One Man's Quest to Release His 315th Billfish

Capt. Jose Campos is 80 years old and still going strong, intent on adding to a long and noteworthy career by catching his 315th billfish this year.

Jose Campos (right) and Tommy Gifford

Jose Campos (right) and Tommy Gifford

Capt. Jose Campos (right) fished with many big-game legends over the years, including Tommy Gifford.courtesy Jose Campos

At a few months shy of 80, Capt. Jose Campos doesn't sit idly in daydreams of past accomplishments. He's too busy planning his next ones.

“I’ve caught and released 313 marlin according to IGFA rules in 55 years of fishing offshore, and I’m aiming for a total of 315 before they pull my hook,” Campos wrote to me in a recent e-mail.

Along the way, while racking up that remarkable total, Campos has logged quite a few notable accomplishments.

While serving as a member of the Caribbean Fishery Management Council, Campos stated in writing his opposition to kill tournaments, including that of Club Nautico, based in Campos' native San Juan. In those days, such criticism was not well received and did little to endear him to the angling community in Puerto Rico.

(Campos was later appointed to chair the council.)

Campos has won a number of prestigious tournaments, including international bluefin touraments in Bimini, the Puerto Rico International Blue Marlin Tournament and others. Campos is a member of the Club Nautico Hall of Fame.

He was captain of a team winning the highest point total in the history of the international bluefin tuna matches in the Bahamas — recalling the bluefin that migrated through the islands in such abundance in the 1950s and early '60s that — with no real market for the flesh — “Most of the fish ended up dumped in Shark Alley off Bimini and Cat Cay.”

At one point, he was the top Puerto Rico skipper for billfish tagged. The IGFA-certified skipper has been involved in catching more than 1,700 billfish, he says. His best day came on July 28, 2002, when — along with his son, Capt. Jose Campos Jr. — he led anglers on a half-day charter to tagging four blue marlin, all but one more than 400 pounds.

For his releases over the decades, Campos has earned more than 230 trophies and awards in various forms.