Mate Tops 30,000 Billfish Releases

Often overlooked, a humble Mr. Billfish might actually exist

Nicolas Melendrez (left), a mate aboard Rum Line, surpassed 30,000 billfish releases.

Catch & Release

Nicolas Melendrez (left), a mate aboard Rum Line, surpassed 30,000 billfish releases.Chris Sheeder

As I approach 30,000 lifetime billfish releases as a captain, I can’t help but look into the cockpit of Rum Line and wonder how many billfish my first mate, Nicolas Melendrez, has released. The number must be mind-blowing, so I did some investigating. He began fishing Guatemalan waters more than 20 years ago, in 1993, even before Fins and Feathers opened its doors, aboard Tim Choate’s Classic and was always on great boats. He even took a year off from the deck to run a boat but chose to return to the pit the following year, stating that being behind the wheel was a bit boring and he’d rather be in the action.

I was able to account for 32,024 of Nico’s billfish releases — that’s not including the three years I can’t find any records for! Upon the discovery, I congratulated him and said we would take a picture with a banner, have the mariachis playing and all that. But in typical Nico fashion, he declined the attention and said, “It’s not about what we’ve done yesterday, but more about what we’re going to do today,” and I can’t argue with that. However, I can tell you that Mr. Billfish does exist, and his name is Nicolas Melendrez.