San Juan hosts a pair of renowned fishing events this weekend
The 69th edition of the International Billfish Tournament and the closing of the Sport Fishing Championship will be contested at the same time
By Alejandra M. Jover Tovar
Special to The STAR
The San Juan Yacht Club is celebrating its 69th edition of the International Billfish Tournament (IBT), the oldest of its kind in the world, with representatives from South Africa, Brazil, the United States, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.
At least 50 fishermen from local and international teams will participate in the San Juan Trench this weekend.
Roger Casellas, director of this IBT edition, also welcomed and highlighted the importance of holding the closing of a championship known as the Sport Fishing Championship (SFC). CBS Sports will broadcast the event.
“Many fishermen will be with us for the first time, which has a positive impact on Puerto Rico and the sports brotherhood,” Casellas said.
“Others will know us through CBS Sports. They will fish on our boats and get to know our culture,” he added, referring to the IBT rotation system: a different fisherman goes on local boats daily, enhancing sportsmanship.
Teams from the United States such as Rising Son’s, Bandito and Quantified -- which brought their vessel from Texas to San Juan -- are registered in the IBT and will also compete in the SFC’s final for a $1 million prize and a 34-inch glass trophy.
Sports organizers from the United States recognize the importance of the IBT event, which has been held uninterruptedly for 69 years and brings other sportspeople, such as those competing for the SFC.
In an aside with the STAR, Casellas said “since 2003, we’ve been releasing back to the sea every bluebill caught; it’s a catch and release event.”
“We do it as part of a conservation effort for future generations,” he said. “Because of their characteristics, studies have shown that these fish aren’t consumed or have any economic value.”
The tournament focuses on blue billfishes, greatly prized by sports fishermen.
“The blue billfish is abundant year-round, but during this time of the year, they pass through our waters,” Casellas said. “So we’re lucky to be on the water again after a rough year and after the worst of the pandemic.”
As for the SFC, “the competitors fish tuna, mahi-mahi, wahoo and grouper, and those are gifted or consumed,” Casellas noted.
“If they want to sell them, we don’t participate in that,” he said. “But those fish have great demand.”
“We’re finally stepping out of the pandemic, and everyone’s excited to be part of these events,” Casellas reiterated. “We are fortunate to be able to organize this event, enjoy the Caribbean temperatures and have a great time. This year it’s different because we have broad participation.”
The IBT will be held from today through Saturday, followed by the award ceremony. As required 19 years ago, fishermen cannot board the billfishes; doing so results in disqualification. The rule reiterates the San Juan Yacht Club’s vision of conserving the species for future generations.
Also, a novelty of this year’s edition is the presentation of a new award to reaffirm the bonds of friendship between San Juan and the Dominican Republic. Thanks to a reciprocity agreement, the Dominican Republic Perpetual Trophy will be awarded to the winning club at the CNSD International Blue Marlin Fishing Tournament held in October.
Visit the Facebook page @San Juan IBT, Instagram @cnsj_ibt, and www.sanjuaninternational.com, or call 787-722-0177 for more information and participation rules.