On the first day of the Fishing Event 2007 in the middle of May, the wind bullied the seas into a disagreeable lumpiness that made fishing difficult on the Marlin Boulevard east of St. Maarten. Despite that, some boats came back to Port de Plaisance at the end of the day with marlin flags flying to signify a catch and release.
This is the second fishing tournament of this nature, the first one being held in Antigua last year. Organizer Bertrand Lacotte says that he intends keeping the tournament in St. Maarten as the facilities are so good. A plastic surgeon from Martinique, Lacotte says that fishing is his passion, but not the wanton killing of fish, which is why he believes in catch and release.
Black Pearl from Martinique, captained by Jean-Marc Greaux, scored overall points of 2350 for five releases and went home with the first prize of $35,000 plus $5,000 for the Best Boat of the Day for the first day. Brave Heart out of St. Lucia, captained by Jimmy Jack from Scotland, landed in second place with 1900 points and a prize of $10,000. Third was Sea Wish hailing from Puerto Rico and captained by Hiram Quinones taking a prize of $5000, while Oli-T took fourth place with a prize of a Cartier watch.
Only one boat entered from St. Maarten and two from the French side, but then again, the entrance fee was $5,000 per boat. Lacotte says that sizable prizes more than make up for the high fee and hopes to attract more entrants next year.
The sole St. Maarten boat, the Oli-T captained by Tini Tinitalli, had bad luck on the first day when fishermen lost all their strikes and came home with nothing to show except unhappy faces. The second day of the tournament was a different story with Oli-T returning flying two flags. The first and biggest marlin, estimated at between 220 and 240 lbs, was hooked up at around twelve by Sham who had the difficulty of fighting a fish with a right-handed rod when he is left-handed. Later, Dougie Nelson from St. Maarten had a strike and brought a Marlin alongside of between 60 and 70 lbs.
Nelson said that the team changed things a bit from the previous day to see if their luck improved. They took out one rod and put out extra teasers and ran a large lure out on one line, then changed it to one of the outriggers when it wasn’t running properly. Shortly after that they had the first strike.
Wireman Archie Bailey from Antigua had the job of bringing the Marlin alongside and reviving it. The technique is to hold the snout of the marlin and slowly drive the boat forward to get the water flowing through the gills again. As soon as the colour comes back and the tail starts to move, the Marlin is ready to be let loose to fight another day.
Three Greeley flew in from Florida especially to crew on Oli-T and has been on a few tournaments with Tinitalli in the past, both here in St. Maarten and in Antigua. Greeley was also the guy to catch the big one on the last day of the tournament. The Blue Marlin struck the lure at around 9:30 a.m. and, after a 42-minute battle, Greeley reeled the Marlin in to where wireman Archie and gaff men Dougie and Sham could control things from close up. Captain Tini backed the boat up expertly to the fish to minimise the fight and thus avoid losing unnecessary weight off the fish. For the rest of the day, along with fishing for more releases, the anglers poured water over the Marlin to keep it hydrated.
Black Pearl may have won the tournament, but most of the attention was on Oli-T when they brought the Marlin in to the dock. The Blue Marlin weighed in at an impressive 452 lbs—not big enough to win the $30,000 prize for a Marlin over 700 lbs, but big enough to put Oli-T in fourth place. It was the only Marlin caught in the tournament large enough to qualify to be landed.
Mick and Ruth Liney from Rum ‘n’ Coke out of Antigua flew over from England for the tournament in St. Maarten and also for the Sport Fishing Tournament in Antigua at the end of May. Ruth was the only woman in the tournament and had a Marlin release on Saturday. About all the fuss Ruth said, “It was just a fish.”