French St. Martin-based Yellow Whip emerged winners of the 2nd Island Water World Mahi Mahi Fishing Tournament organised by St. Maarten Sport Fishing Foundation on April 19, after becoming the only boat to reel in qualifying fish after a frustrating day of fishing in weed-infested waters.
The difficult conditions meant few of the 16 participating boats brought back fish and if they did they did not meet the 20lb minimum weight.
Yellow Whip struck it lucky on the way back after circling birds gave away the presence of mahi mahi in clear water and the crew duly caught two decent fish, one at 23.6lb and the other 22.7lb.
With no other contenders Yellow Whip was assured victory. In an unusual situation the crew won in all three categories; Largest and Second Largest Mahi Mahi and Most Weight to pocket $3,250 in prize money. They also received goodie bags of accessories, El Dorado aged rums, and a leading brand fishing rod.
Yellow Whip’s crew comprised Andy Purcell, Fabrice Perry, and Stephan and Laurent Petit.
“It was a horrible day with Sargassum weed everywhere,” said Laurent. “We went to Saba, Tuna Shoals, Dog Island, but when we came back we found birds and that’s where we got our two mahi mahi, actually three but one was under weight.”
Natalie Kate weighed in one mahi mahi that was underweight at 12.3lb but the crew received some consolation from catching a 70.8lb Wahoo.
“It was tough today,” agreed Natalie Kate’s Paul Ellinger. “We went 42 miles southwest of St. Maarten but there was so much weed. Every ten minutes you had to take out the lines and clean them. At one point we had to stop fishing and take the outriggers out and just fish with two lines at the back of the boat. We caught the Wahoo about 23 miles from St. Maarten on the way back, at the edge of the drop.”
Last Scamp with Joe Peterson, Sergio Hodge and Mark Ng-a-Mann on board hooked up seven mahi mahi though the only one they thought would qualify fell short at 18.1lb.
Despite difficult conditions, crews enjoyed the after party laid on by Island Water World at their Cole Bay location. The skippers’ briefing was held at Lee’s Roadside Grill, Lee Halley being the winner of the first edition.
“We decided with Lee to bring the tournament back to Simpson Bay and Cole Bay,” commented Island Water World General Manager Birgit Rothel. “With three more boats than last year and 45 participants it was still a success, even if the mahi mahi didn’t cooperate. But that’s fishing! The fishermen are a core group of our customers and we are happy to give something back to the community.”
Robert Luckock is a British journalist and freelance writer. He is The Daily Herald’s correspondent for French St. Martin and was one of All At Sea’s very first contributors.