Match, Document then Release
Bay Islands Second Ever Catch-and-Release Fishing Tournament took place on July 4 and 5

August 1st, 2008
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The Blue Marlin on the deck of the USS Ulloa. (Photo: Andres Viara)

The Blue Marlin on the deck of the USS Ulloa. (Photo: Andres Viara)

Utila found itself leading the way in the bay Islands archipelago yet again, this time in organizing and conducting a environmentally correct fishing tournament.

“We’re winging it, but its all about having fun,” says Patrick Flynn, a Utila businessman who organized the Utila tournament. “Utila has something else that can be offered other that just diving- sports fishing.”

While Jim Engels, now deceased owner of Utila Lodge, had organized a catch-and-release tournament back in the 1990’s, the practice didn’t stay on. Over a decade later Utila Lodge was hosting the tournament again and on the July 3rd captains meeting there was an excitement and anticipation of history-in-the-making in the air. The participants were excited about trying something different. “It’s selfish to just kill the fish like that. On the last tournament we had to kill a [juvenile] 80 pound marlin,” said Carlos Martinez, a businessman from La Ceiba who has been fishing for 20 years. “This [catch-and-release tournament] feels better.”

The catching was documented by island volunteers and photographs taken of the fish was to verify the type of fish caught. In the end it was honor system that assured the accuracy of catching the fish. A registration fee of $300 was taken from the five boats that registered at the event.

On July 4th, the weather, strong winds and high waves, prevented three boats from going out. On July 5th the wind subsided and all five vessels went out into waters surrounding the island.

When it was all over, the first place and a prize of $1,500 went to Emilio Ulloa, a La Ceiba captain, who caught the tournament’s only fish. Ulloa’s Blue Marlin was caught in the morning on July 5, 1-2 miles north-east of Pumpkin Hill. After an hour-and-twenty minute fight the fish was brought in on board to remove an embedded hook. The fish measured 92″ from the tip of the beak to the base of the tail. “This is my first marlin ever,” said captain Ulloa.

While Honduras has several deep sea fishing tournaments taking place through the year, none of them are catch-release and Marlin and Sailfish killed in these competitions are usually just discarded. In May, Omoa and Tela alternate a tournament each year. Roatan hosts a tournament in September and La Ceiba in October.

International deep fishing tournaments that start each year in Costa Rica, then go to Guatemala, Belize and Mexico, have been bypassing Honduras and the Bay Islands since there are no catch and release tournaments here.

“The fishing is right there, just a hop, skip and a jump from the island,” says Patrick Flynn, organizer of the event who is planning on organizing next year’s tournament in late September, early October. “When the weather is better and the event doesn’t interfere with the West End Fishing Tournament”. [/private]

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