Dominican Days

Marlin And More At The Caribbean’s Newest Playground

Capt. Steve Dougherty August 16, 2011

Situated on the eastern side of the island of Hispaniola, the Dominican Republic is soon to be the shining star of the Caribbean. Known throughout the world for premium cigars and an incredible pool of talented Major League Baseball prospects, there’s more than meets the eye in the D.R. Attracting only the most adventurous captains and crews searching for the world’s greatest fisheries, the D.R. is perfectly positioned on a major passageway connecting the expansive Atlantic Ocean and fertile Caribbean Sea. Current rips converge and game fish abound, although many crews pass by en route to more mainstream destinations like Puerto Rico and St. Thomas. However, there are those who visit the D.R. and never leave and those who leave wanting more. One visit and you’ll know why.

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Photo: Capt. Steve Dougherty

On the radar for beach connoisseurs enjoying all-inclusive resorts, ace golfers looking for the ultimate vistas and adventurous anglers looking to get tight, the Dominican Republic offers numerous options for the tropical traveler. None however are as well equipped as Cap Cana. Carved out of the cliffs along the southeast coast, Cap Cana encompasses approximately 35,000 acres including miles of pristine sugar sand beaches. A mere 10 minutes from the Punta Cana International Airport, Cap Cana is an ambitious development with the goal of becoming the most exotic and extravagant mega-resort community in the Caribbean. With plush boutique hotels, exclusive residential communities, world-class golf courses designed by Jack Nicklaus, outstanding restaurants, spa facilities and an impeccable marina that will feature 500 slips when complete, Cap Cana truly has it all. If you really fall in love and want to call Capa Cana home, there are medical and health services, as well as bilingual elementary and undergraduate education programs. Best of all, the fishing grounds are only three miles offshore and for the roaming angler, the geographic location couldn’t be any better.

…the Dominican Republic is enjoying a boom in tourism and quickly becoming a hot spot for both domestic and international travelers.

The Mona Passage is a 65 nautical mile wide opening that spans the distance from D.R. to Puerto Rico. Impressive bottom topography, extreme currents and the presence of forage fish create ideal conditions for a variety of highly prized pelagic species. Blue and white marlin lead the way as they cruise the cobalt blue waters, delighting those willing to visit this up and coming locale for light tackle offshore fishing at its finest. Feisty white marlin typically show up in March and hang around for the duration of the summer season. The impressive currents of the deep trench also host an impressive class of blue marlin, with sailfish surprising anglers between marlin bites. The billfish potential is truly phenomenal and the D.R. is quickly becoming the place to be. In addition, it is believed that the same blues that scour St. Thomas’ fabled North Drop migrate through the D.R. in the fall.

For this mid-summer jaunt, Florida Sport Fishing’s Boone Oughterson and I were chomping at the bit and ready to capitalize on the untapped white marlin fishery. Marina Manager Andy New met us at the airport with cold Presidente in hand and whisked us away to the impressive Cap Cana Marina where the stars and moon were aligned and the white marlin bite was on.

Led by legendary angler Enrico Capozzi and Captain Bubba Carter, Stacey Parkerson and the world record hunting crew of Spirit of Pilar had just caught a white marlin on 6 lb. tippet and it was time to celebrate. This dedicated crew travels the globe on the quest for world records and seeing them in the marina, we knew the fishing had to be spectacular. The fishing has been so good that they haven’t left for over a year! During their stay Enrico caught a world-record 108.4-pound blue marlin on 12 lb. tippet and Stacey caught a world record 46.10-pound white marlin on 12 lb. tippet. Enrico is credited as the first angler in history to record 10,000 billfish catches in a lifetime, and has caught and released 16 Billfish Grand Slams including the first in history on fly rod. After celebrating with Enrico and the crew ‘till the early morning hours, we were well aware of the potential of the D.R. and looking forward to our first day on the water.

Fishing with Captain Manuel on Gladiator, we cleared the channel marking the numerous coral heads and made our way to the deep blue through a color spectrum of tropical seas only achieved in the Caribbean. Trolling daisy chains and circle-hook rigged ballyhoo, we scoured the 100-fathom line. It’s comforting knowing the local captains fish with sound conservation practices in an effort to promote billfish stocks. More are more countries need to adopt this mindset because billfish have no borders.

While the bottom structure is mind boggling, the Dominican fishery is famous for its FADs (fish aggregating devices) and after our first pass, it was evident that wahoo were lurking in the depths. With the focus on billfish we stood no chance against the toothy predators, although the lightning fast strikes surely got our blood boiling. Slammer dolphin were also in the mix and more than willing to partake in the fun. This tropical fishery is incredible and many aspects have yet to be discovered, with crews just starting to experiment with exceptional results. The bite slowed in the afternoon but as the day came to a close, we finally hooked two whites that made blistering runs toward the horizon. After catching a quick glimpse of the supercharged billfish they unfortunately came unglued.

On our second day we ventured beyond the Cap Cana compound to the beach town of Bavaro for an incredible culinary display of fresh seafood and tour of the Don Lucas cigar factory. For the afternoon we were back on the water, but this time we were in search of inshore assailants. Inside the fringing reef, shallow grass flats and patch reefs offer a unique ecosystem for a variety of predators. Andy tells us that opportunities abound with permit, tarpon, snook, mutton and yellowtail snapper, as well as a variety of grouper. The incredible diversity afforded by the unique shallow water ecosystem bridges the gap between coral and grass and is truly unpressured. It’s safe to say that some of these fish have never seen a hook before.

The following day we were back on the hunt for white marlin aboard Miranda, a plush 51′ Riviera that made for an incredible day on the water. Trolling the current rips with dredge teasers and daisy chains, it wasn’t long before our prized targets were within reach. Aguja, shouted the mate and a moment later we were hooked into a tenacious billfish. While white marlin in these waters average 40 to 60 pounds, make no mistake; these powerhouses are fierce battlers with the body composition and muscle structure to prove it. Pound for pound, a fired up white will pull a sailfish backwards and the light tackle battles that ensued were physically demanding and well deserving of a cold beer and smooth cigar. We found the action and the whites were piling on our teasers like gangbusters. We ended up with a total of 10 fish eyeing our spread and with release flags flying high, we were headed back to the marina reminiscing of a dream day in the Dominican.

Where to Toss the Bags

The development of Cap Cana was made possible by international investors and partners looking to create a truly first-class mega resort with any and all amenities available. The marina is host to numerous tournaments including the International Cap Cana Billfish Shootout, Puerto Rico Light Tackle Anglers Tournament, Club Caza y Pesca Blue Marlin Tourney and The Signature Cap Cana Classic. Getting to the D.R. couldn’t be easier, with the Punta Cana International Airport (PUJ) easily accessible no matter your location. With direct flights to and from Europe, Central and South America, and U.S. destinations including New York, Atlanta, Ft. Lauderdale and Miami, the Dominican Republic is enjoying a boom in tourism and quickly becoming a hot spot for both domestic and international travelers.

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