July is a peak month for marlin fishing in Virgin Islands waters. Witness the fact that the late St. Thomas sports fisherman Elliot Fishman landed the first official world record blue marlin – an 845-pounder – on July 4, 1968. It’s no wonder then that there are two major blue marlin tournaments taking place in Virgin Islands’ waters this month. The 45th Annual July Open Billfish Tournament (JOBT) takes place July 14-17, followed by the 2nd Annual A.H. Riise BVI Billfish Tournament (BVIBT), July 19-23.
“Our tournament takes place three days before the month’s full moon for the best fishing,” says Jeff Kreiner, tournament director for the JOBT. “This year, like last, we’re limiting the tournament to just 25 boats and observers will be provided to each boat.”
Abigail III, the St. Thomas-based charter fishing boat owned and operated by Capt. Red Bailey, will be back to defend its winning Top Boat title from last year. Other boats competing will include the Scarborough 63, Big Oh; the Viking 55, Rude Awakening; and Cabo 48, Deguello.
The most prestigious prize is the Give’M Line Trophy. Historically, this has been given to the angler who caught the largest blue marlin. With conservation top of mind, this prize now goes to the angler who makes the most blue marlin releases. In 2007, that was Dr. Tim Aylward from Florida, with his release of four blue marlin, aboard Bailey’s Abigail III. Proceeds from the JOBT benefit the Boys & Girls Club of the Virgin Islands.
The 2nd annual A.H. Riise BVIBT will again be hosted by the Bitter End Yacht Club in North Sound, Virgin Gorda.
The Honorable Ralph T. O’Neal, OBE, and Premier of the BVI, says, “Last year’s tournament was a great success. We met all three of our objectives—to put on a world-class event, demonstrate that our waters offer some of the world’s finest fishing and make a meaningful contribution to local charities. Twenty boats from forty-eight to seventy-four feet attended last year’s inaugural event, and indicated they would return for 2008.”
Florida angler Harry Sargeant, aboard his ACY 65, Black Gold, walked off with the top team honors with five blue marlin released.
The A.H. Riise BVIBT, an all-release event for blue marlin, is a part of the World Billfish Series and will be fished in the territory’s waters, home to the North Drop. Managed by the folks who run the Bahamas Billfish Championship, not only is great fishing planned, but also numerous shoreside activities for anglers and their families such as nightly cocktails and dinner, cooking and bartending schools, and a lay day picnic at the Anegada Reef Hotel.
Proceeds from the tournament are donated to charities selected by the Government of the BVI and A.H. Riise.
BAHAMAS BILLFISH CHAMPIONSHIP (BBC) CELEBRATES 35 YEARS
The Bahamas Billfish Championship is a world-class fishing tournament series that marks its 35th anniversary in 2008. Taking place April through June each year, the five Championship tournaments are governed by a uniform set of rules for qualifying billfish. Anglers can fish any or all tournaments with cumulative points determining the overall Bahamas Billfish Champions.
At press time, with three tournaments fished and two to go, Bobby Sheppard’s Loose Crew was leading overall with nine billfish total for 5678 points. Tied on releases, but second on points, was Thomas Russell’s Cerveza. Lainey Jones’ Mamma Who rounded out the top three with six billfish releases for 3700 points.
The BBC concluded with the Boat Harbour Championship, this year fished June 16-20, and the overall winner of the series received from title sponsor, Rolex, the Grand Prize of an all-expense paid trip to Queensland, Australia, to fish for black marlin on the Great Barrier Reef.