Friday, March 28, 2014

First grander of 2014 is taken in Kenya, of all places

Skipper Stuart Simpson with first grander of 2014 and his first grander on his boat
In the world of big-game fishing, a 1,000-pound billfish is known as a grander, and by this time of year three or four have usually already been caught. So it was with great fanfare that a 1,062-pound blue marlin—the first grander of the year—was weighed in on Friday.
But it wasn’t in Kona, Hawaii, where the first grander typically is landed. It wasn’t in Cairns, Australia, or Ascension Island in the South Atlantic Ocean, either.
No, the distinction for the first grander of 2014 worldwide goes to…Kenya.
Kenya?
Yes, the African country, and that’s part of the reason for all the fanfare.
Under the direction of Captain Stuart Simpson aboard the Ol Jogi II, British angler Roger Sutherland landed only the second grander in the history of Kenyan sportfishing. The first was caught 10 years ago and weighed 1,197 pounds.
Not only that, it was the first grander for skipper Simpson and the first grander for Sutherland, who had caught only one other marlin before this one.
“I had a feeling when I first saw it that it was a grander,” Simpson said. “I had never seen one like it.”“Over the moon,” Simpson told GrindTV Outdoor in an email describing the feeling of taking the first grander of the year worldwide.
The angler, skipper, and crew “waited anxiously” as the fish followed the boat for 20 minutes, covering 2 miles.
“It was incredibly tense,” Sutherland said. “There was a flurry [by the fish in the water] as we took the flatline [with another lure close to the boat] out of the water, then nervous silence while the fish followed us.”
Once the fish took the lure, Simpson knew he’d gotten a good hook-set. Fortunately, the fish didn’t sound deep, which would have made for a much more difficult battle. As it was, the fight was a relatively quick one for a fish this size.
“The battle surprisingly took two and a half hours, with a lot of luck,” Simpson said.
A crowd of 200 was waiting for the Ol Jogi II to come into Hemingways, Watamu, resort to weigh the fish.
“I knew we had done it when it weighed in at 451 kilograms [994 pounds] with its head still on the ground,” Simpson said. “We had our fish.”
Simpson has been a skipper for 10 years and has caught more than 400 marlin, but he’s only taken a handful. This one was a special fish, and one that didn’t go to waste, as its meat was donated locally.
“I am sorry the fish had to die, but to be honest I knew the fish was big,” Simpson told GrindTV. “I’m strictly tag and release, [but] every now and again something is thrown at you, and this was a chance for myself, angler, crew, Watamu, Hemingways, Kenya, and everyone else around to put Kenya fishing back on the world map.
“This first is very important for Kenya’s tourism and to Watamu as a big-game fishing destination. We have incredibly diverse waters—a great destination for grand slams—and now we have proved once again that our big fish are still out there.”
Simpson revealed that most of the Fantasy Grand Slams (catching all the billfish species within a 24-hour outing) come from Kenya. And now we know it can be a destination for granders, too.
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