Sportfishing is a family affair for Puerto Rico’s Rafael Caicedo. His 25-foot Contender, Mimi-Lou is named for his grandmother whom he still calls before a tournament for good luck; he got his start fishing with his grandfather; the late Dr. Jose A. Diaz Bonnet, uncles and cousins; and he has two young daughters who are already eyeing the sea. While Caicedo admits he enjoys ‘doing it all’, his real passion is for light-tackle blue marlin fishing.
Born and raised in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, right outside of San Juan, Caicedo is a third generation sports fisherman.
“My grandfather would take me out with him in his outboard for dorado fishing,” he says. “I was about six years old then. After that I started going offshore in pursuit of bigger fish, blue marlin and other pelagic species, with my family. Fishing is just something my family has always loved and we enjoy doing it together.”
Caicedo won his first blue marlin tournament at the age of 11 aboard the “Bimba”, fishing off the north coast of Puerto Rico, as a junior angler.
“The fish was about 150 pounds,” he says. “I still remember releasing it.”
Caicedo had caught his first blue marlin the year before, at age 10.
Before that, he had fished in and won other tournaments starting at the age of 8 that targeted species such as dolphin and wahoo.
“They were all Kodak moments, what hooked me on fishing for life,” Caicedo says. “I’ve never participated in any other sport. Everything has always been the sea, the people and the action; it’s a lifestyle that I enjoy every aspect.”
When he wasn’t fun fishing or tournament fishing, Caicedo spent his time catching and rigging baits, learning every aspect of the sport.
Later, this paid off as he got a job as a charter captain running 17-foot flats boat and chasing tarpon on light-tackle while attending the University in Puerto Rico.
“I’d arrange my class schedule so that I’d have afternoons off,” he says.
In the following years, Caicedo made a name for himself on the local billfish tournament circuit. He won as an angler the Cangrejos Yacht Club’s Torneo de Pesca Interclub de Caribe in 2002, Club Nautico de San Juan’s International Billfish Tournament in 2006, and the International Light Tackle Blue Marlin tournament in Mayaguez in 2004. This was all before he reached the age of 30!
Part of the fun of fishing is the tales to tell. One of Caicedo’s best took place in November 2007, while his was fishing aboard his uncle’s 31-foot Bertram with Captain Paco Vela (who is now at the helm of Prime Time PR), brother, daughter and two cousins. The team was competing in one of Club Nautico de San Juan’s light tackle tournaments.
“We caught 7 sailfish, 1 white marlin and 1 blue marlin on 12- and 20-pound test and won the tournament,” Caicedo says. “Better yet, we caught one of the sailfish, the white and the blue marlin all in the last couple of hours before lines out and scored a grand slam.”
This wasn’t Caicedo’s only slam for the year. In January of 2007, he caught a spearfish, blue and white marlin while out trolling in a dolphin tournament. He caught dolphin too and took second place in the event.
Hands down, its blue marlin that are Caicedo’s favorite species to catch.
“I’m always trolling for billfish,” he says. “I enjoy light tackle, but it depends on the time of year. From October to April I’ll use 12, 16 or 20 and in the summer when there’s the bigger marlin, I’ll fish with 30, 50 or 80.”
Caicedo prefers pitch baiting or trolling dead baits to lures. He also swears by circle hooks.
“If you’re not careful with a J-hook, when you free spool and the fish jumps you can lose him. Not so with circle hooks. I really like them and I think we catch more fish that way,” he says.
Caicedo fishes some 60 to 70 days a year. The rest of the time is employed in sales for a company that makes industrial air conditioning for the pharmaceutical industry.
Two years ago, Caicedo met Nelson Morales in a tackle shop. Morales had just bought a Viking 52, Prime Time PR, was new to sports fishing and was eager to learn more. He hired Capt. Paco Vela and invited Caicedo to fish with the team alternating as both crew and angler. The team regularly fishes in Puerto Rico, in the Dominican Republic from March to May and in St. Thomas from June to October. Last year, the new team won the first day daily in the USVI Open/Atlantic Blue Marlin Tournament in St. Thomas, a feat they are repeating this year.
“I have been to Guatemala and caught a lot of sailfish in a day,” Caicedo says. “Someday, I would love to go to Madeira or Australia to have a real shot to a 1000-plus-pounders.”