Southeasterly winds, rough seas and uncomfortable conditions. No surprise — typical weather for the start of this month’s billfish fest.
For some reason, despite great conditions before and after, the onset of marlin madness seems predicated on sloppy seas. Happily, the boats that take part are large enough or have seasoned enough crews that no one is truly deterred from seeking their fortune in the pursuit of what many consider to be the ultimate game fish. And so the 2018 season tries to make its way into the record books.
The annual July 4 Blue Marlin World Cup was fished throughout the world, starting in the Pacific and then travelling through the time zones across the Indian Ocean, over the Atlantic Ocean, through the Gulf of Mexico into the Pacific and finishing up in the Hawaiian Islands. A total of 148 boats were entered with over 30 picking Bermuda as their hunting spot of choice. Many of these were also fishing the first day of the first leg of the Bermuda Triple Crown, the Bermuda Billfish Blast.
Madeira and the Azores in the eastern Atlantic have been producing high-quality marlin in recent days, so were preferred by some boats although the billfishing locally has been nothing to sneeze at, either. Following a win in 2017, the Gulf of Mexico has also seen an increase in entries and some of the early hookups with decent fish were reported from there.
The Blast is primarily a release tournament with the proviso of being able to boat a single fish on the Fourth of July as the boat may also be entered in the Blue Marlin World Cup. When the Fourth was done and dusted, no fish had been reported caught from the Western Pacific or the Indian Ocean and the Atlantic had fared no better. The Gulf provided some action although one fish failed to qualify and another turned out to be a bluefin tuna. The fishing hours came and went until finally, the fabled Kona coast of Hawaii produced the winner.
There was no shortage of drama at the end; with five minutes to go a boat hooked up and had to be given the time to catch or lose the fish. This led to a delay of the final analysis and kept the live-action Facebook update from announcing the results. Given the audience involved, this meant a lot of sleepless nights around the world!
The Kona-based boat, Troublemaker, brought in the winner; a 760.5lb blue marlin (120 inches length by 64 inches girth) which will translate into something like well over a half-million dollars for the lucky crew which was also involved in the optional additional cash pool. Not a bad day’s work, especially if you are doing something that you love.
Jumping back to the local scene, it was rather surprising that one of the boats fishing locally did not turn up a qualifier. In addition to the 38 boats fishing the Bermuda Blast, there were a couple of other local boats that were entered solely into the World Cup event and this meant that there was a whole lot of fishing power going into the deep briny around the island, yet not a qualifier between the lot.
Surprising, because the fishing was actually pretty hot. By the midterm mark on Thursday, the participants in the Blast had caught and released over 100 billfish, all but for eight were blue marlin. The others were all white marlin; thus far there had been no spearfish or sailfish caught. This is a great “Bite” as tournament anglers refer to the level of action, equating to better than 1.25 billfish per team per day.
With still plenty of time for the tournament to turn around, there are at least three boats tied on three blue marlin releases and there is little doubt that there will be plenty of twists and turns before the Fat Lady actually sings. Keep track of these developments on the tournament website at www.https://bbb18.catchstat.com/?loc=contentwell&lnk=live-2018-scoreboard&dom=section-2.
Although there are categories for other species in the billfish tournaments, the effort is almost 100 per cent directed at marlin, so there is little indication of the abundance of these other species.
Other reports suggest that there are good numbers of tuna around with blackfin being exceptionally common. It doesn’t take too much imagination that the relative profusion of tuna has something to do with the number of marlin cruising through the local area. While it is likely that this is the spawning period for these large predators, they like to eat well and that will keep them in the local general area.
The Bermuda Big Game Classic, probably the premier event of the Bermuda Triple Crown Series kicks off on Thursday, July 12 with fishing on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Weigh-ins will take place at Barr’s Bay Park, where the public can come to view any large fish that are caught.
For those who can spare the time and cash, this is a chance to really experience some very Tight Lines!