The fish outnumbered the boats in the 2012 BVI Billfish Tournament. Fished July 30th – August 2nd, out of the Bitter End Yacht Club in North Sound, Virgin Gorda, three teams released a total of 18 blue marlin in three days of fishing, a statistic which is sure to attract even more teams next year. Yet in the end, it was Harry Sargeant’s 65ft American Custom Yacht, Black Gold, that won the tournament with eight blue marlin releases.
“There was some rough weather the first day from a passing tropical storm, but it was really nice that the fishing grounds were only a short ride away – only 18 miles from the marina to the west end of Anegada and the drop-off. We fished a three-mile area in that location the entire tournament,” explains Black Gold’s Capt. Keith Bokenhagen.
The Florida-based Black Gold saw five blue marlin on the first day, and angler Harry Sargeant released two to put the team in the lead based on time. Florida’s George Lorton, whose team hoped to defend its 2011 title aboard Lorton’s 68ft Hatteras, Therapy, also released two blues to secure second place. Texas angler Gary Domel, fishing with sons Chris and Mason aboard the family’s 48ft Cabo, Deguello, rounded out third place with one blue marlin release.
Day two, says Black Gold’s Bokenhagen, “we had seven bites, jumped a few small ones off and caught three. The weather was much better and the fish were really biting.”
Therapy released one blue to retain second place, while Deguello anglers caught two blues to tie Therapy on points but remained in third place based on time of release.
Black Gold never faltered in its lead straight through the tournament’s final day, but Therapy nipped at their heels.
“The third day, Therapy had an early few bites and at one point we were neck and neck,” explains Black Gold’s Bokenhagen. “But we managed to stay ahead.”
Black Gold secured its victory in a grand way when, after releasing two blue marlin in the morning, Sargeant hooked into an estimated 600-pounder mid-afternoon. It took him an hour and 40 minutes – or to within 19 minutes of the end of the tournament – to release the massive marlin.
Therapy also released three blue marlin the final day to finish second with six releases, while Deguello release one blue marlin to end third with four blue marlin releases.
“We had some really good fishing,” Black Gold’s Bokenhagen recaps. “The tournament was right on the full moon, there was a lot of fish up there and they were really biting.”
The Black Gold team, which also won the inaugural BVI Billfish Tournament in 2007, included Sargeant, Bokenhagen and mates Matt Melchiorre and Eric Glaff. The team’s prize package included a one-week Admiral’s Vacation Package at the Bitter End Yacht Club.
Summing up, tournament director Al Behrendt, who also runs the Bahamas Billfish Championship, said, “So much of the pleasure of fishing out of Bitter End is the true Caribbean ambiance of the BVI. The anglers really appreciated, especially after a long day on the water, being able to relax in a friendly atmosphere steps from the marina. Each evening during the tournament there was a hosted cocktail reception and dinner with island music.”
Next year’s BVI Billfish Tournament will be held July 23rd – 25th.
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.