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Captain and owner of Barbadian vessel, Eclipse, Mario Williams. (Via GBIS)

Hooked on game fishing

April 12, 2023

The Barbadian vessel Eclipse. (Via BGIS)

BGIS – Barbados stands to benefit in a big way from game fishing, as it gains popularity locally and internationally. Captain and owner of the Barbadian vessel Eclipse, Mario Williams, has his sights set on the Game Fishing Offshore World Championship Tournament being held, from April 16 to 21, in Marina Pez Vela, Quepos, Costa Rica. 

Mr. Williams is a second-generation fisher from the close-knit fishing village Conset Bay, on the east coast of Barbados. He explained that in game fishing, the fish were caught, counted, and then released into the ocean to allow others a chance to catch them.

“If you are in a tournament, you have to release them and give someone else the chance to catch them.  We are trying to save the species and not kill everything.  It is a catch and release tournament,” he explained. 

After bringing home the pride of victory following the Spice Island Bill Fish Tournament in Grenada last year, he and his crew are ready and eager to go for victory. It was the first time in 30 years that a Barbadian boat had won the most prestigious fishing competition in the southern Caribbean.

“The World Championship is very big….  This World Championship, we have a chance at winning,” said an excited Williams.

The Barbadian vessel and crew – Mario Williams, Mario Springer and visiting husband and wife team members, Jonathan and Diana Webster – will be going up against competitors from around the world, including those from Puerto Rico, Panama, Brazil, America, Croatia, and Kenya.  “They are all very good fishermen,” Mr. Williams admitted.

However, the young fisherman remains confident that his crew and vessel stand a good chance at winning. 

“We fish every day.  We practise a lot, especially now that they have the FADs (Fish Aggregating Devices).  Since they put the FADs down, we have been practising and getting good opportunities to get a lot of fish,” he said.

But, it was not always smooth sailing for the captain.  Mr. Williams recalled that soon after acquiring his vessel Eclipse in November 2019, he headed to Grenada for the first time in January 2020.  All the while, he was trying to start his business, Eclipse Fishing Charters, and for an opportunity to take part in a tournament.

As he neared Grenada, he “popped” a fan belt and “blew” a manifold, around 1:00 a.m.  Yet, still determined to take part in the tournament, Mr. Williams used all his savings to ensure that his vessel was ready for competition.

On the first day, he fished on one engine, and maintained second place for the first two days of the tournament.  That was until he developed an abscess in one of his teeth, resulting in him falling all the way down to 10th place.

That, however, did not stop the captain of the charter vessel, as he continued competing in tournaments whenever he could.  Recalling a tournament he took part in on January 26, 2022, Mr. Williams said within the first two minutes of competition he and his crew doubled up on sail fish.

“That day, 15 fish were caught out of 45 boats and we released five of them.  It was a great start,” he recalled.

Crew members of Eclipse – husband and wife team, Jonathan and Diana Webster. (Via BGIS)

Mr. Williams said they were also looking to compete in the Sir Charles Williams International Fishing tournament in Barbados, which is already under way and ends on April 16.

He said fishing tournaments were gaining popularity in Barbados, and becoming increasingly so, since the introduction of the FADs in the water.

In fact, Mr. Williams noted that people flew from across the world to visit Barbados’ waters to practise their techniques and take part in these fishing tournaments.  

“The FADs now bring a lot of foreign boats to Barbados to fish in our international tournament, which is a good thing as it would get Barbados on the map.  If you go by the FAD, within 20 minutes you can get a lot of fish,” he said.

He added that more people were flying to Barbados in groups to fish but lamented that many still did not know about the improvements in fishing.

Mr. Williams stated that there was also a strong interest by visitors to become involved and learn how they can participate in game fishing.

He pointed out that he first met British visitors Diana and Jonathan Webster on an afternoon fishing charter during their visit to the island. From there, they learnt how to fish, and returned to the island annually, sometimes twice a year to take part in tournaments.

The young fisherman disclosed that the couple also went as far as to help in the purchase of his vessel and form part of his crew for tournaments.

Mr. Webster, speaking about his experience here with game fishing, said: “We come to Barbados for the island.  It is a lovely island and lovely people.  We spend half the time fishing and half the time relaxing.  When we first came, we came for a week, then increased it to 10 days, then two weeks.  The longest we stayed is six weeks.”

He added that it is hoped that game fishing could be seen as a tourism product for Barbados and promoted widely, given its importance in the developing blue economy.

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