3rd October 2009. We leave the dock at Oualie Beach Resort at 4.00am aboard the 25 ft open boat "dragonfly" captained by my brother Alastair Yearwood and crewed by "brothers" John, Reggie and Stanley. Two hours hanging on for dear life as we pound through the waves in the moonlight heading for the "Barbuda Bank" 25 miles North East of Nevis. We lose sight of all land and are alone apart from the leading lights of two boats that left ahead of us. 5.50am and the sky lightens. We are on the Bank and its time to fish. This fishing ground is a huge submarine crater directly above the tectonic plate divide where the Atlantic plate dives under the Caribbean plate causing magma to occasionally bubble up evry 100,000 years creating the island chain that we all love. No magma today thank heavens and the steep sided submerged mountain is covered with coral and represents home for a gazillion tropical fish. Today we are hunting the roving pelagic predator, the "Wahoo". A sleek, silver, torpedo shaped, tiger striped powerhouse equipped with razor sharp teeth. To lure in this beast we have baited our hooks with "ballahoo" that resemble flying fish without the wings. We zigzag along the steep sides of the undersea mountain dragging our lures in sweeping curves between 200 feet and 1000 feet in depth. No action and Stanley begins to nod off. We pull in the lines and shift location to the smaller bank a half mile away. The high pitched shriek of the left hand outrigger sends the adrenalin pumping. I grab the rod in sheer panic, fumble it out of the holder and strike the fish by yanking the rod tip back sharply. Well hooked, the reel smokes in protest as the fish takes line at will. I hand the rod over to Stanley who has had time to Velcrow on a fighting belt. The battle begins. I take the wheel while Captain Alastair takes charge and screams advice alternately to the rod man and to me behind the wheel. I head dragonfly into deeper water to avoid reef sharks stealing our catch. The hooked creature looms so big as it nears the boat, that "it's a bloody Marlin!" rings out in disgust, as this tournament is catch and release for bill fish. Alastair gaffs the monster. Stanley lifts his feet out of the way of those deadly teeth while our Captain man-handles the thing aboard. As he raises his club to smash it into submission I call back, always the environmentalist, "don't forget its catch and release!" This is greeted by a howl of protests, " It's a bloody giant wahoo you idiot, we are going to win the tournament AND eat this one!"
After some more less eventful fishing, we head back the 25 miles to Nevis and pull into Oualie Beach for the 3.30pm deadline. 28 other participating boats from Nevis, St Kitts, Antigua, Montserrat, Statia, Saba, St Maarten and the Virgin Islands are clustered around the dock of this Nevis hotel. The weighing continues and we saunter off to the bar to boast about our 49 pound winning fish. One of the last competitors to weigh their fish is a boat from St Maarten. Their fish weighs 2 lbs more than ours and they capture the coveted trophy. However all is not lost. The captains have a traditional of throwing US$100 each into the "Calcutta" pot with winner take all. That boat with the largest fish did not participate, so we pocket the 17 boat rich Calcutta with the greatest of delight! We then sold our fish to Oualie Beach Resort to feed all the competitors that evening. Fish never tasted so sweet!! For more photos and results visit http://www.nevisfishingtournament.com/
By John Yearwood
John at the wheel of MV Dragonfly, no land anywhere in sight.
Captain Alastair carries ashore the prize fish.
John and Stanley struggle to hold up both the fish and Carib beer.