Spring Sports Fishing Tournament Preview

Billfish and gamefish tournaments abound throughout the Caribbean all year long. There are plenty of local boats available for charter for those who want to angle, great parties complete with fish fries, and take-home booty to be had that ranges from cash to luxury prizes. Best of all, the tournaments are planned to take advantage of when the fish are running so there is always a chance of tight lines. Here’s a sampling of what’s coming up from now through June.

February 8: Couple’s Tournament. This half-day tournament hosted by the Virgin Islands Game Fishing Club (VIGFC) is a chance for the guys and gals to fish together as a team, then party the afternoon away on Water Island’s beautiful Honeymoon Beach. St. Thomas, USVI. Visit: www.vigfc.com

March 7-8: 16th Annual Golden Hook Challenge. Billfish are the name of the game in this event hosted out of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Virgin fishing grounds to the far east of the islands are rumored ripe with granders this time of year. Visit: www.fishstx.com

March 9-15: International La Guaira Billfish Shootout. The billfishing is hot in Venezuelan waters in early spring. Last year, Gray Ingram’s Big OH, released 12 blue marlin, 3 sailfish and one white marlin to win the three-day all-release event. The first leg of the Spanish Main Series, the Venezuelan Open, is fished inside this event. Visit: www.intlbillfishtourns.com and www.abmt.vi

March 19-22: 14th Annual Tobago International Game Fishing Tournament. The real challenge will be to see who can beat last year’s record 890-pound blue marlin catch. There’s still plenty of great prizes for tag and release of blue and white marlin as well as sailfish, and the catch of whopper yellowfin tuna, dolphin and wahoo. Prizes valued at over US$100,000 awarded. This is a Southern Caribbean Billfish Circuit tournament (SCBC). Tobago, BWI. Visit: www.tgft.com

April 4-7: Barbados Game Fishing Association (BGFA) International Tournament. Hosted by the BGFA, this event features prizes for both billfish and gamefish. There’s always a good turnout, great local boats for charter and nightly parties. This is one of the SCBC events. Visit: barbadosgamefishing.com

April 11: 10th Annual Golden Hook Dolphin Tournament. The motto here is ‘fish for a day, brag for a year’, and there have been some reel-bending dolphin in past years. Dolphin or mahi-mahi stars on the Award’s Banquet menu making this a doubly good time. St. Croix, USVI. Visit: www.fishstx.com

April 14-17: Bimini Championship. This kick-off event for the Bahamas Billfish Championship (BBC) always draws a large contingent of anglers who want to get a jump-start on series points. No wonder. Bimini was one of the favorite fishing grounds of Ernest Hemingway. Bahamas. Visit: www.bahamasbillfish.com

April 26: VIGFC Dolphin Derby. Boats and anglers from throughout the Virgin Islands try their luck at catching big and a bountiful amount of dolphin. Cash prizes go to anglers catching the 10 largest fish. St. Thomas, USVI. Visit: www.vigfc.com

April 28-May 2: Central Abaco Championship. Second in the BBC Series, Abaco is a hot spot for blue marlin in the Bahamas. All tournament events take place out of Treasure Cay. Bahamas. Visit: www.bahamasbillfish.com

April 29-May 2: TTGFA Marlin Madness Tournament. Fished out of Tobago, this is where and when the marlin bite is hot in the southern Caribbean. This is one of the SCBC tournaments. Visit: www.ttgfa.com

May 19-22: Cape Eleuthera Championship. This is the third of the five annual BBC tournaments. A new marina was built here last year. Bahamas. Visit: www.bahamasbillfish.com

May 27-June 6: The Fishing Event (TFE). ‘Are You Big Enough’ is the tag line of this marlin tournament fished out of St. Martin. This year, the first four days will feature TFE Classic with awards over US$100,000. The second four days will be TFE Billfish Master that will be a 15 vessel invitational. St. Martin. Visit: the-fishing-event.com

May 29-June 1: 43rd Annual Antigua and Barbuda Fishing Tournament. Compete in either the catch-and-release Marlin or Sports fish divisions of this classic tournament that draws both visiting and local anglers. Everything from the captain’s briefing to weigh-ins and awards takes place at the Catamaran Marina in Falmouth Harbour, Antigua. Over US$15,000 in cash prizes. Visit: www.antiguabarbudasportfishing.com

Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.