Bunita topped the billfish category in last weekend’s 2021 San Jose Fiesta Fishing Derby after reeling in a 471-lb monster marlin that was so massive organizers had to bring in a boom truck to transfer it from boat to land.
The boat was captained by Mike Fleming Sr. and had Rubin Garde and Mike Fleming Jr. serving as crew. Not only did they win the tournament’s showcase category but they also won the hearts of San Jose after they donated their prized catch to the San Jose Parish.
Mike Sr., who has been fishing around the Marianas’ waters the past 40 years, said it took them a good two hours to land the nearly 11-foot blue marlin. He said the fish put up a good fight and even dove to a depth of more 3,000 feet before dying on the line and they had to pull it up from a depth of more than 1,000 feet.
“We had to pour two bottles of water on our reels because they were overheating due to the stress and pressure put up by the marlin,” said Mike Sr., adding that the Bunita’s stabilizer also broke during the fight between man and marine life.
Mike Sr. said he immediately knew he hooked a monster marlin and thanked St. Joseph, the patron saint of San Jose, for their good fortune. He added that he donated the 471-pounder because that’s what his late mother, Rosalia Aldan Fleming, would’ve wanted.
“My dear mother was a devotee of San Jose and if she was still alive now, she would tell me do donate the fish with no hesitation,” he said.
The price of an over 450-lb blue marlin would’ve easily fetched $1,500 on retail, according to Mike Sr., with some collectors hoping to mount it even offering as much as $2,000. In the end, Mike Sr. was just happy to land the monster marlin and kept its gigantic tail as a trophy.
Also winning in the fishing tournament sponsored by the Tinian Mayor’s Office, Tinian Municipal Council, Docomo Pacific, Triple J, Tinian Care Club, and Fishing Tackle were Bar O Fan (wahoo category), Victoria (yellowfin category), Victoria Lei (bonito category), and Roil Soil 2 (most variety).
Finishing second and third in the billfish category were Bandits (captained by Masaki Kitami with crewmembers Austin Benavente and Joey Tudela) and Sesa (captained by Steve Reyes with crewmembers Kevin Diaz and Mark Reyes) with catches of 43.5 lbs and 25.5 lbs, respectively.
Bar O Fan topped the wahoo category after captain Chris Pangelinan and crewmembers J.D. Tenorio, Maggie Pangelinan, and Alfred Muna landed a 25.5-lb wahoo. Roil Soil 2 of captain Ken Salas and deckhands Alex Benavente, Ton Benavente, Haram Lee, Christine Kim, and Sakura Imaya finished second with a 23.5-lb fish. Coming in third was Bella of captain Perry B. Inos and crewmembers Dixie I. Camacho and Ana Maria Inos with their 19.5-lb wahoo.
Former lieutenant governor Diego Benavente’s Victoria was without peer in the yellowfin division after he and his crewmembers, Vicky Benavente and Scott Shular, caught 25.5-lb tuna. St. Cristopher’s skipper Juan Barcinas and crewmembers Frank Diaz and Christian Barcinas came in second with an 8.5-pounder, while Roil Soil 2 was third with their 6.5-lb tuna.
Victoria Lei topped the bonito (skipjack) category with an 8.5-lb catch, followed by Keilani Ko and Lorraine who both tied with 8-lb botinos each. Victoria Lei was skippered by Wayne Villagomez with Ray Dela Cruz and Alex Sandbergen as crew. Frank Reyes captained co-second place Keilani Ko and had a crew made up of Brian Reyes, Patrick Quitugua, and Dwayne Muña. Lorriane was led by captain Cecilio Raiukiulipy with crewmembers Pete Dela Cruz and Paul Roberto.
Kat-sika of captain Jesse Sablan and Sen. Jude Hofschneider (R-Tinian) was the lone entry in the mahi category and won the division by default.
First place in all categories took home $1,000 each, while second place netted $800, with third-placers pocketing $500. For finishing second in the wahoo and third in the yellowfin categories, Roil Soil 2 won the most variety category and received a Penn 80 VISW reel-and rod combo worth $1,400.
Roil Soil’s captain said they didn’t expect to win the most variety category and were just trying to have fun at the San Jose Fiesta. “We just went out with family and tried our luck. We hit Goat Island, north of Tinian and Marpi reef and got our prized catch there.”
The 30-year-old Salas said he’s only been fishing seriously the past two years and thanked his crew and all the sponsors of the 2021 San Jose Fiesta Fishing Derby.