I’m in Isla Mujeres this week and happen to be overlapping one of the annual fishing tournaments held here on the island. This event is the Gran Torneo de Pesca and is unlike any other tournament I have ever seen. For staters, the prizes for first thru tenth place are on display in a parking lot. And as far as tournament trophy’s go, they are very useful. First place is an SUV, second is a pickup truck, third is a compact car, fourth is Ponga skiff, and fifth thru tenth are various levels of mopeds and scooters. Lets just say that most of the participants aboard the 114 boats entered are a wee bit motivated to do well in this one. The target species (in order of highest points to lowest) are Blue Marlin, White Marlin, Wahoo, Dorado, Tuna, Kingfish, Barracuda, and other. One fish from each category can be weighed each day for each team. This other category lets you pick one more fish to bring in each day, such as a Bonita, AJ, snapper, grouper, etc. They have a minimum length for the billfish and a 10lb minimum for the meat fish. Note the missing Sailfish category. The Sailfish is obviously the most common and revered fish here and forces teams to use all their skills to place in this event.

Day 1 of 2 – It’s blowing today. They say it’s been blowing for the last two weeks now. This sure is unusual weather for late May. I catch a ride with Tammy and Dave aboard the 59′ Spencer boat Double Trouble. They decide to go long odds and run 30 miles South to the edge down below Punta Morales. A 33 knot cruise and a Carolina ride make this seem easy even with 20+ knots of wind. Little or no crowd down there but the fishing was slow. They did manage to catch a small undersized White, an undersized Wahoo, a keeper Dorado, and an undersized Kingfish. Then the current changed and the weed moved in and things shut down. The evening weigh in is a sight to see with a line for your moment at the scale snaking well down the dock. One Blue and many whites were brought in today along with plenty of grande meat fish.

Day 2 – The same or even more wind today. Again riding aboard the Double Trouble. Today Dave runs out front of Isla with the bulk of the fleet and we start in deep water. Out here the current runs strong and I mean to tell you it was rough on the deep side of the edge. Several keeper Dorado and a fat 18lb Bonita go in the box early. A White teases in half way then peels off without eating. Then a long lull before another White appears on the bridge teaser and eats a flat line. While pulling drag this keeper size White pops up behind a long rigger and goes ahead and eats that before pulling off both rods seconds later. Terrible luck.

Day 3 – Riding with Anthony aboard the Keen M today. Wind conditions have improved slightly from yesterday as it appears the weather is going to do what the forecasters say it will do – improve. Only a few boats out today. We pick away all day and end up with 20 billfish bites total (3 white Marlin and 17 sailfish) and a Blue Marlin sighting. Also plenty of Dorados, from peanut to 30lbs. Spent about 30 minutes live baiting a Bonita on some wire as it’s not too late to see a Mako up on the bank. We saw one Whale Shark on the ride in.

Day 4 – The weather is getting nicer everyday. We went deep early and had three white marlin bites along with some nice Dorados. Ended up running inshore for the late afternoon sail bite. Ended up with 21 billfish bites today. We saw several large turtles while trolling. Good solid fishing for late May.

Day 5 – Calm and sunny today with a nice gaffer Dorado right out of the gate. Then a deepwater Sailfish shows up and finds a hook. Not long after a welcomed White Marlin makes a showing. Lots of jumps and photos. A few more sails in the afternoon complete the day.

Day 6 – Flat calm today. Deep early with not much action. A few sail bites and a gaffer Dorado. No signs of the White Marlin. We spend about an hour bouncing a bait on the bottom in 1100 feet of water looking for a daytime Swordfish. No bites. Only a cookie cutter shark on the bait when we wound up (above). A move to the inshore zone in the afternoon was quiet also. A few sail bites to be had. Our final push was to try to catch dinner and the Mangrove Snapper and Gag Grouper were very excited to see our baits. The action was fast and furious for the short time we spent at it. Even caught two snapper on one live bait – a double hooked Cigar Minnow (below).

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  1. Day 5 was my first ever deep sea fishing for the big ones. What a day! The gaffer dorado was mine to pull in. What a joy! Gaya did a great job gaffing it, and it sure tasted good in the evening! I pulled three sailfish to the boat during the day (it got easier after Scott gave me a few helpful pointers!). Anthony did a fantastic job maneuvering the boat when the sailfish skirted back and forth across the water! I also brought a bonita in on this first day twenty and more miles out at sea. An extraordinary experience in my life. This was one of the special events my wife Deanna and I have been planning this year, month by month through August, to celebrate our fifty years of blessed married life together! Special thanks to Tom Floyd, Sue Jancar, and Jerry and Jeannie Moritz for inviting us along!

    On Day 6 I brought three more sailfish to the boat. Tom did a great job of hooking an especially big one and then handing the rod to me. Thanks, Tom! The big event of the day was the big haul of grouper and snapper around 5:00 pm. I could not believe the huge grouper and how they fought. I not only brought two or three grouper to the boat (I lost count!) but I also brought three of the snappers in (two on one line!). Gaya pulled them out of the water and was in view for the great picture above, but I actually pulled them to the boat! Many thanks to Anthony and his great crew, Gaya and Rolando, and the special help of Tom and Scott. A second always-to-be-remembered day! As Deanna said, “Well, you sure have done something you have always wanted to do!” Loving words from a wonderful wife. I am grateful. Vernon Robbins

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