San Juan International Billfish Tournament
Any one of nearly a dozen boats could have taken the Top Boat title going into the fourth and final day of fishing in the 61st San Juan International Billfish Tournament. The competition was that close in this the longest consecutively held big game fishing tournament in the world, held out of Club Nautico de San Juan, Puerto Rico, September 3rd – 9th. Yet when final lines were called, it was Puerto Rico’s Jose Cestero, Jr., and his fellow anglers and crew aboard Cestero’s Hatteras 68, Mayte, who won by being the first to release three blue marlin.
“We won with three releases by mid-day on the third day of the tournament,” says Cestero. “Our success, other than luck, was having a great team aboard. One of our anglers, Jose Pazos, and myself, each released a blue marlin and the third was caught by our visiting angler Joseph McQuerry. Mayte Pelegrina was also an angler. David Shields is our captain and Julio Gonzalez and Javier De La Cruz are our mates. It was great to win this highly-competitive tournament for a second time. We also won Top Boat aboard Mayte in 2011.”
The second and third Top Boats, respectively, were the 64ft Ay Caramba, owned by Juan Colon Cabrera, and Alberto Gual’s 50ft Pink Lady, each with three blue marlin releases. Seven other boats released two blue marlin apiece.
In angler awards, Rhamses Carazo gained a Top Angler lead on the second day and held on to it until the Awards Ceremony.
“I won with two blue marlin releases,” Carazo explains, who angled aboard his Viking 55 Picara. “The first came up on the center rigger and the second on the short teaser, so we had to bait and switch to catch that fish. The secret to success was patience. When the fishing isn’t that good, you have to catch all of the fish that come up to the boat to eat.”
Forty-nine boats and 196 anglers released 43 blue marlin, one white marlin and one sailfish. This is down from the decade-long average of 91 blue marlin releases.
“I chalk the decline in releases up to the two tropical waves that passed through during the tournament. The change in barometric pressure shuts off the fishing,” explains tournament director Dr. Ricky Jaen.
Jaen introduced the use of a new satellite program using Google Earth that allows organizers to show anglers images of potential fishing ‘hot spots’ as well as to give a clue to bites per day and per hour with a high degree of accuracy. This paid off for many as competitors were able to see that between the tropical waves the marlin had migrated from off Dorado to the west on the second day of fishing and then east off Cangrejos on the fourth day. Both of these areas of water run along the mile-and-a-half deep trench just offshore called ‘Marlin Alley’ where most billfish are caught.
Two new additions to this year’s tournament were well received according to Jaen. First, there was a new mobile phone app that provided the latest results and information. Second, international anglers had the option of rotating on different fishing boats each day as usual or visiting boat owners could compete with their own team and be assigned an IGFA Observer.
“We had ten boats with observers this year, which was more than we expected, so we will continue this for next year,” says Jaen.
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.