A fishing celebrity believes the Cayman Islands can do more for competitive angling.
On his recent visit to Cayman, Tred Barta expressed his views on the state of sportfishing here. In Barta’s eyes, there should be more than a handful of fishing tournaments.
“We have a lot of money in Cayman and we have a lot of people investing a lot of money in ecotourism,” Barta said. “It is a travesty that we are not promoting the fishing. You got great dolphin fishing in season, good wahoo fishing starting now, great reef fishing of which you’ve got good regulations [about] where you can catch and where you can’t. You’ve got great offshore pelagic fishing of blackfin tuna, yellowfin tuna and blue marlin; you get an occasional white marlin, sailfish, spearfish here.
“But blue marlin, yellowfin tuna, wahoo and dolphin are your prime species offshore. Now, the yellowfin tuna fishing here can be nothing short of spectacular – the 60-mile bank, the 12-mile bank, the 30-mile bank, even as close as the north and south ends of the island in 500 to 1,000 feet – you can chum them, live bait them, troll them. They’re beautiful fish, 30-80 pounds.
“If you had a tournament right now, there’s two ways to have it. One way is to get a big fat cat with a million bucks who wants to give it away and the boats will come. The second is to have people like myself talk about the blue marlin fishing, write about it, be involved in a club which is becoming more and more prestigious. I don’t need to kiss anyone’s behind. I’ve come to help, write the truth, be fair and be honest. I’m telling you, there’s an untapped resource here.”
The Cayman Islands Angling Club, which serves as the local governing body for sportfishing, invited Barta, 62, from Islamorada, Florida. The noted angler, writer, philanthropist and television personality wrote articles for media outlets like Big Game Fishing Journal and Sports Illustrated. He has visited Cayman before and had just finished with recent projects – including TV episodes for NBC Sports and a second book. He still carries on with all activities five years after being diagnosed with a rare blood cancer that left him paralyzed from the chest down.
According to the angling club’s website, five events have been put on this year, with the sixth and final competition – the 2014 Cayman First Insurance All Tackle fishing tournament – slated for Nov. 22-23. Six tournaments are set for 2015, starting with the Cayman Swordfish Challenge on March 27-29.
Angling club president Franklin Thompson says Cayman can accommodate more tournaments, but funding is the biggest stumbling block.
“We currently have eight tournaments in our annual calendar. This has served us well in recent years,” Thompson said. “I think we have room for one more…The greatest obstacle to adding events is finding sponsors.”
In Barta’s mind, the solution to the number of fishing tournaments is in public support. “We know that if you protect the reefs, protect the fish, if we have our diving buoys, that people will come. And when people come, they will dive, eat, they will go to the restaurants, they will buy bathing suits, and that is what you call trickle-down economics. You make the investment and as the investment is made, a rising tide floats all boats.
“The basis of any great tournament has always been the fishing club. I would like to see the community embrace the fishing club. They already have a great spot at the marina, Frank Thompson is a really wonderful man – energetic, passionate about the sport. I think people should be making donations to the club. If you fish, whether it be for fun or commercially, if you’ve ever touched a rod or fished in your life, you need to become a member of the angling club. We need money to form the club, to have more activities and to start getting people to blue marlin fish.
“It’s got to come from the soul of the island, it’s got to come from everybody. The Cayman Islands have one thing to sell: tourism. Without tourism, you wouldn’t be here. That’s unequivocal, nonnegotiable. It’s not the money and the banking, that infrastructure is changing.”