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Chronicle: 52nd fishing tournament and four days in Rio San Juan

Faustino Salcedo | Sep 17, 2012

José Luis Vargas fishing tournament winner. | Photographer: Faustino Salcedo

Participants from 8 countries from around the world competed for 2 days.

When Jose Luis Vargas from Costa Rica lifted the trophy that proclaimed him as the first place winner of the 52nd Fishing Tournament ‘Sabalo Real’ or tarpon category, his facial features denoted joy, peace and satisfaction of seeing that his efforts took him that far. In addition to marking the closure of two days in the waters of Lake Cocibolca and Rio San Juan that were conquered by fishermen from 8 different countries, it also marked the end of a journey through this of that paradise visited and always desired.

The 52nd Fishing Tournament was held on the 14th and 15th of September colliding with the national Independence holiday in Nicaragua -The Battle of San Jacinto and The Independence of Central America-. The event was staged in the counties of San Carlos and The Castle, El 52 Torneo de Pesca se realizó los días 14 y 15 Septiembre, fechas en las que también se celebran las fiestas patrias en Nicaragua -la batalla de San Jacinto y la Independencia de Centroamérica respectivamente-. El evento tuvo como escenario los municipios de San Carlos y El Castillo, sites where scales for weighing were placed.

The small town of San Carlos, departmental head of Rio San Juan, is apparently a quiet place, host of many tourists. Some people say that it gets really fun there only when large activities like fishing tournament or aquatic carnival take place. This is surely why that on the day that we arrived, on September the 13th, we the members of the press trip organized by the Nicaraguan Tourism Institute (INTUR), encountered music and food sales on the boardwalk of the city as part of the parallel activities of the tournament.

On the morning of the 14th, we headed towards Boca de Sábalos. On our way, we could observe the presence of some boats. The fishermen denied with signals when asked about the fishing. Along the way we meet a boat made up ​​by Costa Ricans and Americans residing in Guanacaste, Costa Rica. They told us that for 8 consecutive years they have participated in this tournament, making this the only river that holds this fishing sport.

Mike Grands, owner of the vessel from Guanacaste and second place winner in previous tournaments, told us that the fishing was scarce due to the weather and the presence of too many other boats that scared the fish away. While we were in Mike's boat, in the distance a small boat was seen struggling with a large tarpon.

The boat belonged to Luis Lemuz aka “The Tiger”, from Guatemala. While he was struggling with the fish until it got tired, the boat driver skillfully prevented the vessel from tipping over. The tarpon jumped over and over while The Tiger picked up the nylon on his fishing rod. Around him where at least 3 other boats observing the spectacle. After half an hour of struggle, the fish subsided and The Tiger roared announcing his victory over the animal. The fish was later taken to the scale of Boca de Sábalos and to everyone’s surprise, the tarpon weighed in at 100 pounds. Despite the size of the fish, The Tiger did not win because other fish weighing in at 132, 120.6 and 119.6 pounds were already registered.

We continued sailing to the town of El Castillo where the Inmaculada fortress is located. It was there that fishermen expressed to us how rough the day had been and their hopes that it would all be better the next day. The end of the day was approaching so we took off at 4:00 pm to San Carlos because after 4:30 you are not allowed to sail on the river.

On the next day, Saturday, September 15th, a patriotic parade was held and the flow of people decended until 4:00 pm. This was the hour that people had been waiting for because it was the closing of the event. All of the sudden, boats from the participants arrived with the fish they had caught and were later donated to different organizations that assist the habitants of the area.

Before the closing ceremony began, Nicaraguan Singer Otto de La Rocha took the stage that in addition to singing; played the radio character of Aniceto Prieto. To finalize the event, a sort of festival was prepared where Dj Revuelta Sonora would participate in, but that is another story.

The time came for the awards ceremony starting with child fishing category. In this particular category, children from 3 to 14 years old participated and they had to fish from the docks on the boardwalk. 3 Categories were awarded but the most important one was the Guapote category, making Leonel Mairena the sole winner; a fragile looking boy with a lasting smile. In the adult award ceremony there were several surprises such as Maira Sandi, of Costa Rica, who caught a tarpon of 59.8, becoming the first woman in the history of the tournament to catch such a large fish.

In the tarpon category, third place went to Randy Madrigal of Costa Rica with a 119.6 pound sample. The second place went to Jesse Parkinson from the United States with a 120.6 pound sample. The first place winner, with a 132 pound tarpon, was José Luis Vargas of Costa Rica, who told us that he never imagined winning the tournament but that he harbored hope of shinning in it.

There was a firework show at the end that made the population very happy but we must point out the fact that this tarpon is a protected specie like many others tan inhabit the marine waters of the lake beloved by some and historically claimed by many others. We headed back to Managua, while the San Carleans await anxiously the Aquatic Carnival to be held in November.

This is a photo gallery about the 52 fishing tournament in San Carlos.

Translated by Paola Larrabure