Big fish and lots of them is what makes tarpon fishing so tremendous off Gasparee, one of the ‘Bocas Islands’ located west of Port of Spain, Trinidad & Tobago. This is the site of the annual Tarpon Thunder Tournament, hosted by the Trinidad and Tobago Game Fishing Association and held this year August 4th and 5th. Add hard work and skilled fishermen to this amazing venue and it’s easy to see why Team Mapepire earned five top prizes including Top Boat and three Top Angler awards. More specifically, Michael De Freitas, Luke De Gannes, Dean Fakoory, Dominic Wallace, Marc Telfer and Christian Valdez, aboard Valdez’ Pursuit 32, Mapepire, released 62 tarpon in the day and a half tournament.
“We have all fished our entire lives,” says Valdez. “Tarpon fishing is what you do as a youth growing up here. The other factor behind our win was having Michael (De Freitas) on the team. He’s a monster when it comes to finding the tarpon. That’s the trick; finding the fish, and he has a lot of insight into this. It’s a very competitive, very fun tournament.”
Valdez placed Second Best Angler, De Gannes third and Wallace first. Wallace also kicked off the event by releasing the first tarpon. For Mapepire’s Top Boat win, the team earned entry to the 2019 Offshore World Championship in Costa Rica. It’s a tournament at which the men have represented Trinidad & Tobago before, as they are equally accomplished billfishermen.
Team Ramajay finished second in the boat standings with 32 tarpon releases.
“Hard work, team work and preparation before the actual tournament were behind our success,” says Ramajay captain, Michael Rostant. “That means getting the best bait. It takes a lot of long nights and early mornings to get our bait. Also, getting all our gear rigged up and holding practice sessions to see how the fish are eating, what bait works best and in what locations. Having fun is a big part of the recipe.”
Team Monsta rounded out third in the boat standings with 30 tarpon releases.
In other awards, Chad Chu Cheong on Ramajay won Most Lure Releases. Fernando Navarro and Mark Zillar, both angling aboard Monsta, earned Most Stick Releases and Best Foreign Angler, respectively. The Best Female Angler went to Amanda Hosein on EZ Going, best junior angler was Chad Ferreira on Scatter Brain, and Ben Rajnauth on Rum About won a special prize for being the youngest angler.
Fifty-eight anglers aboard 11 boats collectively caught and released 198 tarpon.
The Tarpon Thunder Tournament is fished in three sessions of morning and late afternoon the first day and morning the second day.
“The tournament is always special as it involves some of the finest anglers that Trinidad has to offer,” says tournament director Jonathan de la Rosa, owner of Island Yacht Charters Ltd., the company that hosts the event. “We are also seeing newer and younger anglers coming up, which is encouraging for the future of the sport. This year we had four foreign anglers and hope to grow this event through more aggressive marketing next year. Trinidad has the best tarpon fishing in the world.”