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Living the Dream Wins Golden Hook Challenge

Winners of the 20th Golden Hook Challenge Living the Dream fishing team members (from left, front row): Captain Austin Schneider, David Ziemer and Chris Hanley. Second Row: Peter Chaibongsai (Billfish Foundation Director of Science and Policy), Matt Ridgway, AK Lovarco, Mike Fuller, David Johnson, Spike Herbert and Chad Sheraw; not pictured ‘Rasta Dean’ Dunham. Photo: Alda Anduze
Winners of the 20th Golden Hook Challenge Living the Dream fishing team members (from left, front row): Captain Austin Schneider, David Ziemer and Chris Hanley. Second Row: Peter Chaibongsai (Billfish Foundation Director of Science and Policy), Matt Ridgway, AK Lovarco, Mike Fuller, David Johnson, Spike Herbert and Chad Sheraw; not pictured ‘Rasta Dean’ Dunham. Photo: Alda Anduze

Living the Dream proved they were the ‘Dream Team’ by winning the 20th Golden Hook Challenge, hosted by St. Croix’s Golden Hook Fishing Club, February 23 – 24. The 65ft Hatteras was the only one in the six boat tournament fleet to catch a billfish, two in fact, to triumph.

The Living the Dream team headed north and east of Buck Island on the first day when angler Matt Ridgway landed a blue marlin. The second day, they headed east and David Ziemer reeled in a rare short-billed spearfish. Both fish were tagged and released.

The fish were really biting; just not the right ones, explains David Johnson, owner and one of the captains aboard Living the Dream. “We were chasing birds and trying to stay on the outside of the mahi and tuna schools when we ended up getting too close and all of our gear went crazy with a triple header of mahi and separately a double header of tuna. Since we were in a billfish tournament, everyone was ribbing the anglers to hurry up and reel in the fish so that we could get back on the billfish!”

Secrets to Living the Dream’s success were preparation and a stacked crew of experience fishermen.

“Our captain, Austin Schneider, did an amazing job,” says Johnson. “A couple of crew members from St. Thomas – Dean ‘Rasta Dean’ Dunham and Captain Spike Herbert – were great to have on the boat. They not only helped to make sure we landed both fish, but they also helped us get the right gear and teach our anglers how to be successful when catching billfish, which is very different than other types of sport fish. We also learned a lot about tagging and conservation programs.”

Peter Chaibongsai, director of science and policy for the Ft. Lauderdale, FL-based billfish conservation group, The Billfish Foundation (TBF), traveled to St. Croix for the tournament.

“We applaud clubs and tournaments that report all their billfish data and allow us to attend to create more awareness of billfish conservation,” says Chaibongsai. “Allowing locals to understand that their clubs and tournaments (big or small) are essential in voicing their sport fishing concerns in the Caribbean and providing valuable billfish data is one of the main goals for TBF.”

At the awards ceremony, Robert Mackay was presented with a lifetime achievement award and granted lifetime membership in the Golden Hook Fishing Club.  Mackay was a founding member of the Club, Board member and participated in every tournament, winning many of them aboard his 48ft Bertram, Leisure Lady.

For information, visit www.fishstx.com

Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.

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