By Toine van Ierland, Tournament Director
Cape Verde on fire!
In both 2020 and 2021, we were forced to postpone the tournament thanks to COVID-19, but on the night of April 24, 2022, we finally kicked off the 2022 EFSA European Championship Big Game Fishing Tournament, AKA The PENN Challenge.
And what a tournament it was.
Two weeks prior to the tournament, the first charter boats started exploratory fishing for marlin. They found fish around Saõ Vicente and the neighbouring islands of Santo Antão and São Nicolau. Expectations were high amongst the teams participating in the tournament, but there was also a little trepidation. Would the fish be close by? Or would the marlin choose the waters in front of the neighbouring islands?
As the tournament committee, we expected and hoped for around 72 blue marlins across the four days, an average of one marlin per boat per day. Based on the catches during the previous editions of five-day fishing in 2015 (68 blue marlins, 13 boats) and 2017 (109 blue marlins, 15 boats), our goal may have been realistic. We did not expect that our goal was about to be smashed within three days…
On April 25, 2022, 7:30 a.m., 18 boats lined up just outside the Mindelo harbour for the shotgun start of the 2022 tournament. Within minutes after lines went in at 8:30 AM, the tournament’s VHF channel made the first “Hook up!” call, which was steadily followed by more calls. The blues were there. On completion of all form reviews, we counted a staggering 33 blue marlin caught and released, with ALL teams that registered having caught marlin.
The second day was a repeat of the first day—sunny weather, hardly any wind and big numbers of marlins being reeled in off San Pedro Bank. Again, the participants released another 33 blue marlins.
So the count so far was 66 blue marlins in just two days! That explains why Mindelo is called “the blue marlin capital of the world!” We started thinking about hitting the 100-blue-marlin mark in this tournament.
On day 3 at 7 a.m. at the Mindelo docks, it was really chilly. Overnight, the northeast wind picked up and was blowing fiercely over the bay.
With the fierce wind and big waves, it was a day of proper rock ‘n’ roll fishing. And this meant the salt-battered participants didn’t have to wait long for this day’s results. The third day proved to be the slowest day of the tournament, with only 13 marlin caught. But hey, that’s why it’s called fishing and not catching!
Then came the last day of the tournament. Only the best three-day results would determine the overall results.
This day, one team had an excellent catch! The Dutch Anglers aboard Steve George’s Sea Quest released four blue marlins—enough to win the last tournament day! Across all boats, 18 blues were caught and released.
In third place, the Dutch Anglers from the Netherlands.
In second place, the Sportfishing Club Albufeira from Portugal.
And the winner of the 2022 EFSA European Championship was Team Dakar, Senegal, consisting of Samir Rahal and Mahmood Meroueh. Not only did these guys win here but, as this tournament was a qualifying event to the 2023 Offshore World Championship, Samir and Mahmood will represent the tournament next year in Costa Rica.
All winners won brand new PENN Overseas travel rods with matching PENN Slammer IV spinning reels.
In the boat competition, Zak Conde and his crew on Amelia ended up in first place. They also caught the most blue marlins in the tournament: 14 marlins in four days.
The runner-up was Randy Baker and his crew on Dacia with 10 marlins, and the third-place boat was Sea Quest, skippered by Steve George, also with 10 marlins. The winning boats received a pack of awesome handcrafted lures from Andy Moyes Big Game Tactical.
As mentioned before, this tournament is a charity tournament. At the prize-giving diner, an auction was held to raise funds for two local initiatives that provide aid to children: Operação Carinho and Communidade São Pedro.
After all bidding ceased, we had raised a total of €11.600 for charity. €1.500 of the revenues will go to a Dutch initiative by Evgeniy Levchenko for the support of Ukrainian refugees in The Netherlands. The rest will go to the tournament’s charity goals.
All in all, we had a blast in Mindelo. There were only happy faces, and with 97 blue marlins caught and released out of over 200 hook-ups, we can for sure declare this tournament a Blue Marlin Mayhem.