The Cayman Islands produced a winning team at the 11th annual International Billfish tournament in Panama.
“Los Bamofos” notched 900 points to win the competition, meaning a Cayman team has now won in consecutive years. As a result Cayman will be represented in the International Tournament of Champions in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico next November.
Noted conservationist and fishing authority Guy Harvey chronicled the Cayman’s team success and said the catches were amazing.
“Three teams from Cayman participated again this year, including the reigning champs,” Harvey said. “I was joined by Cayman restaurant owner Andi Marcher and friend Jason Ward. (On day one) we jumped aboard the “Australia” with captain Gavilan Cordoba and mate Ermel Sousa and headed out to the 100 fathom curve.
“Within minutes, a 300-pound blue marlin jumped on the right teaser. Our next bite was a 130-pound yellowfin tuna landed by Andi. The other Cayman team of Troy Burke, Tony Berkman and Derrin Ebanks also released a blue marlin and Troy landed a 60lb dorado (dolphin).
“Day two was a blank for all Cayman teams and then the heavens opened and it poured for the next 48 hours. By day three we were in the lead with two marlin. Several other boats had caught and released marlin however and by the end of the day, six marlin and a couple of sails were scored by teams from Canada and Guyana.”
Every November, the world famous Tropic Star Lodge in Panama hosts the international tournament or torneo that attracts teams from all over the western hemisphere. At the tournament kickoff event director Eleanor Armstrong and dockmaster Albert Battoo welcomed nine teams from Canada (bush rats ended up third with 600 points), three from Cayman (the other teams were Sebastien Guilbard and Buster McLean with “Cayman Brac Down,” the reigning champions, featuring anglers Alistair Walters, Stuart Sybersma and Guilbard), one from Jamaica and one from Guyana (who were second with 800 points).
In addition to the tournament, Harvey was also focused on getting footage for his documentary about billfish in Panama with award-winning producer George Schellenger. Among other things, Harvey interviewed the Panama President Ricardo Martinelli about his two new decrees aimed at conserving local game fish.
Most of the fishing featured big dolphins, large marlins (both black and blue) and massive tunas. Most were caught using live bonito bait, which is the way the Panamanian crews like to fish. Harvey states the highlight was a monster 650lb blue marlin release.
“Jason was hooked up to one of the most exciting blue marlin I have ever seen. The marlin went crazy, doing a big circle on its tail behind the boat and then charged towards us and overtook the boat on the port side barrelling along like a jet ski throwing up sheets of foam. The boat captain did some exotic moves with the boat to keep Jason in touch with the marlin.
“The big blue did another series of jumps and was at the leader after 45 minutes. I wanted to deploy a satellite tag on this marlin so Jason worked it for another hour before we got her back up and the tag was placed perfectly in her back. She was the biggest blue marlin I have seen caught at Tropic Star.”