended up in the fish’s mouth.”
Hall fishes in all the Antigua & Barbuda Sport Fishing Club’s tournaments.
“I’ve done well in the local ones, having won the Sporting Divisions (all other species except marlin) on a number of occasions with all my family as crew,” says Hall. “In fact, my best fishing day was winning a tournament in 1998 with the largest of a few different species, also a few second prizes along with the largest fish in the Ladies and Juniors divisions.”
He has also won prizes in tournaments held in Nevis, Montserrat, Barbuda, and St. Maarten.
“Tournament fishing has led to life-long friendships both locally and on the neighboring islands through camaraderie,” Hall says.
Hall fishes from his 32ft Carrera center console, Scally Wag.
“I had the boat custom made to position the console a bit further forward to give a lot more room in the fighting/landing aft area,” Hall explains. “It has six rod holders on the gunwales. It also has the speed – thanks to the two Suzuki 250 four strokes – to get to the grounds and return in good time with a great ride.”
Antigua’s best fishing grounds are on the northwest, east and west of the island. However, Hall says “it takes years to truly learn the different bottom structures where a winning fish can be found.”
Visiting anglers, he advises, should pay close attention to their GPS/fish finders when near these structures. He suggests zooming in to get a much closer grasp of what’s on the bottom and then work the area at different compass headings to find the bite and then remember it for the duration of the day’s outing.
Even though this recommendation sounds like a lot of work, it’s the aspect of what Hall calls ‘total relaxation’ that attracts him to sports fishing.
“Whether we come home with fish or not,” he says, “just being out there is most gratifying and hearing a screaming trolling reel is sweet music like no other.”
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.