Thursday, May 31, 2007

The 41st Annual Fishing Tournament (part 3)

Sunday was day two and the final day of the fishing tournament. Francis had a little “domestic” trouble and had let me know the afternoon before that he wouldn’t be able to come out with us. Not all the “better halves” understand fishing. Understandably I guess. When the alarm went off at 3 am Sunday morning I thought I had a hard time understanding it all too. Anyway, I managed to get up and out the door meeting up with the boys on time. We loaded the boat and set off for the little bank with hope of seeing the grander again. At first it was fairly quiet, but this time there were birds around the bank and it seemed like there would be more action. My dad arrived in the area on his boat the “Blue Rapid” and we fished near each other making passes in and out of the birds which were feeding in between the little tuna off the bank. We did a few runs back and forth over the “GRANDER” spot and didn’t see or hear a thing. Both of us decided to go a little further towards the thousand fathom (6000 feet) drop off. We were just passing over a section of water that my chart plotter said was 3600 feet deep when Big John screamed out: “strike on number 5”. The fish hadn’t taken any line at all but John had seen the rod tip bend suddenly and get slack again. I was closest to it and let go of the wheel to reel it in 15 feet very quickly. Sometimes when a marlin hits a lure it expects the lure to act like a fish. The fish if not killed would either speed up or slow down if injured. I reeled very quickly as if the lure was afraid….the marlin came after it and hit it again. Once again it didn’t get hooked, so I let the lure back about 20 feet “free spooling” the reel making the lure look as if it were an injured fish. When I stopped it the marlin hit it hard and was hooked. The reel erupted in noise as the marlin stripped the green 80 pound test line from it. It was Choppa’s turn to fight and he was strapped into the stand up fighting belt and harness in no time. The marlin wasn’t ready and it kept on taking out line as the other crew and I took in the other lines in order to slow down and turn towards the fish.

David did a good job of fighting with Tony holding the strap on the belt just to make sure we didn’t lose him over the side if the fish made a big run. John did his usual calm and sensible coaching of both the crew and captain and we all fought that marlin to the boat fairly quickly. It wasn’t hooked very well and was easy to release once we had taken the mandatory photo. In this tournament you are provided with cameras which you must use to record the fish as you release it. This way you are sure to get the 300 release points. We had done it and had now 300 under our belt. The leader at that point had 647so we were not out of the contest and were now full of enthusiasm and ready to catch more. We fished that area for a while longer without any luck and then decided to go to a FAD that we knew about from last year half way to Barbuda. On the way there was a spot I marked on my GPS chart plotter called “Marlin” and was where we caught the big one last year. Like clockwork we got a big strike as we passed the spot. The fish got off and we made another run over the spot. Once again we had a strike and Tony was on the rod fighting in his usual expert style in no time. This time however the fish “spat the hook” and Tony was left in great disappointment and with just a lure on the end of his line. “Lines back out” was the call and we were fishing again towards the FAD. Up ahead I saw my uncle’s boat “Nicole” and gave him a shout as we got close to the FAD. Nothing was happening with either of us and there didn’t seem to be fish around it at all. This wasn’t a good sign at all and after 45 minutes we turned back to head for the spot marked “marlin”. The toll of the past few days had torn away at me and fatigue was setting in big time. All of the crew had taken rests, and I knew that I had to rest. Tony took over driving and I lay down on the floor next to the consol. It took me a while to doze off and I think just at the time when I fell asleep a marlin decided to bite rod #1. The fish released it immediately just as Tony got to it. He let the line run back imitating a dead or injured fish. I took over and he got back to the helm. I reeled in quickly and as I was doing that the marlin attacked. This time the marlin was obviously more charged and starting taking a good amount of line. I usually speak about the reel screaming, but the ratchet noise this time was more like a fine symphony. We fishermen long for the music made by line being peeled off a reel. It ignites adrenalin, action, excitement and joy, fear and many other things all at once. Once again it was Choppa’s turn and he had the marlin under control in quick time once again. This time however the fish had not only taken more line but was also taking longer to come to the boat. We fought the fish for over 30 minutes this time and I could see that David was getting tired. As the fish got closer it changed direction several times and I had to work to keep the fish at the right angle and position to the boat.
Once or twice I had to make sharp movements in order to prevent the fish from going under the boat. It was a battle and we were ready for it which made it even more enjoyable. Finally John had the leader. According to International Game Fishing Association rules this now counted as a release, but in our tournament we not only needed to grab the leader but we needed to also get a photo. The second condition of our tournament rule was never to be accomplished because as John held the leader tight the fish made a dash under the boat and pulled free of the hook. We could see it right beside the boat but couldn’t get its head out of the water for the photo, and with the camera in my hand I had to watch it as it swam off missing a bit of skin from its lip. The hook was just hanging on all this time and we were now still stuck at 300 points officially. I told the boys that they had done an excellent job and as far as I was concerned we had just released our 4th blue marlin for the week. That was to be our last strike of the day and as the clock ran out towards 16:30 hours so did our chance of winning the tournament. Team Xtreme Caribbean Real Estate had done everything right and was totally prepared, but it wasn’t to be. Back at the dock we heard all the stories and made sure to make good use of the free rum bar put on by Mount Gay. Captain Frank Hart running his boat “Overdraft” was overall winner with biggest blue marlin at 347 lbs as well as most releases.

He also had a grand slam on Sunday with a spearfish and a Blue and white marlin release. All in all it was a fun event and we did well. On behalf of my excellent team I would like to thank Caribbean Real Estate for helping us take part in this years 41st Annual Sport Fishing Tournament. For more photos and reports please check The photos of the fighting above were taken by Big John and the fish back at the dock by me. I am sorry I haven’t been writing as often this week. I have been getting ready for an art show which opens tomorrow afternoon (FRIDAY) at woods gallery. Some of my photos will be on display.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The 41st Annual Fishing Tournament (part 2)

Continued from yesterday…..

We were about two miles north east of the bank and Tony was sitting in front of rod #2 on the port transom, and the rest of the crew all close to the other rods. Rod #2’s marlin lure, a maverick “top gun” was only 25 feet behind the boat in the middle of the wake’s white water. He had just let out a little line and was testing the drag or line tension when we a monster marlin shot across the wake and attacked the lure with its massive bill. Tony let out a yell and we all looked just in time to see the beast. Its huge head and bill came out of the water right at the back of the boat slashing the water as it shook its head back and forth almost like a bit bull. The fish was significantly larger than any we had ever seen before, and the bill’s thickness made the one I still have from last year’s 589 lb marlin look small. As she shook her head and bill looking as if it were in a pre-historic sword fight I knew she could “spit the hook”. Very little line was being taken out and John yelled at me to speed up which was the right thing to do. Without proper tension on the line as she shook so violently the hook could get slack and come out. Unfortunately this is exactly what happened and the line went slack. This all took about 8 seconds to happen and we will remember each of those seconds for years to come. The marlin was probably a grander (thousand pounds or more) and as we had never seen one before all of us were in a kind of daze or state of shock. What would have happened if one of the two 12.0 hooks had sunk in properly? Of our 5 rods, three were filled with 80 lb test line and two used 50 lb. Of course this was one of the 50s and the battle would have been long and hard. It took us over two hours of incredible battle to land our 589 lb marlin last year on the same rod and reel so this one would have tested us like nothing before. We tried to gain composure as we called in the strike on the VHF. We had to make a few more runs over the same spot just in case it hadn’t been too spooked by the event and wanted more. Two other boats including “Wa’apen” came by hoping for the same thing. On our first pass we actually got a strike in exactly the same spot. This time it was on a lure way back in the spread and we didn’t see the fish. It took about 10 feet of line and came off. On our third pass with “Wa’apen” right next to us we saw one of their rods bend. Their crew scrambled to get the other lures in and we screamed and yelled in frustration and anger with the thought that they had hooked our monster. We watched in despair as they fought it, but I could tell pretty quickly that it wasn’t the same fish. Very quickly they were gaining line and I told my boys that there was no way that it was our fish. Line wouldn’t be coming back on that reel so easy if it was a grander. Sure enough 10 minutes later they called in that they had landed a yellowfin tuna. Sushi was gonna be served later at their apartment.
We searched and searched for the rest of the afternoon without finding a marlin and at 4:30 we returned home without a single blue marlin release.

Even with 6 wahoo and 3 big mahi mahi we were all feeling a bit down about not getting a good chance on the marlin. It was Francis’ turn too and I am sure that he would have done a good job of fighting that beast. A fishing story would be a fishing story without the “big one getting away” section and you have just had it. The free rum did help us liven up the mood back at the dock and the party atmosphere was all good fun. Before long team Xtreme Caribbean Real Estate
was ready for more action the next morning, and had made a plan to meet at the boat at 4 am the next morning. Lines were permitted to go in the water at 5:30 and it would take us that long to get to the spot marked “GRANDER” on our GPS map.
(the fishing photos here today were taken by by mom. see her other photos on her flickr site.)

Monday, May 28, 2007

The 41st Annual Fishing Tournament

Friday’s registration was a fairly low key event with skippers and some of the crew taking part after drinking heavily at the free rum bars that were set up by Mount Gay on the dock. Who’s idea was that? Free rum drinks for fishermen? Wow…..i think I can remember some of the things that were said at the briefing, but it seems like a very long time ago at this point. Phillip Shoul, the chairman of the Antigua Sport Fishing Club welcomed all the boats before going through some of the rules, divisions and prizes. There seemed to be about 10 boats from other islands and about 25 from Antigua. After the skippers meeting I made sure that team Xtreme Caribbean Real Estate knew the plan and was all set to meet up in the morning.
Big John had quite a bit of work to do in setting up the smaller baits and tony had to organize lunch. Francis and David (choppa) were staying near the boat and we were all going to meet up for 5:30 am the next morning. There was a bimini start the first morning where all the boats line up at the entrance of the harbour and race out together towards their secret fishing spots. There was two of three boats with similar power and size to Xtreme and it was setting up to be a fun start to the event. As we listened to the countdown on the VHF nerves rattled and choppa broke the silence with his “war call” which sounded more like a mix between a parrot and chimp call. Anyway, with smiles wide we hit the throttles all the way down at 0 seconds and flew out the entrance with 35 or so boats behind us. Going into 6 foot waves at 40 knots was a majour rush and we continuted at similar speeds for 16 miles straight out into the Atlantic where we had marked our FAD position the day before. Staying right next to us the whole way was Wa’apen, a boat from St. Barts, which had done the event several times in the past. They knew that being a local boat we would have a good spot and followed us for almost the entire day. We got to the FAD and fished it for about 45 mintes without a strike. We saw nothing and the action we had the day before didn’t materialize. Ms Ashley which is owned by Phillip Shoul came up and past us going even further east and we kept an eye on him even as he started disappearing below the horizon. You have to call in all of your fish on the VHF radio to the organizers and if I heard phillip calling in fish I would have gone up to him. We did anyway thinking that he may be fishing another FAD up there. Half way up to him we had a strike but very quickly could tell it wasn’t anything big. It was a small wahoo. These fish are only found out in the deep when there is a floating object around. Wa’apen was fairly close and when I called in the fish they made a turn to come closer. We were both looking for the floating object. Before we saw it we had another wahoo strike but the fish managed to get off. We quickly changed some of the lures from massive marlin lures to smaller ones which had Tobago flying fish beneath them. These lures are better for catching wahoo and mahi mahi which were sure to be around the floating object. Just then I spotted it and told the guys to stand by. As soon as I uttered the words we had fish on. Mahi mahi were jumping behind the boat. For another hour or so we had manic action catching and losing fish, bringing lines in, changing baits, pulling fish into the boat, cleaning, yelling….. This photo below was taken this Easter when we had three mahi on at the same time and gives you an idea of how it would have looked (minus the back row of seats.)

It was total madness as it always in when you find a big bit of flotsam that is supporting a massive school of fish. Wa’apan was catching them too and both of us had to keep track of where the flotsam was. It was a wooden shipping pallet covered with barnacles. There were probably hundreds and hundreds of wahoo spread up to a mile away from it feeding on flying fish and tiny bonito. We could see them jumping out of the water and the frenzy was in full swing with baby flying fish being close to the visual bottom of it and Wa’apan and Xtreme Caribbean Real Estate at the top. It was starting to be a slaughter and the crew had blood all over their nice new fishing tournament shirts provided by Caribbean Real Estate. John who is first mate on our team and I had a quiet discussion while the others faught a mahi mahi. We agreed that although this was fun and was winning us points in the overall sport division, it wasn’t what we were really here to do. We were here to catch big marlin we had no chance of doing that here. With some hesitation we all decided to move on in search of a big blue marlin. We left the bite as hot as we had found it and had about 150 lbs of wahoo and mahi mahi in the fish box. In fact it was so hot that one of our mahi mahi had actually swallowed both Tony’s and Francis’ baits at the same time. They both faught the big mahi to the boat and then argued for the next 20 minutes about who’s fish is actually was. With the big lures out we were back on track towards the famous “little bank” also known as the “east bank” where the little tuna congregate and the marlin gather to feed on them. Once again “Wa’apan” was following us. On the way there John and I spotted a big fishing crate floating and although there were some fish around it there were no wahoo or mahi so we kept on going to the bank. We passed a spot where last year we had landed a small marlin but nothing happened. We got to the bank and started working it with our buddies “Wa’apan” from St. Barts cloaking us. For an hour we saw nothing at all and the adrenalin packed action of earlier in the morning was taking its toll on the boys. Choppa was passed out cold and Big John was looking tired too. Marlin fishing can be very slow but we all knew this and were still ready for anything that would come our way. I had a nice text from Teddy D. up in the USA wishing us luck and telling me he was following the blog. We could hear the other boats calling in strikes. The Nightwing fishing charter boat “Vitamin B” owned and operated by Mike Piggot (spelling ouch) was having lots of action and we were happy for him. Jolly Harbour massive!!!
My dad had also been having some action and had released one blue already. They had lost a big one too due to equipment failure. I could tell he wasn’t happy which was expected. Follow Me 4 from St. Martin had landed a blue marlin which meant that it was probably over 300 lbs and local fishing charter Overdraft owned by Frank Hart was doing well too. We were trying not to get too frustrated but with nothing happening it wasn’t easy. We took a longer run than normal North-east from the bank towards the thousand fathom (6000 feet) drop off and then it happened. Read about “IT” tomorrow.

Friday, May 25, 2007

the last training day

Well today is the last day before The Antigua and Barbuda Sport Fishing Tournament. It is the 41st year that the club has been holding these events and this year looks like it will be a pretty big one with entries from most of the nearby islands taking part. Of course if you have been reading the previous blog entries then you will know that our company is sending off one of its boats to compete once again and has been doing quite a bit of preparation and training. Team Xtreme Caribbean Real Estate has been on the water four times now including this morning’s session. Our lures, rods, reels and crew are all polished and totally ready to win this event and today we solidified our confidence by catching and releasing another marlin. We took the boat up from Jolly Harbour at about 7 am this morning and set out South of Falmouth Harbour once we had gotten up the coast. We were looking for FADs (as explained earlier this week) as well as blue marlin. We searched and searched pulling our huge marlin lures over miles of Atlantic without any luck only spotting some atlantic spotted dolphins jumping next to the boat. I tried to get my cam out but by the time i got it all set up i only could manage the one funny looking shot above. At about 11:30 we found a FAD out in the middle of nowhere obviously set by some French fishermen from Guadeloupe. After marking it on my GPS we trolled up to a mile away from it in criss crosses hoping to hook up with a marlin that may have been feeding near to the FAD. After about 25 minutes when we were starting to lose interest the top rod with the famous Black Bart “Grander Candy” lure started to scream as a big fish tried to pull of all its line. I looked back about a hundred meters behind and saw a big silver flash beneath a wave as john let out a expletive signaling that we had lost the fish. The big marlin had “spat the hook” as they say, but it have us some home that there may be some action at this FAD after all. I re-traced my GPS track a few more times and a little while later we saw a huge yellowfin tuna rocket out of the water just off our port side. There were fish here, and we decided to give it a few more runs. All of a sudden rod #1 took started making a hellish noise as the line started vanishing from its gold spool…this line loss could only come from a blue marlin and we were hooked into a good one once again. This time it was Tony on the rod, and in no time he was in the harness and fighting with David helping out. Tony did a text book example of proper stand-up marlin fighting and had the fish at the boat within 25 minutes.
It was a fairly short stout fish which they all said had to be about 250 lbs. We easily took the hook out and gave it a little pull through the water before it sped off with a few waves of its tail.
For the second time this week we had released a blue marlin and once again we were all elated. We had nothing more to do today and knew that it was time to go in.
Team Caribbean Real Estate was gonna register for the tournament and relax with our deserved confidence to carry us through until the bimini start tomorrow. There will be free rum on offer thanks to Mount Gay from 4:30 pm today until the skipper’s meeting at 6:30 pm. Of course our Xtreme team has to take part in all aspects of this tournament so I will post this entry and be off. Rum cant be released! I will try to post something about tomorrow’s fishing later tomorrow when we get in. “Tight lines”.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

the team in training - part 2

Continued from yesterday’s blog entry:

Upon hitting the drop off below the famous bank, Xtreme Caribbean Real Estate set out the big marlin lures hoping that we would finally get “a release”. A release is when you hook up and fight a blue marlin all the way to the boat and then release it alive. The mood was excellent even though it was a little choppy out in the Atlantic, and the boys were ready. We decided to fish a place that has been called “Frank’s Hole” which is a deep trench very close to the drop off. Frank Hark of overdraft is a famous fisherman here and had spent many tournament days looking for marlin there. We made north-south runs over the trench hoping to pull a big marlin out of the dark waters below, but nothing seemed to happen. On one of our last runs in before taking an easterly turn towards the bank I saw a piece of plywood floating several boat lengths away. I told the boys to stand by as I knew that mahi would be around it. Sure enough as we approached we could see the amazing blues and greens that always give the mahi (dolphin fish) away. Within seconds we had three 20-25 lb mahi mahi on the lines peeling off line and jumping behind the boat. We managed to land two and the third pulled free right beside the boat. These fish are so delicious and colourful that the mood became elevated once again.
“Lines back out” I shouted and we were fishing for marlin again very quickly. We had seen Frank’s boat “Overdraft” out earlier and called them with the GPS position of the ply so that they could come and catch some mahi mahi for their Jumby Bay guests. We didn’t have any bait and since we were only using artificial lures the chances of catching more mahi was pretty slim. The situation at “the bank” was very unusual with no birds or typical schools of little tuna. We fished there for several hours hoping to find a big blue. After all this was our all time best spot for finding blue marlin and so far we had nothing to show for it. Back and forth from the 3500 depths towards the shallow bank and nothing was spotted at all. The boys were very hungry and choppa and francis actually had cut a small fillet of mahi mahi, dropped it into some vinegar and salad dressing and were having a pre-lunch snack. Tony and John didn’t feel like trying some of the boy’s sushi and chose to wait a little longer for lunch.
Later lunch came and passed and we still had no sign of a marlin……or anything else for that matter. The seas got rougher and we started getting pretty wet. Coming from way upwind of us a small boat was spotted by Tony appearing now and again as it crested the big atlantic waves. These French fishermen were crazy. Fishing illegally 60 miles from home in little open boats was normal for them, but no antiguan would dream of doing the same. I kept an eye on them and noticed them stop way off in the distance South of the bank. I told Big John that we would go have a closer inspection in case they were fishing a hidden FAD out there. As we got closer I saw them pulling huge mahi mahi into the boat and told the boys to get ready. We didn’t see any FAD buoys or anything else floating which would tell us why these mahi mahi were here, but once our lines started screaming we knew something must be close. We ended up losing one of the fish but landed a nice wahoo. The fishermen waved us off as if to say that this was their special spot. Just looking at their French fishing registration made me a little agrivated but actually being told to leave the area almost made me laugh out loud. I made sure we got even closer on the next pass and then we saw the object in the water. It was a huge piece of semi submerged natural rubber and the fish were congregating all around it and the French fishermen. We hooked up with another wahoo and the French guys decided to pull out in case I had called the coast guard. We made several more passes hooking up with crazed wahoo one after another. We had no bait and were using large marlin lures which made us lose many of our hookups. Big John had ordered a very special lure from California which took weeks to get here just in preparation for the tournament this weekend. The massive lure made by Black Bart was very similar to the Grander Candy that he had gotten the year before. We had so much luck with the Grander Candy that we were hoping for great things with this lure until it got bitten clean off by a wahoo. The wahoo’s teeth are the shapest of any fish in the sea and one had hit the line above the leader cutting the entire thing off. John was devastated, and I tried to remind him that this was all part of fishing. It can be an incredibly expensive and frustrating game. We landed another wahoo close to big chunk of flotsam and trolled off a little further on the next run. As had been happening over the past hour at regular intervals we got a fast strike very similar to the rest, but this one didn’t slow down. The boys shouted “MARLIN” and I saw it slashing the water about a hundred yards behind the boat. Choppa was quickly in the harness and fighting while the others quickly brought in the other lines. I turned towards the fish and we were fighting. Tony held on to the back of his harness and quietly coached him while Choppa struggled with the blue marlin. This was something that we had waited for three days of fishing for and were all very excited. The fish was well behaved and within 30 minutes we had the marlin near the boat.
Big John grabbed the 25 foot long 300 lb test leader and brought the fish alongside and grabbed the bill. As he did that the fish went ballistic thrashing about and hitting the side of the boat.
John who is a good few pounds over 200lbs himself was getting thrown about like a lightweight, and all of us were happy it was not us in such a close battle with a blue marlin.
Its sharp bill has been known to so terrible damage, and we let it chill out before I tried to get the hook. Francis took photos and I finally took the hook out. The fish was very tired and we put the boat in gear so that we could pull the fish though some water in order to revive it a bit. The colour started becoming more vibrant and we knew it was ready to swim off again free to fight another day. WE estimated the fish to be about 200 lbs and were all delighted to have had such a good opportunity to practice catching a beautiful blue just days before the tournament. We went back to the GPS spot I had marked where the flotsam was and decided to go for a swim. We had heard our neighbors call sign on the VHF radio earlier and called them to let them know where we were. They were 3 miles away and coming to find this thing. While we waited for them we swam with the object. The wahoo circled all around the boat below and thousands of small fish tucked close together hoping to avoid the inevitable. There were huge triggerfish and triple tail too. The mahi mahi had moved on but we were sure there were other fish nearby too. Once back on board we were very satisfied and although we could have stayed longer catching more…we decided to head home charged and ready for this weekend’s action.

Team Xtreme Caribbean Real Estate was on top once again.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

the team in training

Tuesday was the third marlin practice session for team Xtreme Caribbean Real Estate and the excitement as we left port was fever pitched. Tony, Big John, Francis, Choppa were all on hand with me to set out in search of the target species for the 41st annual Antigua Sport Fishing Tournament. Registration is just a few days away and although we didn’t release any marlin in our previous two practice runs, this morning we were more confident than ever. On our first practice run last week we went out in search of some FADs and managed to only find one. A FAD or a fish aggregating device is essentially an anchored bit of debris both floating and submerged which attracts a massive variety of small fish. They are usually set way out off-shore in secret locations usually in depths of about 2000 feet. This means that the average length of rope is usually 6000 feet (2000 meters). Wherever there are many small fish there will always be larger ones and FADs can be places of great excitement and bounty. Most are set illegally in our waters by fishermen from our neighboring French island; Guadeloupe. My dad and his friends caught 18 mahi mahi at a FAD several weeks ago in just 3 hours. Mahi Mahi was the special on all the menus in Antigua that week. Anyway, not only do Mahi Mahi hang out there but tuna, wahoo and even marlin too. While looking for a FAD which we had marked with our GPS last year, we managed to hook up with a small Blue Marlin. The fish which we estimated to be about 150 lbs jumped and thrashed a bit before releasing itself. Within seconds the fight was over. We searched for more FADS that we had marked a year earlier and of the 6 we looked for we only managed to locate one which didn’t seem to have any fish about it. We caught several cudas and one mahi by the time the day was over, but no marlin. The day managed to be productive in many ways and the practice was good for us all. Marlin fishing isn’t easy at all. Anyway on our second run after the party on Saturday night, we managed to leave after lunch in search of the same blue marlin target. We hooked up with a good wahoo way out in the deep which is usually more suited towards blue marlin than wahoo. We thought for sure that it was a marlin until the fish stopped peeling line off the reel. Once it slowed we knew it wasn’t a huge fish, and were quite surprised to see it was a wahoo as it came to the boat. We had started fishing at about 2 pm and it had been very slow most of the day. We were looking for blue marlin and hadn’t seen a sign of one at all. Just before sunset we spotted some frigate birds doing their acrobatic displays of unique flying fish catching and knew that there were bigger fish below. We approached and managed to hook up immediately expecting to find a mahi at the end once we had retrieved the line. Instead it was a massive Black Fin Tuna. Once we had landed it and bled it we were off at 35 knots back towards Jolly Harbour which was about 25 miles from us. Watching the setting sun from the sea has always been one of the things I love most….especially when you have fish to share up back at the dock. No marlin though and as the sun sank below the dark waves a tiny bit of unease set in about our poor marlin catching luck. We had to get one before the tournament in order to get the Xtreme morale back to its deserved level. Tuesday was our third practice day and the entire Xtreme Caribbean Real Estate team was ready. The plan was slightly different and we fished the plan as we usually do.
Very quickly we ran into action and later I will tell you about it. Check back early tomorrow morning and i will have filled you in on the days events.

Monday, May 21, 2007

fishing party

Well I must apologize for not writing more often….I have been guilty of playing a bit too much over the past few days. On Thursday while sitting at the Caribbean Real Estate office, writing my last entry about the pre fishing from last year, I was invited to go to St. Martin for a quick trip. We flew over on the JHR (Caribbean real estate) plane on Friday morning and enjoyed 24 hours in St. Martin. Living in a small island like Antigua can be a bit claustrophobic sometimes and even getting off the rock for 24 hours makes a difference. I paid a deposit on my first bit of land to Caribbean Real Estate a year ago and have had a very good relationship with them since then. In my opinion, they are an excellent real estate company and have experienced significant growth over the past few years expanding into both St. Martin and Dominica. Anyway, while they took care of some business I managed to do a little shopping before jumping back onto the plane bound for Antigua. Whatever happened I had to be back in time for the famous Pre Fishing Tournament Party held once again at Club Havana in English Harbour. While speaking to JHR about the party and the tournament we got to talking about sponsorship of our team. After a little friendly negotiation Caribbean Real Estate decided to be our partner in the 41st Annual Sport Fishing Tournament. From now Adventure Antigua’s hard core dream fishing team for this weekend’s massive fishing tournament will be referred to as Xtreme Caribbean Real Estate. Crew still is the same with Tony, Francis, and Choppa as fighters and Big John as first mate and wire man with me as captain.
Anyway, the pre-tournament party was excellent as usual with a massive raffle to start it all off on the right foot.
The tickets seen above with francis were on sale for EC $5 (US $2) and there were so many prizes that most people ended up winning something. (Some like big john seen here....more than others)

Xtreme Caribbean Real Estate managed to take home dinner for two at the Inn in English Harbour, dinner for two at the Coast, dinner for 2 at Carlisle Bay and a complimentary Canopy tour. Our team is so hot that we are already ahead in the winnings and the tournament hasn’t properly started. Haha haha (wink)
The world famous Chicky Hifi was on hand to make sure everyone danced the night away in between consuming dangerous amounts of the sponsor’s products: Mount Gay Rum and Carib Beer.

Even though most of the dream team supported the tournament sponsors a bit too generously we managed to still pull enough of the group together in the late morning for an afternoon fishing session. Practice makes perfect and we went 22 miles south of Jolly Harbour in search of the Blue Marlin. More to come…..

Thursday, May 17, 2007

pre-fishing tournament stories- part 2

After saying goodbye to the boaters we moved back towards the bank accompanied by more marlin enthusiasm than before. Birds swarmed in frenzied feeding flocks as we approached the hidden shallow spot and we knew we would encounter the Makaira nigricans at some time. The crew kept their eyes scanning the “spread” of marlin lures ranging in distance from about 15 feet to about 150 feet behind the boat and for about an hour nothing happened. Marlin fishing can be some of the most boring fishing in the world as strikes can be few and far between. Its something you have to prepare yourself for when you decide to go after marlin. After getting sick of trolling in and out of the birds I left the bank in search of something different out in the deep. There is a 1000 fathom (6000 feet) drop off a few miles from the bank and I headed out to it hoping for a beast. Still nothing…….
Shortly after turning back towards the bank without a sign of fish out at the drop off I heard a shout behind me. “MARLIN!!”, someone screamed and I saw the dorsal fin coming up behind the closest lure. It hit it with its bill and pulled a tiny bit of line before releasing the artificial bait. JEEEEEZ!!!! After all that waiting it was gone and the angler hadn’t done anything to tease the fish back. There are many tricks that can increase the chance that you hook a marlin when it is close to your lures. I had left the wheel and with the rod in my hand I was demonstrating some of these techniques to Tony. With the rod in my hand the marlin hit the lure in a surprise return attack and was on. The reel, our smallest, filled with 1000 yards of 30 lb test line roared as the line peeled off at alarming speed. The marlin jumped shaking its head violently trying to jettison the strange fish it had bitten. As luck would have it for the smallish marlin the strange fish (our lure) did get thrown off. We had just failed two opportunities at bringing a marlin to the boat. Of course we were gonna release the fish but if ya didn’t get it to the side of the boat it didn’t count. We were frustrated, but Big John and Tony are some of the most optimistic and positive guys you could ever have as crew, and they both quickly restored morale and refueled our enthusiasm. “Let’s find another one.” Lines were back out and we were hunting again. Within 20 minutes I spotted a flock of Birds way north of the bank in a place we hadn’t seen them before. We headed over and the closer we got the more we realized how big the flock actually was. The little black fin tuna were going ballistic tearing up the surface of the water turning it into a manic blanket of white chaotic splashing.

A massive school of tiny fish was being slaughtered, and under the fish doing the slaughter you could be sure that there were much larger members of this ancient food chain. These were the fish we were looking for. We made several passes through the thickest part of the activity without any strikes. We were getting increasingly anxious because Big John had to be at work later that afternoon and it was getting late. This looked so promising, but the clock was running out of space before we had to pull in our lines. Emotions while fishing can be a funny thing and our desperate feeling of anxiety vanished as one of our rods started screaming. We hadn’t seen the fish and by the time Big John got to the rod ½ of its line had been stripped by the beast we had been eagerly searching for. The rest of the crew did an excellent job of getting the other lines in and with Big John loudly saying he was gonna lose all his line I started reversing the boat quickly back to the fish. We had to prevent this marlin from “spooling” us. Finally we slowed the stripping of line and got John fixed up with a harness which would help him fight the marlin. It had taken an incredible amount of line in such a short time and poor John had a long battle ahead of him in order to get that fish to the boat. He also had to be at work and Bingo Mania may not appreciate the fact that he wasn’t gonna be at work on time due to the marlin that was on the end of his line. For about 45 minutes John huffed and puffed and the marlin did its best to break him, but together the crew of Arawak Odyssey pulled together and managed to accomplish what we had set off that morning to do. The marlin came to the side of the boat and Tony and I grabbed the heavy leader bringing the fish to the side of the boat. Seen here:
We took the hook out, put the boat in gear while holding the marlin so as to flush some water through its gills. John wasn’t the only thing exhausted after this fight and the moving water helped revive the fish.
I finally let its rough bill go and together we all watched as the beautiful 300+ pound blue marlin swam down into the deep to fight another day.
As you can see, we were all elated:

We set out to catch a blue marlin and we had done it. We learned a great deal that day and saw how we had to change tactics and methods. We felt like we could be contenders and knew that we would.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

pre-fishing tournament stories

A fishing story to get us in the right mood…:

Last year on a practice run we went out form Jolly Harbour very early in the morning bound for the “east bank” in search of the blue marlin. We knew that the more we caught the better we would get at it, and we were very serious about making sure that we knew what to do when tournament time came a few weeks later. Some people thought it was funny that we were out on a practice run for a fishing tournament but I knew it was important. It ended up being a bit choppier that we had expected and it took us longer to get to the bank which was 20 miles from Jolly Harbour. The bank is one of the few shallow spots around these parts which isn’t on the marine charts and finding it was super difficult when I was younger. As kids my brother, other friends and I would go up there to fish for tuna and had to use three land marks in order to find the correct place.

We knew for sure we were in the right place because whenever we got there birds would cover the bank giving away both its position and the position of the tuna. Anyway, on this practice day I wasn’t on the old pirogue with my brother using land marks. I showed this pic of the small boat before and she used to catch fish, but i dont think we could catch a grander which is what we were after.

This time we were on the Arawak Odyssey, our 52 foot power catamaran which usually works doing the eco tour. Helping us find the bank and its edge were the electronic GPS chart plotter as well as the sonar depth recorder. The bank is a few miles form the continental shelf way out East of Green Island and the water around the bank is roughly between 900 and 6000 feet deep. The shallow bank itself is on average about 350 feet deep and the tuna and various other fish congregate on its edge. Wherever you find small tuna in these waters you will also find Marlin, and this is what we were hoping for. Finally we got to the bank and started trolling through the birds using massive lures which targeted big blue marlin. For about an hour we didn’t see any marlin or other big fish. Marlin fishing can be exceptionally boring, and many compare it to other forms of big game hunting. The hunt can be long and patience is of utmost importance. Suddenly we say something off in the distance that looked like a big floating object. Since floating objects in the Atlantic usually have loads of fish surrounding them we thought it would be worth going in for a closer look.

On the way there we saw some frigate birds and managed to pick up a few mahi mahi fish which gave us some of the excitement we were looking for. Their boisterous energy along with their beautiful green and blues always are things to excite fishermen. While fighting the fish we saw that the object off in the distance was getting closer, and we could see that it was actually an Atlantic row boat just coming in from The Canary Islands.

Some people say these guys racing across the Atlantic in tiny row boats are completely mad, but the thought of being in a row boat for a couple of months with all the excitement and mystique of being out there alone kinda excites me too. (not too serious mom, don’t worry)
Anyway, we managed to pick them up on the VHF radio and had a nice long chat with them. I guess we were the first people they had seen in about 70 days and seeing Antigua off in the distance filled them with excitement. We told them that we had just got some mahi mahi and that we were really looking for Marlin. To our astonishment they then gave us an interesting story. They said that half way along their trip, mahi mahi started hanging out with them feeding on other fish that would hide and feed under their row boat. Two days before a huge fin appeared behind them as they rowed into the sunset and it approached their boat rapidly before diving below them. They said they panicked for a moment not knowing what it was then saw it surface near them again immediately recognizing that it was a monster blue marlin. The marlin was trying to attack the mahi which were now trying to take refuge under the row boat. This photo by John Ashley shows a marlin hitting and killing a fish.

As soon as the marlin appeared next to the boat it vanished into the blue abyss and for nearly five minutes things returned to normal. All of a sudden there was a massive smash from under the boat’s hull and the two men knew that they had been rammed. What they didn’t know was why, but in my opinion the marlin hit the boat as it tried to kill one of the mahi mahi….crazy but true. The little boat actually took on water and they had to do a underwater repair job the next morning. Anyway, hearing this story the crew and I became even more determined to find a big blue. You will find out if our practice mission produced one tomorrow in part 2. hehehe

Friday, May 11, 2007

the new Canopy tour

Yesterday I had to take some photos of the Antigua Rainforest Canopy tour and was quite surprised by how nice it all looked. As you can see from my photos, it is mostly set up in between a huge valley in the middle of Antigua’s “rainforest”, Fig Tree Drive. I didn’t actually do the trip but there was a group of about 12 people who all seemed to be fit ranging in age from twenty somethings to fifty somethings. The setting is beautiful and I must say that I can’t imagine a better one in terms of set up and position. It really is worth a look if nothing else as its all soo pretty.

I must say that although I didn’t actually do it, it looked more difficult than I thought it would be. These types of tours are usually set up for a huge range of tourists who generally are not that young and fit. After all, Antigua’s tourism product is marketed more towards “mature” adults. Anyway, it’s my mother’s 60th birthday this weekend and I was thinking of sending her and some of her friends on the tour, but have changed my mind since then.
My mom will be an extremely fit 60 year old who teaches yoga every Thursday so I thought she would be able to do it no prob, but after seeing several of the guests pull out ½ way through yesterday I think I will select another gift for her. The tour is awesome in my opinion, but not for everyone just as my Xtreme Circumnav isn’t for everyone, but I better explain why I think so. The Canopy tour isn’t all about zipping along from tree to tree on suspended cables as many would imagine. If it were just that I think the tour would be boooring. Instead there are many other aspects to the interesting tour. The obstacles or “challenge elements” as they call them will challenge most people for the first time no matter how fit they may be. An example is the Elvis walk or something like that….:While connected to cables from safety lines you have to use ropes hanging from above to help yourself walk over steps that are attached at good distances between each other. This is all done at about 20 feet from the ground and made me kinda scared just watching. Of course all 100% safe, but suitably called a challenge. Safety is never an issue and the “rangers” do a great job of making sure everyone is all looked after properly. The gear, hardware and set up are all top notch and better than I think will exist anywhere else. No money has been spared in setting this up, and after you have done my tours (wink wink), I think you should definitely check this tour out. In fact, you don’t have to do the challenge elements and could even walk through most of the course too. I may take the Adventure Antigua team there on a staff outing next week one day. That would be cool!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

41 years of fishing tournaments in Antigua

OK so I bashed the hell out of the 40th Antigua Sailing Week and now all kinds of people have taken it the wrong way and are upset with me. AS IF I AM THE ONLY ONE FEELING THIS WAY!!!!!!! Anyhows, I am gonna keep on a bloggin’

Today let’s talk about an event that has been going on even longer than Antigua Sailing Week which has never gotten as big but still manages to keep going and going. This year will be the 41st time The Antigua Sport Fishing Association is holding their annual big fishing tournament. 41 years!!!!
Not bad when u consider that unlike sailing week this even has always been a small association event. There are few comparisons to make but as many criticisms as there are for sailing week. The purpose of this blog isn’t to rant about it though as I don’t feel the same problems exist or even come close to those of ASW.

The pic above is of my boat coming in to the weigh in station after a days fishing many many years ago. I think I have competed in about 6 or 7 of them while skippering boats ranging from a 23 foot open pirogue style boat seen above to my 52 foot power catamaran where i am releasing a blue marlin below.

The fun seems always to be the same and I haven’t lost the excitement that the fishing tournament brings along with it. The first time registered a boat for the event the organizers thought that my boat was a little too small and after the winds picked up to 25 knots on the morning of the first day…I had to agree with them, and looking at the pic now i shake my head.

We were soaked from start to finish and beaten around quite a bit too. I think I was 18 years old and my crew including my brother Ali and former co-worker Adam felt quite a bit older after it was all finished up. We caught some good fish and ended up with several prizes. In fact, we have been quite lucky in almost all the tournaments that we have entered and the last few years we have done extremely well. Xtreme was the boat we were on last year and after catching the biggest marling seen in these waters in years the week before, we were being taken seriously. My crew including Big John and Tony had been out with me several weekends in a row before training for the tournament which sounded funny to many, but at the end of the weekend being prepared helped considerably. You see, we fish primarily for the massive Blue Marlin in this tournament hoping along with many other crews to be the first boat in Antigua to catch the elusive GRANDER. A grander is a Marlin over 1000 lbs and although they have been seen and hooked here, no boat has ever been able to bring one back to the scales. UNTIL NOW!!!!!
Xtreme is out to change those stats this year. Tony has been in the gym for 3 months preparing himself for a fight that could last 4 hours or longer. When he got his 590 lb one last year he didn’t skip a beat with that beast fighting him and trying to break him and his line for over two hours. As you can see here it was a pretty good size. I am 6'3'' to give you an idea of the length of the marlin.

I think I sweat more than any boat skipper had done before as the marlin made me fight to keep the boat up with it. We traveled over 2.5 miles according to our GPS and did many circles while we fought it. Anyway, I could go on and on about that fight, but at no time did we feel that we were going to be beaten by the fish. I am sure that with our gear and preparation that veterans Tony, Big John, Chopper, me and the other crew…we will be ready for that grander this year. We finished 2nd behind Derrick Biel’s Obsession last year as he managed to catch one small white marlin more than we did. In fact of all the marlin that we both brought to the side of the boat, none were killed. All we had to do was bring them to the side of the boat, take photos of the fish and then carefully release them to fight another day. You are only allowed to bring one back to the scales if you want to and if it’s over 300 lbs. There is quite a bit of controversy about this and I won’t go into it here, but thanks to the pull out of the Japanese fishing boats last year from the area, we have more marlin than we have had in years. This year’s tournament will prove to be a contest like none seen here before. The largest marlin brought to the scale in this tournament over the past 41 years was a 772 lb Blue that was caught by some years ago by a foreign boat. I think this is a pic of that marlin.

We want bigger this year!!!
Anyway to get people even more excited about this event they are having an opening party next Saturday night (the 19th) at Club Havana in English Harbour from 8pm. Things have gotten very quiet out there as is usually the case after sailing week and this party is usually the biggest thing going on. Come by if you are looking for something to do. There are prize giveaways and plenty of big fish stories and strategies. It’s always a good drinkup and party.
This year TEAM XTREME will be sponsored by Adventure Antigua as usual, but we are looking for another sponsor who can help us cover this costs. The thing about big game sport fishing is that it is extremely expensive. The entrance fees alone are about $500 us and then there is a hell of a lot more in fuel and gear. I will be blogging about our pre-fishing days as well as proper reports of the day by day action. This was a training day last year when we ended up releasing a fish of about 350 lbs.

If you can think of a possible sponsor that would like to get some mileage out of this then please let me know J My poor uncle Jim is also determined to catch a grander and has spent considerable time and money trying to train and prepare his boat and crew for that event, but last week they hit a stumbling block after fighting a small fish for over two hours. Three of his (geriatric) crew had to take turns fighting the Blue Marlin which eventually freed itself close to the boat after several futile hours of punishment. I even here that a doctor was involved later that night, but can not corroborate this story 100%. Lucky for him there is a Sport Division where you target smaller fish like Mahi Mahi, tuna and the like. Here you see the stronger man on his team having a hard time with a mahi mahi..:

Big Blue Marlin are for younger stronger crews like the Adventure Antigua Xtreme…hahahahahahah We fish this weekend and will report then.