Anglers struggle to find big fish at 8th Kirk Slam

Bloodline’s Albert McLean and Roger Wood, right, caught a 23.9-pound mahi-mahi on Sunday, the only weighable catch of the day. - Photo: Ken Silva

In past years, winners of the annual Kirk Slam Dolphin Tournament have brought in hauls of 100 pounds or more in dolphinfish, known commonly as mahi-mahi.

On Saturday and Sunday, however, the big fish were not biting as much as in years past.

The winning boat, About Time, caught two eligible dolphinfish – they have to be more than 15 pounds to count for the tournament – that weighed a combined 47.8 pounds. The About Time team won $5,000 for scoring the biggest overall haul.

Happy Days caught one 33.9-pound dolphinfish, winning $2,000 for the second-biggest haul and $1,000 for the biggest catch.

Only one boat, Bloodline, caught a weighable dolphinfish on Sunday, the second day of the tournament.

“I guess we had a plan from morning on what we were going to do,” Bloodline crewmember Roger Wood said as to why his team caught Sunday’s biggest dolphinfish. “We went around the island yesterday and figured out that most of the fish were at South Sound.”

The anglers gave different reasons for why this was one of the slower years in the tournament’s history, now in its eighth year.

Some thought that the bigger fish may have already passed through Grand Cayman’s waters.

“There’s a lot of big fish, but maybe it’s the timing of the tournament,” guessed Mr. Wood. “Maybe the big ones came through already.”

Others think the slow tournament may have had something to do with the currents.

“Normally around this time of the year, the currents come in from the northeast and head west, but this year it’s going to the east,” said About Time captain Leon Dilbert. “So the bigger mahi, instead of coming in, they head out.”

“Other than that, the only excuse I have is that the fish weren’t biting,” added one of the tournament’s organizers, Len Layman.

While there were not many big dolphins caught, Mr. Dilbert’s crew did haul in a 60.9-pound tuna, which he said he will give to Kirk Market.

Down the Hatch crewmember Ron Hatch also said his team caught and released a 6.5-foot whitetip shark, winning a cash prize of $1,000 for putting a satellite tag on it to further the Guy Harvey Foundation’s research.

Additionally, the tournament’s 33 competitors tagged dozens of smaller dolphinfish, also assisting with the Guy Harvey Foundation’s work.

“It’s important to measure mahi-mahi fish stocks, considering how much we eat them,” said conservationist Jessica Harvey. “Also, they grow very fast and live about four years, so they’re really interesting to study.”

The tournament’s awards ceremony was scheduled to take place Monday night at the George Town Yacht Club.

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