Sports fishermen – grab your rods and reels! Fishing season is year-round in the Caribbean. There’s abundant game fish such as dolphin, wahoo and tuna to catch and the spring, summer and fall are peak times for bill fishing for blue and white marlin. Here is a sample of tournaments that take place from May through October:
May 3 – 7: Guadeloupe International Billfish Tournament. Nicknamed the ‘Land Rover Fishing Festival’, the big prize is a vehicle awarded to the angler who reels in a blue marlin over the record 489-pounds set by Franck Nouy in 2008. Fished out of Pointe a Pitre Marina, there are prizes for species such as sailfish, spearfish, tuna and wahoo too. Ashore, there are parties nightly and lay-day games on Gosier Island.
May 31 – June 5: Dominican Republic International Cap Cana Billfish Shootout. Over 30 boats and 90 anglers are expected to fish for blue and white marlin in this event, newly title sponsored by the Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism, where cash and luxury item prizes total over $100,000. Last year, Gray Ingram’s Florida-based Big OH earned Top Boat with the release of 12 white and two blue marlin. New this year is the Cap Cana Cook-off sponsored by fishing journalist Charlie Levine. “All teams are encouraged to enter a dish in the seafood, meat or chicken categories,” invites tournament director, Rick Alvarez. www.intlbillfishtourns.com
May 31 – June 5: The Bill Fish Tournament. Fished out of the Marigot waterfront in St. Martin, this annual tournament draws international anglers to the productive offshore grounds of Marlin Boulevard. “Last year was incredible, this year will be memorable,” said tournament director, Francois Anton, in an Email. A cash prize of $20,000 goes to the team that break’s the island’s 810-pound blue marlin catch record. www.billfish-tournament.com
June 10 – 12: 45th Annual Antigua and Barbuda Sports Fishing Tournament. Forty-five boats or more are expected to compete in this event which offers a Marlin Division (blue and white marlin and sailfish) and Sportfishing Division (wahoo, dolphin, tuna and kingfish). Charter boats are available for visiting anglers. Nightly parties, food and drink will be in Nelson’s Dockyard, English Harbour. www.antiguabarbudasportfishing.com
June 13: NEW! The Antigua and Barbuda Marlin Classic. The best anglers will compete against one another in this new one-day tournament. Entry is US $1000 and winner takes 80% of all entry fees. “With the addition of the Marlin Classic, it’s definitely worth making the trip to Antigua to fish this and the Antigua and Barbuda Sports Fishing Tournament for three superb days of fishing,” says organizer Alison Sly-Adams. www.antiguabarbudasportfishing.com
July 12 – 14: 48th July Open Billfish Tournament. Up to 25 boats are expected to fish the longest annually held angling contest in the Virgin Islands. “The full moon in late July produces a great blue marlin bite,” says tournament director Jeffrey Kreiner. This goal is to release the most blue marlin, white marlin and sailfish in this all-release tournament hosted by the Virgin Islands Game Fishing Club.
July 17 – 20: BVI Billfish Tournament. Back after successful events in 2007 and 2008, more than 20 boats are expected to fish this event held at the Bitter End Yacht Club (BEYC). “When anglers arrive in July, they will be greeted by our new, upgraded docks,” says Sandra Grisham, BEYC chief operating officer. “They will be wider, have more draft and totally updated power and water systems.”
August 10 – 14: USVI Open/Atlantic Blue Marlin Tournament. World-class anglers compete in this ‘Super Bowl of Sportfishing’ to see who can release the most blue marlin. “This year,” says tournament director, Jimmy Loveland, “Annette ‘Maudi’ Dallimore of Australia will be with us. She is the current holder of the IGFA Women’s ‘All Tackle’ Atlantic Blue Marlin record with 1073 pounds caught on the North Drop in 1982 aboard Capt. Joe Lopez’s Prowess. www.abmt.vi
August 19 – 21. Tarpon Thunder Tournament. Tarpon, catching and releasing the most, is the name of the game at this tournament organized by the Trinidad and Tobago Game Fishing Association. tttgfa.ning.com
September 4 – 11: 58th International Billfish Tournament. Sixty-plus boats and 250 top-notch anglers from all over the world will compete in this all-release tournament. “Visiting anglers are invited to fish on the best yachts from Club Nautico de San Juan fishing ‘armada’ and rotate every day,” says tournament director, Frankie Mirandes. Over 30 prizes awarded including Best International Cup Winning Team, Best Angler and Best Boat. Cash prizes for the top three captains. www.sanjuaninternational.com
October 15 – 22: 48th Port Antonio International Marlin Tournament (PAIMT). Fishermen are flocking to Jamaica in the wake of last year’s fantastic fishing, when anglers aboard Diana, a 52 Hatteras, set a record by releasing eight blue marlin in four days of fishing. “Anyone can enter with a 20% boat discount offered if paid before June 30 2011,” says Dr. Ron DuQuesnay, chair of the host Sir Henry Morgan Angling Association. There are nightly parties and a lay-day canoe parade and tournament. www.jamaicasportsfishing.com
October 20 – 23: St. Lucia International Billfish Tournament. Held out of IGY Rodney Bay Marina, there’s the chance to win a vehicle if the island blue marlin record of 767-pounds is broken. Dockside activities include nightly weigh-ins, wine and rum tastings, music, food and a fashion show. “Non-anglers can take part in all angler activities, but instead of fishing we have a catamaran island tour or duty free shopping tours available,” says tournament organizer, Anne Hamu. www.stluciabillfish.com
October 26 – 29: International Game Fishing Tournament of Martinique. Held out of Port du Marin and hosted by the Martinique Billfish Association, this event attracts a fleet of local and international anglers. Discounts available for entries prior to October 1 2011. www.martinique-billfish.org
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.