By Mark B. Hatter
“We know more about the moon than we know about the habits of billfish.”
Brad Philipps, captain, owner and operator of the charter boat Decisive and Guatemala Billfishing Adventures, introspectively remarked as we sipped whisky and smoked Cuban cigars on the rooftop of his Casa Philipps in Antigua, this January. It had been a VERY slow week, yet under the uncharacteristic circumstances, we raised and released more sailfish using fly tackle than any other boat in the fleet.
So, I am not so sure about Philipp’s moon and billfish remark.
In November, I rode along with Philipps on the Decisive during the three-day charity No Sancocho tournament sponsored by Casa Vieja Lodge in Puerto San Jose. It was a remarkable tournament played out under a variety of conditions, from glassy calm to stacked waves from the “Papagayo,” which blew hard on the third day. Yet, under the changing conditions, one thing was abundantly clear: Brad Philipps knows more about billfish than science knows about the moon!
By the end of the tournament, the competitors were, well, in a word, crushed! Philipps and his team racked-up an amazing 55 sailfish releases (including three triples) and an unprecedented eight blue marlin releases, including four on the last day. All on light tackle!
I have been to Guatemala many times in the last 15 years and have fished with several captains. Yet, until last November, I was only familiar with Philipps though his peers, where his reputation preceded him. Invariably, his name invoked admiration with, perhaps, a tinge of envy.
And why not? In his 20 years fishing Guatemala he has amassed a plethora of trophies and accolades from every blue-water organization on the planet. On November 30, 2015, Philipps released his 30,000th billfish. He is getting close to exceeding 40K by now, his wife and business partner, Cindy, has been nagging him to give her the current update so she can post it on their website.
Considering that the Guatemala fishing season runs October through May, when you do the math, it deduces to an amazing average of 16 sailfish releases per day. No wonder why his crew rigs at least one hundred ballyhoo for a day’s charter and why he carries and, more importantly, may deploy dozens of different plastic teasers out of his arsenal of more than 100 in a day’s outing.
When I came back to fish with Philipps in early January, guess what I carried with me? More new, custom teaser heads and sheets of plastic skirts he’d ordered from the states!
Philipps is humble and will downplay his successes, explaining that his formula is simple: consummate preparation will reward you when opportunity presents itself. This was self-evident in November during the No Sancocho tournament and again in January where Philipps found agreeable sailfish for the fly rod when the bite was virtually nonexistent.
“I wish I could at least see a F*#king sailfish!” one captain quipped over the radio as we had yet raised another aggressive fish in our spread on our last day.
The next time I hope to sip whisky with Captain Brad Philipps, I will remind him of our January starlight cocktail conversation. Then I will offer him the following corollary: “We know more about the moon than perhaps most know about the habits of billfish.”
And I know just who that exception is.
June means summer. Summer means tournaments. Nothing says tournaments quite like InTheBite.
Grab a copy of the latest June Issue, hitting the docks now!
(George Town, Cayman Islands) The Cayman Islands’ first-ever Cayman Billfish Rundown awarded more than US$260,000 in cash prizes to 14 teams hailing from both local and international shores. Held May 14-17 on Grand Cayman, 41 teams registered in the sportfishing tournament, presented by Hurley’s Media Ltd., Dart Enterprises and The Residences at Seafire.
Managing Director of Hurley’s Media Ltd. Randy Merren said he was pleased with the outcome of the tournament. “It’s incredible to see Cayman Billfish Rundown come to life after a year of planning and preparations. We are grateful for the support from the local and international participants, and based on the feedback received, we expect even higher numbers next year,” Mr. Merren said.
Carey Chen brought his experience and expertise as the Official Artist and Tournament Ambassador, taking news of the tournament to global waters. “I’ve been fishing the Cayman Islands since Million Dollar month in the 80s. The offshore fishing is less than a mile from land in the clearest water you can imagine,” Mr. Chen said. “Cayman Billfish Rundown in its debut is one of the most organized tournaments I have been to and this will only get better,” he said.
The winning team, ‘Uno Mas’ from Florida, captained by Brooks Smith, released three billfish to win the top prize of US$100,000 for the Most Billfish Release Points and the Captain’s Award of US$10,000 presented to the Captain of the Boat with the Most Release Points. The team also entered seven additional categories that flexed its billfish skills and rewarded Uno Mas with additional payouts of more than US$16,000, making its total winnings for the tournament close to US$130,000.
In second place, ‘Happy Days’ from the Cayman Islands, took home US$35,000 for the second most billfish releases, as well as an additional US$2,250 for the smallest boat with the most billfish releases. Small boats were considered under 36 feet Length Over All (LOA).
Third place for most billfish release was tied, with seven teams earning equal points through catching and releasing a Blue Marlin. Down to time stamps, ‘Suntide’ took home third place and US$20,000, inching ahead of ‘Lazy Lady’ and ‘Trading Time’ by releasing their Marlin 10 and 20 minutes earlier respectively.
Angler Shaun Bodden from ‘Cool Change’ hooked the heaviest yellowfin tuna, weighing 77.2 lbs., which awarded his team US$10,000 from the guaranteed payout and an additional US$10,000 for entering and winning the ‘Tuna Doubler’ category.
The heaviest wahoo was caught by Baron Jacob from ‘Ecks-Change’ weighing 39.2 lbs. The heaviest dolphinfish was caught by Nathan Ebanks from ‘Reeladdiction’. Both teams won US$10,000 and each team kindly donated U$1,500 to the Alex Panton Foundation, the charity the tournament chose to support. Anglers were encouraged to donate a portion of their winnings to the Alex Panton Foundation. The foundation’s mission is to improve the mental health of the Cayman Islands’ children and young adults.
Forty-one boats entered the tournament with 230 registered anglers, including 41 international anglers and 28 females. Between them, they released twelve Blue Marlins, one White Marlin and one sailfish. A total of 14 yellowfin tuna, five wahoo and six dolphinfish were brought to the scale.
“The Cayman Islands as a jurisdiction of choice has so much to offer, and this tournament is no different as it highlights the high professional standard of sport fishing,” said Mr. Merren. “Billfish in particular hold a special place in Cayman Islands sportfishing and for me personally, it was great to bring the action so close to our shores,” he continued.
The tournament also supports responsible fishing and teamed up with Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, the School of Marine Sciences at University of Maine, and The Gulf of Maine Research Institute in a Tag and Release Program. Mr. Chen said, “Of all the islands I have travelled to, Cayman takes the most pride in its reefs and ocean by protecting it from pollution and overfishing.” The tag and release programme encourages participants to tag and release undersized dolphinfish, yellowfin tuna, skipjack and bigeye tuna, and ocean whitetip sharks. ‘Conched Out’, captained by Colin Wilson earned the most release points and were awarded with an Ulysse Nardin CI Limited Edition Watch valued at US$10,000.
The awards dinner and closing ceremony took place on Friday evening at The Crescent in Camana Bay and included a live performance and an impressive display of fireworks. Sponsors, including: Dart Enterprises, Esso, Ulysse Nardin and Island Heritage handed out trophies and checks to winning teams. During the closing ceremony other sponsors were also thanked for their involvement in the tournament including: Chivas Regal; Michelob Ultra; Parkers; Automotive Art; Suzuki; Mikes Ice; Ogier; Shipping Registry and Pro Yacht.
Helping with the presentation of awards, Nicole Spenc, a sportfishing icon from Florida, also thanked sponsors and tournament organizers for welcoming her to the Cayman Islands. “The people, the island, everything is so welcoming and I am just blown away! I can’t wait to come back!” she said. Nicole writes an adventure blog and is popular across YouTube and Instagram.
Reflecting on the tournament, Mr. Merren expressed gratitude to participants and sponsors. “Thank you to those who participated and to the team at Hurley’s Media, Dart Enterprises and The Residences at Seafire for a successful inaugural event. My hope is that next year we have even more participants, increase the prize pools, and perhaps even can break the Blue Marlin record,” he said.
Mr. Chen also said he’s excited for next year’s event. “Looking forward to next year with more boats and even bigger jackpots. I am proud to call Cayman my second home.”
MAY 07, 2004
Fifteen years ago today, was the date that Hilton’s Realtime-Navigator was launched with 3 regions in the northern Gulf of Mexico which has now grown to 36 regions; Gulf of Mexico, East coast, West coast, Central America, South America, Caribbean, and more! What an incredible journey, meeting so many great people over the years doing what we all love – fishing!
The site has evolved tremendously over the years and is still evolving – we will be unveiling several new features next week at the Mobile Big Game Membership meeting as well as the Orange Beach Billfish Classic!
A couple of sneak previews; our new service called Hilton’s SAT2NAV system as well as our new “H.E.L.P.” program.
Stay tuned – more details to come!
Thank you very much to everyone who has supported our service over the years!
All the best,
By Capt. Jody Bright
March and April have long been hailed as “big fish months” in Kona, and indeed, there have been some very nice ones of late. We counted 31 blue marlin over 500 pounds in March and April. Here is the catch report from the Kona charter fleet – at least the ones we know of:
In the first week of March, Capt. B.T. of Melee Sport Fishing reports that a skiff released a marlin “about 800 pounds after it burned up their electric reel! 600 pounders were reported on Huntress and Jun Ken Po.
The largest blue marlin weighed in early March was a 713 pounder caught on Ihu Nui with Capt. McGrew Rice and the Clarence Clemons of the Cockpit, Carlton Arai.
On March 11, the High Noon caught a 670 pounder to back up a 642 they weighed in February. They are also reported to have broken off a fish that could have been 800 pounds.
Capt. Gene Vanderhoek went out holoholo on March 13 to train a new crew and ended up catching his old crew – 72 year old Skip Dasher – the largest fish of his angling career, a 708 pound blue. Dasher and company subdued their catch in a quick fifteen minutes.
Gene’s “crewman in training”, Brett Mowens, also caught a blue they tagged at 500+. They were back at the dock by 1:00 pm. Now that is a mighty fine busman’s holiday!
On March 14, Capt. Chad Contessa on a Bite Me boat weighed a 596 pound blue on Bite Me 1 after it arrived at the boat DOA.
Based on an informal phone survey, additional nice ones tagged recently include a 650+ released by Humdinger with Capt. Jeff Fay at the wheel. Marlin Magic II released one they called 550+ and Kona Blue released one about 500 pounds and pulled hook on another, also about 500. Nasty Habit also released one that they called 500.
EZ Pickens has been fishing with owners Brad and Vicky Picking every Saturday and Sunday since December. Up until last weekend they averaged one blue a day for a total of 25 blues so far, as well as lots of stripes and spearfish. Their largest to date was in the 500 pound range, tagged and released. In big game fishing, no hot streak lasts forever and last weekend they finally experienced a fishless day.
March 20: Linda Sue weighed a 722 pounder overtaking Ihu Nui in the top position of the Big Fish List. Foxy Lady tagged a 500 pounder.
A few fish under 400 rose on the 21st, Hula Girl caught one about 450 but Sea Genie II would start the 22nd as the pole sitter after tagging a 600 pound blue.
On Friday March 22nd, Night Runner had the “encounter of the week” when they swung and missed a few times at a marlin the experienced skipper and crew both said was the largest either have ever seen.
Huntress tagged two on the 22nd to top singles around the fleet. March 23rd was a “big fish day.” Marlin Magic II tagged one over 500, another at 375 – and also pulled hook on another 500 and one they called 650! Foxy Lady caught a youngster a 492 pound blue.
Honey returned from an overnighter on March 24 with 12 big ahi.
March 25 saw Maverick tag one and set it free, calling it 500 pounds. Hooked Up tagged and blue and two stripeys that day, which sounded like a January report. Waiopai almost got their “Kona Slam” with a nice blue and a stripey but when the spearfish they hooked came unhooked, that was all she wrote.
The next day, Waiopai got even with the billfish gods and caught, tagged and released a blue they called 650, telling it to come back during a tournament.
Northern Lights had the next “encounter of the week” on the 27th., while out holoho, whale watching and relaxing. According to the story posted on the new Facebook page Kona Marlin Report, their relaxation was shattered by a marlin that exceeded all the superlatives usually used such as “monster” or “biggest ever seen” and “giant”. You get the picture. We aren’t talking first timers or novices here, either. These are veterans “to da max” to throw in just one more superlative.
Hooked Up tagged a 450 on March 29 and on March 30 Marlin Magic II was back in the news with two blues tagged, one about 275 and one they estimated to be 575.
No “granders” yet, but that was a total of 20 blues over 500 pounds caught in March alone.
There were some real nice fish caught in April too, and a lot of days where boats caught multiple marlin and multiple species as well. Again, check the Kona Marlin Report page on Facebook for up to the minute catch logs.
Between April 2 and April 5 marlin in the 600 pound class were caught by Pair O Dice, Sapo, Honey and Maverick.
The charter boat Melee had an interesting day on the 9th of April going 1/3, tagging a 700 pound blue. The two they lost were also hefty, estimated at 500+ and 700+.
Blue Hawaii had what they called a 500 pounder expire on them and when they weighed it, the tally was 497. That’s real close to 500!
On April 12, a noteworthy report came in from a skiff. They went 4/8 on marlin, with the largest over 500 pounds.
Multiple catches were logged through all phases of the April moon and some of the reports have been pretty spectacular.
Melee went 3 for 6 on blues on April 14, the same day Humdinger caught 3 blues as well. The next day, Kona Blue caught 4 striped marlin.
Night Runner caught a blue, a spearfish and a sailfish on April 14 and backed that up with a sailfish on April 19 and 20th. Sails are rare in Kona, so they must have found one of those famous secret spots without a name.
Capt. Jeff Fay has been quoted (tongue in cheek) to say that there are few sailfish in calm Kona because there is not enough wind. This might be the reason why Kona is not a sail boaters mecca, but that’s a “Fay-ism” when it comes to sailfish. Truth be told, sailfish are usually a Continental inhabitant, preferring shallow water, the one thing Kona is lacking that actually makes a difference.
Honey went 3 for 4 on blue marlin and 1/1 on striped marlin on April 20, evidence that the full moon does not always dampen the marlin bite.
If that didn’t make you a believer, you would have no choice but to pay attention when Humdinger caught 2 blues, 6 striped marlin and a spearfish, all on April 21 when the moon was bright.
Rounding the turn into the third quarter moon phase, the bite has even gotten better! Anxious went 3 for 3 on blues on April 25, with the largest a healthy 600 pounder.
April 26 was a banner day with Tropical Sun going 3 for 4 on blues with one spearfish and Go Get Em went 3 for 4 on blues AND 3 for 4 on spearfish. J.R.’s Hooker was 2 for 2 on blues as was Waiopai.
The second half of April has produced four more marlin over 500 pounds, a 682 pounder on Bite Me 6 that was brought in because it would not revive at boat side, the largest fish weighed in April – so far.
Bite Me 3 released one they called 600 on April 26, and putting icing on the cake, Pursuit tagged a very thick 800 pounder, fishing one of Kona’s famous fishing spots – “the trail run.”
Melee closed out April going 1 out of 2 bites, catching a 700 pounder and losing a 700 pounder.
So, when wrapping up the month of April, it appears that two more fish over 500 were caught on the waxing first quarter than the waning third quarter. In March, there were more blues caught over 500 than in April, but there was no discernable pattern relative to moon phase. In March the biggest fish so far (722) was caught on the full moon, but in April there were no big ones caught on the full moon. There was action in the moonlight though, and a number of boats caught multiples on a few big moon days.
So, which moon phase is best? Does the moon phase even matter?
People are always trying to figure out when the best fishing occurs. Is it the moon or is it the tide? Could it be the current, or is ocean surface temperature the key? Perhaps, as my grandmother used to say, it’s just the way you hold your mouth.
For those who can contemplate more complex theories, the idea that the best fishing is created by some combination of these elements can have them contemplating complexities, all the live long day.
The fact of the matter is that none of those items contribute to fishing success if there are no fish in the area. Yes, current can cause them to gather in an area but you can have good current and no fish. You just can’t catch fish that are somewhere you are not. And that does happen. Sometimes the fish are just gone. Obviously, that is not the case in Kona, at present.
Once they move in, like now, then those elements may come in to play. Marlin tend to bite around a tide change, but even that is not set in stone. As Capt. Tomo Rogers once said, “If I thought that the only time I had a chance at getting a bite was during the tide change, I’d only fish during the tide change, but I don’t. So, what does that tell you?”
On top of that, the phase of the moon has not seemed to have had much effect on the bite this April, because the fish have been biting throughout the lunar cycle. If one was so inclined, contemplating this complexity could make a live long day drag on forever, if it weren’t for the distraction of all those marlin bites.
The other bottom line is you can’t catch em if you don’t go, so stop wishing and go fishing! No better time then now, by the looks of it.
If you can’t jump a plane now, tournament season starts in June. There are 7 tourneys in the Hawaii Marlin Tournament Series and an entry fee and format for every style of angler. Events are open to everyone and no experience is required because Kona’s pro charter fleet teaches novices to catch marlin 365 days a year. If you are experienced, better yet!
For more information log on: https://konatournaments.com/
Or Write: firstname.lastname@example.org – 808.557.0908
The great early fishing in Hawaii in 2019 could be a primer for a wide open tournament season this summer. Check the updates on Hawaii’s tournaments in the 2019 Hawaii Division of the Captain of the Year, presented by Sea Genie II! First tournament event is in June, check back at InTheBite for standings and updates. There are also charter spots available for tournament anglers should you like to fish the tournaments yourself.
NOW OPEN TO ALL ANGLERS FISHING FROM HATTERAS YACHTS
$1.115 MILLION IN PRIZE MONEY AT STAKE!
NEW BERN, N.C.– MAY 6, 2019 – Hatteras Yachts, a world-leading builder of convertible sportfishing and luxury motor yachtsfrom 45 to 105 feet, is pleased to announce that the 2ndAnnual Hatteras Cup Million Dollar Sportfish Challenge kicked off on May 1, 2019. The competition, which runs through December 31, 2019, is open exclusively to anglers fishing onboard a Hatteras yacht, regardless of model or year, who register in advance atwww.hatterasyachts.com/hatterascup.
The Hatteras Cup $1 Million Grand Prize for Heaviest Atlantic Blue Marlin will be awarded to the registered angler or team that catches an Atlantic Blue Marlin from a Hatteras yacht during an official billfish tournament that exceeds the current IGFA All-Tackle World Record. For the official Hatteras Cup Rules, please visit https://www.hatterasyachts.com/media/3362/2019-hatteras-cup-rules.pdf
If no registered Hatteras Cup participant wins the Million Dollar Grand Prize by Dec. 31, 2019, then $50,000 will be awarded for the Heaviest Atlantic Blue Marlin caught from a Hatteras during an official billfish tournament that was entered by a registered Hatteras Cup participant.
Prizes totaling $65,000 will be awarded to registered anglers in two other Divisions: Game Fish – Heaviest Tuna, Wahoo, Dolphin, Snapper, Grouper – and Catch & Release (multi-species). Participants competing for prizes in these Divisions do not need to be fishing in an official tournament when they make their catch.
The Hatteras Cup awards will be presented at the Miami Yacht Show in Miami, Fla., in February 2020.
“Last year’s Inaugural Hatteras Cup was a great success with 245 anglers competing across the globe,” said Hatteras Yachts President and CEO Kelly Grindle. “We are looking forward to even more owners, anglers and teams to participate this year and compete for prize money, as well as bragging rights for themselves and their boats..”
The tournament is easy to enter—just visit hatterasyachts.com/hatterascup.
The 2019 Hatteras Cup Divisions and prizes are as follows: