The highly anticipated International St. Lucia Billfish Tournament 2016 is being hosted out of the IGY Rodney Bay Marina by the St. Lucia Game Fishing Association. With more than EC$100,000 in prizes to be won, including a car, excitement among the organisers and participants is building apace. The five-day event brings the most competitive sport fishing teams from around the region to the island, with many loyal participants returning yearly to ply the waters off Saint Lucia’s coast and further afield for the largest bill fish they can hook, including the elusive blue marlin. The catch and release tournament is a favourite of seasoned sport-fishers because of the quality of the competition and the challenges provided by Saint Lucia’s teeming waters. The event is also a qualifier for the Offshore World Championships.
Owner of three-time winner, Vesper, who pulled off the hat trick in the 2015 tournament, Jerome McQuilkin says, “Saint Lucia is a challenging fishing venue because there are so many productive areas of bill fish, so it’s important to find a hot spot.” McQuilken has fished SLGFA-run tournament four times on his boat and many more times on other boats.
More than twenty Caribbean and international boats participated in the 2015 tournament, crewed by one hundred anglers who took to the waters for four fishing days, with a welcome rest on lay day to take advantage of everything else the island has to offer. During the tournament, forty-nine (49) blue marlin and seven sailfish were released within three days, with Vesper winning for the third time in a row and also qualifying for the 2016 Offshore World Championships in Costa Rica. The Southern Caribbean Billfish Circuit Trophy went to Blue Fever, who also caught the Biggest Dolphin at 33.5lbs. The Biggest Tuna winner at 27lbs was caught by A Salt Weapon, while the prize-winning junior angler was Nathan Jean-Joseph who hooked an impressive four (4) blue marlin and one (1) sailfish.
The International St. Lucia Bill Fish Tournament is held based in the 5-Anchor IGY Marina, Rodney Marina, which devotes an entire dock to the event, ensuring that local and visiting boats get a chance to connect, socialise and indulge in a bit of feisty fighting talk, as is the tradition in any competitive sport. Add the prospect of wrangling a fish bigger than the captain himself, and the result is a high energy, relaxed vibe and a pretty cool spectacle after dark, as a couple of dozen powerful fishing boats form a floating village, bathed in the blue lights of the docks.
The tournament is planned by a local committee, spearheaded by President of the Saint Lucia Game Fishing Association (SLGFA), Sean Devaux, who is also the Operations Manager at IGY Rodney Bay Marina, and Maritime Director on the SLHTA Board. This year the SLGFA organising team are very excited about the 25th anniversary edition of the event, with over 100k in prizes to be won, plus a vehicle for the heaviest fish to scale. With an increased number of registrations expected and interest in the tournament at an all time high, the team are expecting the International St. Lucia Bill Fish Tournament to attract the sort of positive attention the island’s marine tourism industry needs, taking the first quarter of a century’s successes as a basis for developing the sector for the next several decades.
Says Devaux, ‘Sport- fishing in Saint Lucian waters has been very active and rewarding over the years, with marlin and sailfish being regularly released by some of the charter companies and avid sport fishers here in on the island. Fortunately, for us, the tournament this year is under similar conditions as 2015, so we do anticipate similar competitive results, cameraderie and most importantly, sportsmanship and friendships. As stakeholder in the maritime industry, I hope we can continue to develop Saint Lucia into a significant fishing destination in the coming years.’
The 25th International St. Lucia Billfish Tournament runs from Tuesday, October 25 to Saturday October 29, with the lay day scheduled for Thursday.