By Kaelanne Jordan
Anglers competing in this year’s 24th annual TIGFT are encouraged to be important catalysts in preserving the ecosystem and promoting sustainable approaches to improved fisheries conservation.
Seventy-four local and international anglers from T&T, England and the US are fishing for Blue Marlin, White Marlin, Sailfish, Dolphin, Tuna and Wahoo in Charlotteville waters (the northeastern tip of Tobago) for the elusive ‘Grander’—Blue Marlin over 1,000lbs— to beat the current Tournament record of 1005.9 lbs held by angler Brendan Bernard on Team ‘Predator’ in 2013. Last year’s tournament winners, team ‘Magic Lady’ from Trinidad, in the International Division and team ‘Big Chance’ from Tobago in the Local Division will be looking to defend their titles.
Top prizes include a Yamaha 40 HP Outboard Engine and a Yamaha 6200 W Generator. The event is also a qualifier for the Offshore World Championship Tournament in Costa Rica next year.
Last year’s competition saw a total of 50 international anglers from as far as USA, Canada, Grenada and Barbados.
The competition commenced Tuesday May 14, with three days of exciting fishing on Wednesday and Thursday and a welcomed rest for the anglers on the lay day, today, Friday. The prize-giving dinner is tomorrow at 7.30 p.m., the third and final day of fishing
Former organiser of the event, David Wong told Catholic News that the competition has facilitated ways in which the anglers can develop a holistic approach to conservation by integrating different fishing techniques. He gave the example of introducing circle hooks—a hook that is caught at the corner of a fish’s mouth as opposed to a J-Hook. The circle hook is adopted in most Billfish tournaments strictly because it increases the survivability of the fish.
“If a fish is an aggressive fish, it will swallow the hook. The J-hook has a chance of tearing the inside of a fish,” he said, in a telephone interview.
He added that the TIGFT raised the limit of bringing smaller fishes such as Sailfish and White Marlin brought to the scale, from 50 lbs to 75 lbs. Similarly, the weight for the Blue Marlin was raised from 350 to 500 lbs. Catch under 500 lbs warrants disqualification.
“In that effort, we’re making anglers release smaller fish,” he said, adding that Dolphin, Wahoo and Tuna in particular also have an “elevated weight” to qualify for points.
“We not accepting anything under 15 lbs…It encourages them to fish for bigger fish,” he said.
Wong said the tournament has also been influential in promoting the catch and release of Bill fish. He noted that local fishermen have learned how to catch Blue Marlin and release them “successfully”.
“Before they would just kill everything they caught. It helps them and their fishery to develop. It also allows them to develop another aspect of their fishing. Some of them are now acting as tour guides and doing charters. They are able to enhance their professional status…it’s not just [about] going to the market [to sell fish],” he said.
So what exactly does the TIGFT do with all the fish brought to the scale?
Well, according to Wong, in the previous years, the pounds of fish were donated to different Homes locally including the Sylphil Home in Love, an orphanage in Lambeau; an elderly home; and most times, distributed to villagers and fisherfolk. He however revealed that the tournament hasn’t been able to yield such a “productive” catch. “With reduced catches, we tend to cook and eat the fish during the tournament and share it with the anglers…”
He assured that if they are lucky this year, they will donate.