The 17th St. Martin Billfish Tournament welcomed 27 teams including some of the best sports fishermen in the Caribbean. So it was a delightful surprise when relative newcomers to the sport walked away with a trio of the biggest prizes: Best Boat, Best Angler and Most Blue Marlin Releases. This was a true fish story for the anglers, captain and crew aboard the St. Maarten-based Contender 36, Oyster, who fished the June 11th-14th tournament hosted out of Marigot.
“Teamwork was the reason for our success,” says Oyster’s Captain Tim Roosens, who only started fishing three months ago even though he’s been boating since he was three. “We didn’t lose a single hooked fish and that is a sign of good team work.”
The tournament launched with a Bimini start followed by a very bumpy hour-and-a-half ride out to the famous fishing grounds of Marlin Boulevard. The Oyster team dominated right from Day 1 when Jonathan Schaede, who ultimately earned Best Angler, released the first fish, a magnificent blue marlin, at 9am. Only one other boat, Big Sailfish Too, released a blue, so on time Oyster and Schaede finished the day in front for both Best Boat and Best Angler.
Day 2, the rest of the fleet lit up with fish, but not Oyster, not until they changed their game plan and released a white and a blue that put them back on top in the boat and angler categories. Now at least three other boats were within striking distance of the lead: One Shot boated a 489lb marlin, Big Sailfish Too released another blue, and Living the Dream released a blue and white.
The third and final day saw a thrilling chase for victory.
“There were a number boats determined to beat us. We had seven to ten boats in front of, behind of or next to us the entire day,” Schaede says. “Unfortunately, the weather worsened and the full moon changed the tides, which messed up the currents and left us scrambling for good fishing grounds. We kept trolling and ended up catching seaweed in our lures.”
Then, in the afternoon, Living the Dream hooked up a blue marlin.
“We were afraid their fish would be big and that they would boat it giving them more than the 400 points of a release,” Schaede tells. “I will never forget how high Justin (Barret, who crewed as Oyster’s wireman) jumped when he heard that Living the Dream released their marlin. Any higher and he might have landed in the water! That meant we tied them on points, but we were pretty sure we had won because we caught our fish first. We arrived back to the docks and could feel the buzz in the air just by the way everyone looked at us. Then, the dam broke and the compliments started pouring in.”
Schaede caught all of Oyster’s fish to take Best Angler.
Oyster’s win earned the team an invitation to the Offshore World Championships in Costa Rica in 2015.
Although Living the Dream finished as Second Best Boat, she was successful on two counts.
First, explained owner David Johnson, of St. Croix, “We participated in this tournament last year and didn’t release any billfish. We wanted to come back and prove to ourselves and the other boats that we can compete with the best.”
Secondly, Living the Dream won the optional winner-takes-all Marlin Jackpot of US$15,000.
A total of 34 billfish were caught by tournament anglers: 19 blue marlin, 14 white marlin and one sailfish.
For more information and full results, visit: www.face book.com/StMartinBillfishTournament
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.