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Slow going all around in billfish stakes

Hard on the heels of the Bermuda Blast billfish tournament came the Bermuda Big Game Classic, the keynote event that formed the foundation of the July Bermuda Triple Crown Series. There was little time for a breather between the two events and, happily, the weather had moderated, and things were looking promising for the weekend ahead.

Expectations must have been high because the event drew 37 entries, considerably up on the pandemic-struck previous year. These teams comprised 274 individual anglers and crew who went in search of fame and fortune in the form of points scored from numerous marlin releases or an overall big fish.

And, despite indications to the contrary: there had been plenty of releases and the notable Captain Bull Tolson’s Sea Toy had boated an 849-pounder that had gone down and died a few days earlier, confirming that there were some really big fish around; the fish decided to put a damper on the proceedings.

The action on the first day was pretty hot with 17 billfish being caught and released, making for an average of almost half a billfish per boat. On the second day things got a lot slower but the fleet was still able to account for another dozen catch-and-releases. It was the incredibly calm weather where the seas were virtually flat, the sun hot and the breeze non-existent that made the fishing seem diabolically slow. Added to this and helping to make for a long day for the cockpit crews was the amount of seaweed that continuously fouled the lues as they ran through the water, forcing the mates to wind lines in and to clear their rigs. A lot of that type of work can make for a very long day in the heat.

It was more of the same on the second day and, although things were very competitive with Captain Keith Greenberg’s Krazy Salts in the lead with 1,500 points from three blue marlin releases, everyone was well aware of how quickly things could change. But slow down it did and at the end of the day, the tally was just 12 billfish releases, two of which were a white marlin and a spearfish. The latter species both score points but considerably less per fish than a blue marlin would. Critically, one of those blue marlin releases was on Krazy Salts.

Various reasons were given for the reduction in billfish activity. It was too hot; it was too calm; the moon was too dark and the perennial favourite — the fish are busy spawning and not looking to feed when they were preoccupied with more serious business.

Take your pick. There were myriad explanations and no one really knows for sure which is right or whether it might be a combination of factors or maybe, just maybe, the number of fish hooked and hurt during the past fortnight might have had something to do with it.

With options wide open, the fleet set out on the final day with great expectations only to find the offshore situation largely unchanged

As it was, there was plenty of optimism and despite a slow start, slowly but surely, fish started reporting hook-ups and although it was never the fast pace of the previous week, there was some added excitement when the dimensions of a boated fish were called in over the radio, giving rise to speculation as to the actual size of what might be the only landed fish in the tournament. Would it qualify?

When all was said and done, the last day saw 13 billfish accounted for: one boated blue marlin, seven blue marlin releases and five white marlin, which were also released.

At the weigh station, making the qualifying weight at 571 pounds was the tournament’s overall high-point marlin, caught by Michael Posillico on board Captain Michael Butler’s American Beauty.

In first place with 2,000 points was Greenberg’s Krazy Salts; back in second place with 1,700 points was Captain Edward Murray’s Auspicious; and in third place, on time, Captain Jeremy Fowler’s Pescador. Just missing out on third was the Team Lunatico, fishing on board the Effie May. But to make up for that, the Overall High Point Angler of the tournament was Lance Converse of Team Lunatico with 1,500 points.

The High Point Lady Angler was Brittany Rebello on Reel Magician. The High Point Game Fish was a 107.6-pound yellowfin tuna caught by Joseph Rahman on board Auspicious.

Right now, the fleet is in the midst of a hiatus until the start of the final leg of the Bermuda Triple Crown with all the marbles to play for. Pescador is in the lead from Auspicious and then Krazy Salts, but there are plenty of boats in serious striking distance of the lead and, as has been demonstrated too many times, anything can happen. This last leg is the island’s longest-running marlin tournament, the Sea Horse Anglers Club Billfish Tournament, and gets under way on Monday evening followed by three days of tough, competitive fishing.

There will be some who will be glad to see the end of nearly a month devoted to billfish and will be happy to see a return to more conservative forms of fishing; maybe even the traditional. Despite the many comments made about such events from many, many standpoints, the fact remains that Bermuda boasts some of the finest billfishing in the world, and regardless of personal choice this remains one big attention grabber as many of the world’s leading contenders come to this island for a shot at some of its optimal Tight Lines!!!

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Published July 17, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated July 16, 2021 at 7:57 pm)

Slow going all around in billfish stakes

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