an image of tournament fishing in the bahamas

Tournament Fishing in The Bahamas

From local blue runner jacks to massive wahoo, there’s more than one way to see tournament fishing in The Bahamas.

Blue runner jacks might be a common fish in The Bahamas, but there is nothing common about seeing 5,000 of them sprawled on the beach after being hauled in by a team of fishermen. While this may be an informal example of tournament fishing in The Bahamas, it draws a crowd.

Every July in Green Castle, a southern settlement on Eleuthera, the community gathers for the Green Castle Hauler Fest. They haul the jacks with nets and then bail them to the shore as if plucking small fish from a fish tank. At this time of year, jacks school in large numbers around South Eleuthera.

A team of boats heads out to haul the fish. On their way back, there is a sprouting of the local grapevine—from house to house, word spreads in the community that “they hauling.” A mother calls her son. The son chats up his girlfriend. The girlfriend tells her best friend and before you know it, the community is gathered by the beach to buy or beg for their share of fish.

Haul ’em

an image of blue runner jacks on the beach
Blue Runner Jacks support local fishermen (and fill hungry bellies).

In Green Castle, the tradition of hauling fish is intergenerational. Fishermen sell their fish on the island and in the capital, Nassau. There is an overabundance of supply during the festival that fishermen give much of their haul away to the community.

In fact, fishermen who don’t give enough away are occasionally accused of stinginess. And community members who don’t buy, which covers fisherman’s’ costs, are considered cheap. These colorful anecdotes aside, the event naturally draws the community and is a celebration of a longstanding fishing tradition that carries locals from childhood to adulthood. Onshore, activities also include live band performances, Bahamian crafts, food, and drinks.

Blue Runner Jacks are oily, dark meat fish that are relatively inexpensive in The  Bahamas; however, they are common frying fish that locals either love or dislike. For those who have an appetite for the jack, orders are welcome in Green Castle. The Green Castle Hauler Fest is one of many fishing tournaments across the Islands of The Bahamas and takes place during the Bahamian Independence celebration (July 10th), and runs this year from July 10-14. bahamas.com

Tournament Fishing in The Bahamas

In the average calendar year, there are over a dozen fishing tournaments in The Bahamas that range from large World Cup qualifiers to small, community-based tournaments like the one in South Eleuthera. The country has a long history of competitive fishing. The Bahamas Billfish Championship, with over forty years under its belt, is the oldest billfish tournament series in the world. The event was held in five different locations during the spring and early summer but is off for this year.

The country’s waters are rich with schools of billfish, wahoo, dolphin, tuna, and kingfish. This is largely thanks to its geographic location which makes it a migratory pathway for big fish and fishing tournaments. They filter through the warm waters of the Gulf Stream and bring much record-setting fish, including the 1,119- pound blue marlin caught by the team of Double Dog when they broke The Bahamas record in 2011 after a three-hour fight to land it off Treasure Cay, Abaco. The bottom line for fishing enthusiasts is that choices abound throughout The Bahamas.

The Highest Paying Fishing Tournament in The Bahamas

Every November, MEAT MAYHEM and Resorts World Bimini host the Bimini Wahoo Mayhem Fishing Tournament, a favorite for serious tournament hoppers because it has the highest grand prize for Wahoo tournaments. In 2018, the tournament winner was guaranteed $40,000. Entries are capped at around 40 boats each year. Teams head out in the peak of Wahoo season. There are no boundaries in the tournament, so anglers can roam freely within the waters of The Bahamas in search of a prize-winning catch. The event is November 14-16, 2019.

World Cup Qualifiers

The best fishing teams around the world have their eyes set on competing in the prestigious Offshore World Championship Series. To make this happen, they first need an invitation to apply to compete. There are two qualifying tournaments in The Bahamas that grant automatic invitations to their winners, the Lyford Cay Offshore Invitational and the Harbourside Marine Bahamas Rotary Tuna Classic.

an image of winning wahoo from tournament fishing in the bahamas
Wahooooo! Winner, winner!

Harbourside Marine Bahamas Rotary Tuna Classic

This qualifying fishing tournament includes two days of fishing, basically anywhere in The Bahamas. Weigh-in stations are distributed across six islands and include Spanish Wells, Great Harbour Cay, Freeport, Abaco, Nassau, and Bimini. This gives teams many options to spread out in search of the targeted fish: tuna, wahoo, and dolphin.

The grand tournament prize is for the heaviest tuna. Proceeds from this event go to charitable programs supported by the Rotary Club of East Nassau, an active non-profit operating in the capital. May 24-25, 2019.

Lyford Cay Offshore Invitational

The Lyford Cay Tournament runs for two days and took place this year from May 9-11 with about 20 boats competing, many from local waters. Winners of the Lyford Cay Tournament have typically fared very well at the world championships and secured runner-up status on several occasions. In 2013, the Lyford Cay Offshore tournament team produced a winning performance for The Bahamas, squeaking by 66 other teams.

By Noelle Nichols, Southern Boating June 2019

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