Record Setting Fish
While West End Carnival and Fishing Tournament is great fun for the Island Community, Bill Fish Continue to be Killed for Fun and Little Else

October 1st, 2008
by Thomas Tomczyk


In front of the winning fish: Gary McLaughlin (captain), Pasquale Paonessa, Robert Van der Weg, Claudio Miloni, Ricardo Flores Gomez, Lois Ebanks.

In front of the winning fish: Gary McLaughlin (captain), Pasquale Paonessa, Robert Van der Weg, Claudio Miloni, Ricardo Flores Gomez, Lois Ebanks.

While bill fishing catch-and-release tournaments in Mexico, Belize and Costa Rica attract international boats, Roatan continues to be shunned by anglers not interested in supporting this catch-and-kill fishing event. Despite earlier promises by Roatan Municipality officials, and a catch-and-release tournament begun on Utila, this year’s IX annual West End fishing tournament proved no exception. “People don’t like change, but we need to change [to catch-and-release],” said Congressman Jerry Hynds, who took part in the event.

The tournament’s winning marlin was hooked at 8:47am on September 13, the first day of the tournament. Using a Lbs. 50 test line the six man crew of Mad Max, one of 51 boats that entered the tournament, fought the fish almost four hours bringing her to the surface twice. “I was on a ladder and I was still five feet away from the scale. It’s 700 pounds, or a bit more,” said Pasquale Paonessa, one of the reelers who brought in the giant blue marlin. While the Mad Max crew was smiling at catching the big fish, some of them were also realizing the damage they were causing. “I will not enter the tournament next year if it is not catch and release,” said Robert van der Weg, one of the reelers of the winning boat.

“That’s what happens when sun shines on dog’s ass. You got to be lucky to hook a fish like that,” said Kevin Wesley, captain of Miss Trisha, and winner of the second place catch – a 275 Marlin, “I feel happy for him.” DV Woods brought in a third place prize with a Marlin of 270 lbs.

While the Marlin meat was cut up and given away the day after the tournament, during Honduras’ Independence Day, the rest ended up as feed for six-gilled sharks. “I’ve got at least 200 lbs. from the carcasses,” said Karl Stanley, owner of a submersible, who sunk the marlin skeleton to a depth of 1,000 feet.

The caught marlin, while a record setting one for Roatan, will not be entered in record books. Organizers didn’t have certified scales, nor certified judges to enter the marlin in the record books. The winning marlin, a female around 20 years old, was likely already caught in one of the catch-and-release tournaments in Belize or Mexico–released so it could live, reproduce and grow to this size.

While the fish is the biggest marlin caught in memory on Roatan, it is far from a Caribbean record. In April, off the coast of Tobago, an 11-foot 3 inch, 890 lb. blue marlin was caught by a high school student who was rewarded a cash prize of $415,000 by the tournament organizers. According to the International Game Fishing Association, the all-tackle record for the Atlantic is 1,402 lb, 2 oz (636 kg). Male Marlin are smaller and may live for 18 years, females as long as 27 years.

Fortunately, the West End carnival was more than fish. Sixteen businesses paid Lps. 500 each to sell their products in booths lining the West End strip. Susie Ebanks and Aaron Etches, were the West End patronato coordinators responsible for the carnival celebrations. Amongst what was one of the most frequented carnivals in years, several prizes were given out. Tournament queen was Tamela Johnson, 19, from West End. “Underwater Enchantment,” a West End Community float won the “best float award” and the $300 prize. “Mango papaya chutney fish,” prepared by Coconut Tree Restaurant, won the first food prize and $100. Best decorated booth prize of $200 went to “Fosters Bar and Restaurant in West End.”

The biggest winner of the entire celebration was Jose Francisco Lovo, who won the lottery auctioning the 2008 Harley Sportster auctioned by the Roatan Women’s Club. [/private]

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