Panama marlins got hooked up

Cayman anglers have long been noted for their skills in catching marlins. Recently they proved their techniques can be successful far outside of Cayman’s waters.

Three fishing crews represented Cayman at the 10th annual International Billfish Tournament (commonly called the Tropic Star Torneo) in Panama. Fishing around Pinas Bay were Cayman Hard Buoys (Troy Burke, Tony Berkman and Andrew McCartney), Cayman New Buoys (Alistair Walters, Sebastien Guilbard and Marcus Montana) and Los Bamofos (Andi Marcher, Guy Harvey and Neil Burnie).

After three days of the catch-and-release competition, Cayman New Buoys ran off with the most team points of 1,200 on their first visit to Panama. Canada came second with 1,000 and Cayman Hard Buoys placed third, also with 1,000 based on time, having finished fourth last year. Team Los Bamofos placed fourth (1000) based on time. In total, the three Cayman teams contributed 11 marlin and two sailfish to the tournament total of 35 marlin and nine sailfish.

Some 31 boats registered for the tournament, including 12 from the world famous Tropic Star Lodge fleet. Another 19 private boats from Panama City ran 150 miles to Pinas Bay, on the southeast corner of the Darien Province, Panama. Visiting teams of three anglers chartered TSL boats and rotated to a different boat each day. Four countries were represented in Cayman, Canada with four sides, Jamaica with two crews and the US with four crews.

The event is a qualifier for the Bonnier-International Game Fishing Association World Tournament of Champions held in May 2011 in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. That angling event is sanctioned by the Cayman Islands Angling Club and follows the Cayman Islands International Fishing tournament held in April every year.

Most of the catches by the Cayman team were in excess of 200lbs. One of the biggest was a 400lbs marlin that was reeled in using a live five pound bonito bait being trolled just twenty feet off the transom. Harvey was with the Los Bamofos crew when the catch was made and stated it was a magnificent sight.

“The marlin took to the air like a Polaris missile clearing the surface by several feet and somersaulted tail high, head low,” Harvey said. “At that point I jumped from the stupor of seeing such dramatic action so close, grabbed my Canon and fired away. What a thrill! The marlin kept going passed our boat with the hapless bonito bait flying behind it as the fish sped away.

“The captain spun the 31’ Bertram to chase the marlin so Neil could recover line. We finally got back over the fish and I was hoping the leader would not slip off the marlin. From my shots I could see it was wrapped and the hook was several feet from the mouth.

“Neil worked the marlin up and the first mate reached out to grab the leader as the release was called in to headquarters. We caught this fish by lasso! It was our team’s third blue marlin in two days and propelled us into fourth place with an hour left to fish. Any one of four teams could win with one more marlin and the bite was on.”

Other notable catches by the Cayman team were a 300lb black marlin by Alistair Walters at the Pinas Reef, a 300lbs blue marlin by Marcus Montana and a 450lbs blue marlin by Sebastien Guilbard. Interestingly all of those catches were made on the first day offshore. The second day saw a 475lbs blue marlin by honorary Cayman angler Neil Burnie (who hails from Bermuda). Day three saw four catches in excess of 300lbs, including a massive 500lb blue marlin. Harvey described how the catches came about.

“Things actually got off to a slow start but once the captains located the schools of bonitos, live bait was now available. Earlier in the day we had caught some 25lbs yellowfin tunas and began pulling them live, hoping for a big black or blue marlin to take them. Live baiting is the preferred method of fishing for black and blue marlin on the Pacific coast of Panama. The private boats from Panama City switched over to live bait fishing from pulling artificial lures once they saw how effective this method was at getting the bite.

“The first blue marlin Los Bamofos caught spent four excruciating minutes in the spread checking out all three baits, zipping back and forth and driving the crew crazy, before it settled on the short bait. Angler Andi Marcher took 40 minutes to subdue this active 500 pounder. Cayman New Buoys scored a 300lbs black marlin by Marcus. They did lose a marlin but had a double marlin bite hooking a 350lbs black marlin which was caught by Tony Berkman.

“Before the fishing closed at 3pm Cayman New Buoys hooked and released their fourth marlin, a 450lbs blue by Sebastien. It was a real Chamber of Commerce fish that said: ‘Thank you for visiting Panama and come back again soon’.”

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