Fishing is making a comeback on the Cayman sports scene.
Granted it has never really gone anywhere as it has merely lacked publicity, consistent international exposure and the sort of mainstream interest that can sail straight through heavy winds.
Fishing (in particular in its more competitive form termed angling) has quietly witnessed great athletes, phenomenal achievements and tools of the trade advance in technology over the years.
In short angling has kept alive all the principles that make it a sport.
Angling launched in earnest on the sports scene in 1983. Obviously, with Cayman consisting of islands, fishing has been around long before then. In fact Cayman’s forefathers saw it as a means of survival rather than a past-time.
But 1983 signalled the start of the Cayman Islands Angling Club and the beginning of Cayman’s impact on angling.
The formation of the club came about by the foresight of its first president Bill Rewalt and his compatriots Davey Ebanks, Clarence Flowers Jr and Atlee Evans.
From there came Cayman’s first major tournament in the infamous Million Dollar month in 1984. The competition saw anglers fishing for the whole of June in an attempt to break the world record catch for a variety of fish. Naturally the prize would be US$1 million.
Bear in mind it takes a big catch to break those records. For instance, to break the current record for Blue Marlin an angler would have to land a catch bigger than 1,400 pounds.
The million dollar cash prizes drew much international interest. Over 100 boats from around the world came to compete.
Even noted celebrities came to these shores in search of riches and fish. There were NFL stars like Terry Bradshaw and noted movie stars of yesteryear.
Current angling President Franklyn Thompson recalled those times fondly.
‘We used to have NFL players here all the time. The calibre of people and the cost of those boats were exquisite. We’re talking about people coming here with boats that could easily fetch a million dollars each.
‘Best of all it had the blessings of Jim Bodden (the tourism minister at the time) and the government.’
Yet those times would not last as 1996 was the last year of million dollar month. The competition still exists but lately it takes place only on the weekends in June.
However, as Thompson states, there would be another competition.
‘In 1997 the Cayman Islands International Fishing Tournament replaced million dollar month. It was hosted by the angling club and sponsored by the Ministry of Tourism.
‘This year is the tournament’s 12th anniversary. It usually takes place in the spring, somewhere around the end of April/early May.’
The 2009 version of the tournament is slated to take place April 21-28 at the Barcadere Marina.
Thompson and Neville Scott (whose family owns the property on which the marina sits) are among the people involved with the organizing of the event.
The four eligible species of fish for the competition are Blue Marlin, Dolphin, Yellowfin Tuna and Wahoo.
Outside of the tournaments the angling club is going strong these days. Its membership numbers around 200 people from across society including businessmen, professionals and marine conservationists like Guy Harvey.
The club caters to men and women of all ages. The junior angling scene focuses on the Under-15 age group while the women number about 15 per cent of the angling club’s membership.
As Thompson states the club is about promoting responsible angling.
‘The club is about fostering positive angling practices and encouraging and promoting marine conservation. Not every fisherman will abide by us but we strive to promote it.’