IBT66 | San Juan, Puerto Rico August 2019
August 14-18, 2019
Story by: Greg Moore
15 August 2019
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Left Long! Left Long! The Captain shouted down from the bridge.
I saw it at the same time – a big dorsal fin slicing through a wave, then a tail. I yelled to the Mate, “It’s a Blue!”
The Angler grabbed the rod and climbed into the fighting chair and the Blue was taking line. The Captain was already backing down. Backing down hard, taking water in the cockpit. The Blue surfaced abeam of us, tail-walking - all lit up, blue and gold. It jumped four, five times, then grey-hounded across the water. Next, it was thrashing it's sword in a circle, big shoulders out of the water. Then, it was gone.
The Captain kept backing, following the arc of the line as the Angler tried to get line back on the reel. The Blue had gone deep and the boat settled with the line down at a slight angle astern. The Angler worked, pumping the Blue up. It had been 10 minutes since hookup. It would be another 10 until I saw color coming up. I was to the right of the Mate, looking over the side when we saw the double line coming up. The Mate waited with arm outreached. Waited. Waited. Then grabbed the leader as soon as it was within his reach.
“Release,” I yelled.
The Mate wired up the Blue and cut the leader short while the Blue laid on its side next to the boat. The Mate towed the Blue by its bill a few yards, then pushed it away. With a flip of its tail, it was gone.
High fives all around, then the crew started resetting lines.
Scene Setter: A few weeks earlier, my wife, Pat, and I received a call from Art McDonald, one of IGFTO's Directors. He needed two more observers on short notice to observe at the 66th International Billfish Tournament in San Juan. I told Art "We’re in."
Now, the anticipation of another trip, another adventure. We started with airline tickets, then the necessities. Observer shirts. Check. Sunglasses. Check. Visors/Hats. Check. Sunscreen. Check. IGFTO logbooks. Check. Deck shoes, slickers. Check. Ready to go!
The International Billfish Tournament in Puerto Rico is the oldest continuous running billfish tournament in the world. It is run by Club Náutico de San Juan. The Director, Salvador Egea Jr., and his staff, saw to all the details of running an organized tournament that drew 45 boats from five countries. The tournament attracted dozens of sponsors and was attended by directors of both the IGFA and the Billfish Foundation. Club Náutico’s three-story building houses a lounge, banquet rooms, offices, and ship’s store adjacent to the 100-slip marina.
On the first day of fishing, all participating boats lined up from east to west in front of Buoy #1 outside the El Morro fortress for the 45-boat shotgun start – an adventure in itself. The flare gun fired, all throttles forward and the race was on. Ten minutes later it was, “Lines In.” The fishing grounds start within three miles of shore.
This is Blue Marlin Country. No Sailfish here. All of the IGFTO observers saw Blue Marlin releases during the three-day tournament. At the awards ceremony and banquet, Sal Egea reported 54 Blue Marlin and 2 White Marlin were released. Lady Abi, a 66-foot Viking, led the fleet with four Blue Marlin releases. Top angler was Charlie Berkley, who released three Blue Marlin aboard the 45-foot Hatteras Fishing Tales, the third place boat finishing behind Pink Lady (on time).
The banquet, just like the beach party and the dock party complete with fireworks on the previous nights, was a grand event. Sal closed the proceedings with his thanks to all who attended and an invitation to attend the 67th edition.
The anticipation starts!