Sea Dream Wins the 2017 International Billfish Tournament in Puerto Rico

The special light-tackle edition proved a formidable one for the participants

2017 international billfish tournament of club nautico de san juan puerto rico
Sea Dream returns victorious to Club Nautico de San Juan on the second and final day of fishing.Courtesy Mark Smestad

The 43-foot Cabo, Sea Dream, won the 64th annual International Billfish Tournament of Club Náutico de San Juan thanks to the efforts of angler Juan Pepe Donestevez, who released the team's third blue marlin and sealed the victory for the popular local team. Even better: All three fish were caught on 20-pound-test line, in a special late-season light-tackle rendition of the 64-year-old tournament.

"Fishing was good for us," says Sea Dream's Humberto "Tayito" Martínez, who released the first two blues. "The billfish cooperated, the bite was good and currents helped, in spite of some mixed green water." He credited the skills of Capt. Jesús Vela and fellow anglers in the win. Vela won the Mike Benitez Best Captain Perpetual Trophy, awarded to the tournament's top captain.

2017 international billfish tournament of club nautico de san juan puerto rico
The Sea Dream team accepts their trophies and prizes at the awards celebration at Club Nautico.Courtesy Mark Smestad

Coming in second was the 42-foot Blueprint, a team that scored a white marlin for lady angler Coralys Ayala and a blue marlin by Eduardo Rodriguez, Blueprint's owner. Tournament director Sal Egea Jr. won third place aboard his family's 50-foot Viking, Panama Jack. Egea released one white marlin while angler Joey Vizcarrondo released another.

“We wanted to keep the tournament’s tradition alive and also go out and fish to keep our minds off the daily stress and routine of the recovery efforts after Hurricane Maria,” Egea says. He went on to thank the boat owners and anglers who made the effort to fish.

“The element of using 20-pound-test also gave a fresh fishing perspective to a new generation of young anglers who are now experiencing the thrill of fishing,” Egea reports. “It’s a closeness of you and the fish that’s very exciting.” Egea will return as the tournament director of the 65th annual tournament, which is slated for October 15-21, 2018.

2017 international billfish tournament of club nautico de san juan puerto rico
Blueprint scored a blue marlin and a white marlin to finish in second place.Courtesy Mark Smestad

The winning international team was Club Náutico of San Juan 01 in first place. USA came in second and the Dominican Republic team placed third.

The ladies distinguished themselves as well. Coraly Ayala, the first angler who released a billfish in the tournament, teamed up with Camelia Fernandez (who released a sailfish) and together with Vanessa González they won third place in the Interclub category. Also winning the top spot in the Interclub category were Martínez, Luis Umpierre and Jorge Luis Díaz. The second place trophy went to Donestevez, Emilio Fernandez and Joe Vizcarrondo.

2017 international billfish tournament of club nautico de san juan puerto rico
Tournament director Sal Egea Jr. and his Panama Jack team finished in third place for the second year in a row.Courtesy Mark Smestad
2017 international billfish tournament of club nautico de san juan puerto rico
Capt. Jesús Vela won the Mike Benitez Perpetual Trophy as the event's top captain.Courtesy Mark Smestad
2017 international billfish tournament of club nautico de san juan puerto rico
Rough seas proved a challenge for the participating boats on the first day of the tournament.Courtesy Mark Smestad
2017 international billfish tournament of club nautico de san juan puerto rico
A boat slices through the waves en route to the fishing grounds just a few miles off San Juan, Puerto Rico.Courtesy Mark Smestad
2017 international billfish tournament of club nautico de san juan puerto rico
Egea, center, and the guys share a laugh during the kickoff party.Courtesy Mark Smestad
2017 international billfish tournament of club nautico de san juan puerto rico
The after-fishing parties drew tremendous crowds and were a huge hit with everyone.Courtesy Mark Smestad
2017 international billfish tournament of club nautico de san juan puerto rico
Three top Puerto Rican anglers: Luis Infazon, Angel Muntaner and Emilio Fernandez.Courtesy Mark Smestad
2017 international billfish tournament of club nautico de san juan puerto rico
The ladies also had a great time during the tournament.Courtesy Mark Smestad
2017 international billfish tournament of club nautico de san juan puerto rico
Pink Lady returns to port in San Juan.Courtesy Mark Smestad
2017 international billfish tournament of club nautico de san juan puerto rico
The tournament staff, already hard at work on the 65th annual event slated for October, 2018.Courtesy Mark Smestad

In two days, 20 billfish were released, including five blue marlin. The tournament's original dates were cancelled due to Hurricane Maria, and while recovery efforts will continue for months, Puerto Rico is expected to be back on its feet as a world-class fishing and tourism destination by the summer of 2018. Read more about Puerto Rico's outstanding marlin fishing.