Fishing, Food, & Fun
With an average of over 40 boats competing in both tournaments, there’s a lot of fishing, but also plenty of food and fun. Boats arrive from nearby islands of Curacao, Aruba, and even Venezuela to join with Bonaire’s fishermen. Dinners are held in the evenings of the events as well, so the event provides a unique opportunity for fisherman from around the region to engage in conversation.
The International Tournament
The International portion of the tournament is a Catch and Release Billfish tournament. There are a variety of prizes for the overall winners, and there are many additional chances to win, such as the first-catch-of-the-day and various challenges throughout the day. There are valuable prizes for the categories of the largest each of tuna, wahoo, and dorado. Strikes are recorded as the fish are caught, and then the fish are immediately released. Catches can include blue marlin, sailfish, and white marlin, along with tuna and dorado (dradu in Papiamentu).
The Local Fishing Tournament
The local fishing tournament is open to boats of all sizes and anyone on Bonaire and is normally divided up into small boats and larger fishing vessels. The goal of this event is to recognize the skills of the local fisherman, allowing them to compete without taking away their catch. The local fishermen are aiming for fish for consumption rather than billfish. They are allowed to head out just before midnight and they are out all night and most of the day, returning to the dock to clean their fish and get them weighed in the afternoon, after nearly 15 hours on the water and it’s not unusual for the haul to be over 1200 pounds/550 kilograms. Bonaire’s fishermen have quite some skills, those that do it for a living, as well as the weekend warriors–those who enjoy it as a past-time.
Each fisherman has a different strategy for the competitions. Some venture out with the aim of landing the largest fish, the kind that becomes the centerpiece of all those legendary “fish tales”. Others aim for quantity, instead of looking at the total weight of the catch–after all, all the fish from Bonaire’s waters make fabulous seafood dinners. For those who catch more than they can eat, be sure and ask them if they would be willing to sell you some of their catch.
A nearby restaurant will typically act as the host venue, and ensure that everyone is wined and dined throughout the tournament. At the festival grounds, in the parking area next to It Rains Fishes (which is across the street from the Bonaire Club Nautico pier), there is a bar serving cold drinks each evening and into the night. Spectacular American, Creole, and Barbecue Buffets are prepared and served by the staff of It Rains Fishes. This is included for the fishermen but is also available to the public for a small fee. Don’t miss it!
On Saturday, be there to watch the fisherman come in and weigh their catch. Once the fishermen are back, they will join in the fun!