Having spent several years in the Bahamas, fishing both on the surface with rods and reels, and underwater with a Hawaiian sling, I can personally attest to the fact the the waters here are teeming with fish. The area is part of what is known as the Sargasso Sea and whenever we’d see floating mats of the weed, we’d throw out several lines and start reeling in Dorado, aka Mahi Mahi. The only trick was getting the fish to the deck of the boat without a big Barracuda chomping it in half. We usually had 22 people on board, including crew, and we’d have no trouble at all hauling in catch of the day to serve everybody several days a week. I always enjoyed making sushi and sashimi for guests who had never eaten raw fish as fresh as that before.
Ernest Hemingway was said to have been inspired by a 500 pound Blue Marlin, which he caught while he lived on Bimini in the mid 30’s, to write his novels “The Old Man And The Sea”, and “Islands In The Stream.” Until it burned down in 2006, Bimini’s The Compleat Angler Hotel had an unofficial Hemingway museum featuring news clippings, autographed books, and photos of him with his catches on the dock in Bimini. Our crew spent many loud evenings there playing ring toss, and listening to giant fish tales over a few drinks.
The Bahamas Billfish Championship is a series five tournaments held between April and June each year that dates back to 1973. Each tournament is based on a different island and over the years these have included Paradise Island, Bimini, the Berry Islands, the Abacos, Cat Cay, Great Exuma, and North Eleuthera.
The Championship has seen its share of record setting billfish over the years. In 1979 at a Bimini Tournament, Sam Jennings, of Miami, caught a 1060.5 pound Blue Marlin. His record stood until June 2011 at a Treasure Cay Tournament, when Dave Albury, of the Bahamas, caught his 1119 pound Blue.
An awareness of the value of sport fishing as an enormous source of tourism revenue in the islands has lead the Bahamas Billfish Championship to take an active role in billfish conservation. They have consistently increased the minimum length requirements over the years and began using time and date stamped digital images to verify fish releases. They have also raised the points for releasing billfish offering further incentive to make sure the fish are quickly returned to the sea.
Every year they provide scholarships, which are administered by the Lyford Cay Foundation, to help Bahamian students in marine biology, and marine technology programs.
Renowned advocate for billfish conservation, and longtime avid angler, Tim Choate, co-founded the Billfish Foundation, which is dedicated to billfish research and conservation. Tim started fishing in the Bahamas as a kid in the 60’s and has been honored with an award for his promotion of responsible fishing practices, with a trophy for Personal Achievement in the Advancement of Big Game Sport Fishing at a ceremony at the Bimini Big Game Club which is now known as a Guy Harvey Outpost Resort.
Beverly Bridge is a travel junkie and author who likes to draw inspiration from frequent vacations to the Bahamas. She loves to write about her travels in an attempt to entice people into experiencing more in life.