A sea of green – green algae, that is – was the big buzz among fishermen competing in St. Croix’s 10th Annual Golden Hook Dolphin Tournament on April 11 and St. Thomas’ 14th Annual Offshore Marine Dolphin Derby Fishing Tournament, held April 26.
Mike Fuller, team captain aboard the 53’ Ocean, QTR, Best Boat winner in the St. Croix Golden Hook Fishing Club-hosted tournament, says, “The problem is that the dolphin can’t see the baits in such a heavy bloom. That’s what plagued everyone. I’ve subscribed to a service that tells currents and other ocean conditions for about a year and a half and we saw an opening where there was little to no bloom and headed there.”
The right spot, arrived at after an hour’s ride in four to six-foot seas, coupled with finding a fish-attracting floater, spelled success for QTF.
“We stayed right on that spot and kept catching,” says Fuller. The secret to success was the use of circle hooks, he adds.
“Circle hooks allowed us to stay and fish since the dolphin didn’t shy away like they do after getting stung by a J-hook,” says Fuller. “Catching dolphin on circle hooks is a good way to practice for marlin fishing.”
Use of circle hooks is a conservation measure that prevents ‘deep-gutting’ a fish and killing it prior to release.
The result? QTR anglers – Tanner Lewis, Dieter Oelschlager, John Watson, Jared Prestipino and Chris Stanton – reeled in 350.1 pounds of dolphin. The second best boat, Leisure Lady, caught 101.2 pounds, while Miss Becky rounded out third best boat with 71.1 pounds of fish. However, it was Pat Barsotti, fishing aboard Leisure Lady, who caught the Largest Dolphin, a 46.9-pounder.
Meanwhile, it was the catch of a 33.40-pound dolphin that earned angler Richard Dasher the Top Angler award in St. Thomas’ Virgin Islands Gamefishing Club (VIGFC)-hosted dolphin tournament.
Fishing aboard the SeaVee 39’, Silver Fox, Drasher tells how he caught the winning fish: “We started off the back side of St. John and fished down sea looking for birds and floaters.”
Silver Fox was just past Frenchcap, trolling on the South Drop, when Drasher hooked up his whopper on rigged ballyhoo. “I knew it was a big one the minute I picked up the rod, but since we were running down sea it was a piece of cake to reel in,” he says.
Drasher adds, “We had been catching mahi all week, so we knew they were out there. But, with the algae bloom, unless you saw birds or found a floater, it was pretty much a crap shoot.”
The winning fish was some 22 pounds shy of the over 55-pound criteria to win the tournament’s ultimate prize – $25,000 in cash.
St. Croix’s Carl Holley, fishing aboard the Calypso 32’, Double Trouble, earned second best angler with the catch of a 29.87-pound dolphin, while fellow angler Adam Adcock caught a 28.99-pound dolphin to round out third in the angler prize category.
Double Trouble, with Capt. Hiram Maldonado and Capt. Carl Holley sharing the helm, won the Best Boat prize with the catch of 11 dolphin. This number of fish collectively weighed 252.42-pounds.
New this year, the VIGFC’s Youth Committee hosted a lure-making activity for juniors during the tournament’s sign up night.
“We’d really like to have young anglers and families be a part of our tournament activities,” says Ali Slimming.
As a result of his lure-making skills, Jahmal Quandt won a new fishing rod and tackle box compliments of Neptune Fishing Supplies.