After a while, a lot of the islands in the Bahamas tend to look a lot alike, and I sometimes find myself asking, Have I ever been here before? And while Cat Cay looks a lot like other small Bahamian islands, once you step ashore, you’ll find yourself in a truly unique place. Cat Cay is a private island, owned by its members. Admittance for nonmember yachtsmen is restricted to the marina area, which includes the Nauticat Restaurant and Lounge, Dockside Bar, Market, Boutique and Clinic. There is a golf course, tennis courts and an enormous pool on the beach, but these areas are reserved for members and their registered guests.
Over the years, Cat Cay Yacht Club has managed to combine the best features of private island life with all the amenities of a major resort. Most important, however, Cat Cay also hosted the historic Cat Cay bluefin tuna tournaments that launched the careers of some many of the great sport-fishing captains of the ’50s and ’60s.
I recently had the chance to fish in a revitalized version of the Cat Cay bluefin tournament during the first week of June put on by the excellent staff of Costa Del Mar sunglasses. The company is very involved in all aspects of marine conservation, and wanted to invite bluefin tuna scientists and anglers alike to this idyllic spot in a quest to catch some of these migrating giants, and insert satellite pop-up tags to track their movements.
I’ve fished for bluefin tuna only one other time — on a headboat off the coast of Gran Canaria, Canary Islands — so I was eager to watch some pros try to bait schools of migrating giants as they poured over the edge and up into the shallows. The method involved motoring slowly up and down the edge, hoping to intersect the migrating schools and bait them with a single mackerel or mullet rigged on 130-pound tackle. During the days leading up to the tournament, crews were seeing small groups of three or four fish with an occasional pod containing 20 or 30!
But alas, the wind began to die on the first day of the event and never got above a puff for the last two days.
In this fishery, calm winds are the kiss of death, since the fish stay down deep, and refuse to pop up and show themselves. I fished for the last two days of the six-team event, and we never saw a fish on Jackpot— a gorgeous little Merritt boat that’s rigged for tuna fishing; one of the first things you notice about these boats are the lack of outriggers! If you are pitching only one bait, you don’t need to set out a spread.
Although no one actually caught a bluefin during the tournament in Cat Cay this year, the fact that the fleet saw a good number of fish before the “bad” weather moved in had everyone confident that if he could get lucky and get the right weather conditions, he could once again start catching a few. I for one would love to get out there and see one — I imagine it must be one of the best bites ever. Next year marks the 50th anniversary of the Cat Cay Tuna Tournament, so let’s try to get as many boats out there as we can — the more fish we catch, the more we will learn about these majestic creatures.
Thanks so much to Costa Del Mar and Cat Cay for hosting such an ambitious and entertaining event.