Escolar spreads Christmas cheer

Big fish usually equals additions to record books, lots of seafood and a sizeable cash windfall. Charles Ebanks is used to that formula and worked it out again with his latest catch.

Ebanks, 37, caught the biggest escolar (commonly called snake mackerel or butterfish) in the Cayman Islands last week. The fish weighed in at 160 pounds, 11 ounces making it a new International Game Fishing Association world record. He was aboard his boat Run Tings when the fish was reeled in a quarter of a mile out of the South Sound channel with Emil Terry serving as the lone crew member.

In addition the fish is a delicacy in Cayman. It is usually sold in sushi restaurants as white tuna and heading into 2011 Cayman has about 12 such eateries. According to Ebanks one of them, namely Taikun, made off with half of the fish at a decent price.

“I was able to sell the fish,” Ebanks said. “I sold half to the Ritz-Carlton and the other half to a yacht in the (Cayman Islands) Yacht Club. I got CI$6 a pound and filleted it for them and threw away undesirable bits like the backbone. I’m actually saving the head for an American scientist, who works independently from the game fishing association, who wants to study it because of its record size. The head is in a freezer now and Guy (Harvey, a local marine conservationist) is taking it up to the man after Christmas.”

Thanks to both sales Ebanks nabbed himself an early Christmas present in the form of CI$960. In total he has banked well over $12,000 through fishing in 2010. He pocketed $1,000 back in February for reeling in the heaviest yellowfin tuna during the Barcadere Classic, cashed $9,800 for two swordfish caught at the 2010 Cayman Swordfish Challenge back in April and earned CI$230 in October for joining Eric Rivers and angler Nicholas Jones in catching Cayman’s second heaviest yellowfin tuna ever.

Then again Ebanks, who hails from Honduras and has been in Cayman some 28 years, essentially makes his living from fishing. He goes out to sea more than twice a week and has caught over 20 tunas this month (most of which he sells to local restaurants). Reeling in a big butterfish is nothing new for Ebanks. Back in July 2007 he nabbed a escolar that was 151lbs off Rum Point, which was nearly double the previous record of 88lbs (he consequently had the fish mounted and sold the meat). He was captain of his boat Run Tings II last November that saw angler John Doak reel in a 125lb snake mackerel.

A comical side story to Ebanks’ catches is that fellow anglers have a new nickname for him: the small fish killer. One of the biggest proponents of the new moniker is Rob Jones, brother of Nicholas Jones.

“Having the record fish is good for Charles and great for all anglers,” Rob said. “It’s great publicity to the island though I would like to see him do it (i.e. set a record) in a tournament with something other than trash fish. Far as I’m concerned we don’t eat that stuff; we sell it to the Asian seafood chefs and we stick to the snapper, wahoo, tuna and such. It’s good to see him doing well but his new name is small fish killer.

“It’s a long story. He’s a real good fisherman that’s very experienced. But lately he’s catching small fish (in the tournaments). I find it funny though he’s a competitive guy and he gets annoyed with everyone else outdoing him. We’re rubbing salt in the wounds but it’s all in good sportsmanship.

“Then again that’s what the sport is all about. You have that competitiveness already and these kind of things give you extra incentive to go out (to the tournaments) and prove everyone wrong. To me it brings everyone closer as a result.”

For his part Ebanks sounds anything but perturbed.

“If I go fishing I don’t bother reel it in if it’s not big. I look at it (the nickname) and laugh about it. At the end of the day who has his name in the record books?”

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