St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. The release of two blue marlin landed Mistress in the lead after the first day of fishing in the 52nd July Open Billfish Tournament (JOBT), hosted by the Virgin Islands Game Fishing Club (VIGFC). The Florida- and California-based team aboard the 82’ Viking are fishing in Virgin Islands waters for the first time, having spent time angling off Florida, Grand Cayman and the Dominican Republic since the first of the year.
“This was the third day of fishing for us here in the Virgin Islands,” says Mistress’ Capt. Jeff Hunter. “It was slow until just before Noon when one of our anglers, Freddy Vicens, released our first marlin. It was a beautiful bite. Freddy released it in less than 10 minutes. The second fish came up about an hour later. It hit the lure on the right long rigger and almost spooled the line before we chased him down and made the release. Gabe Mitchell caught that one. It was his first blue marlin catch so he got tossed in the water once we got back into the dock.”
Thirteen-year-old Zac Murck, from Davie, Florida, fishing aboard his family’s 58’ Merritt, Never Say Never, released the first blue marlin of the tournament. This release also put the teen in the lead for Top Angler based on time.
“It was pretty exciting,” says Murck, who released his first blue marlin off Costa Rica at age 9. “It ran out the line a little, then stopped and I was able to gain on him and reel him in for the release.”
Teams aboard the Gulf Rascal, Wave Paver and Pescador each released one blue marlin apiece.
“Our release came at 4:29 p.m., a half hour before lines out,” says Pescador’s Capt. Jeremy Fowler. “But hey, even though it was late in the day we still got on the scoreboard.”
Tournament fishing resumes Wednesday with lines in the water at 8:30 a.m. and out at 5 p.m.
The public is invited to greet the fleet as the boats come back to the dock around sunset. The number of flags flying on the outriggers indicates how many billfish the boat’s anglers caught and released for the day. The JOBT is an all-release tournament.
The three-day tournament ends Thursday with lines out at 4 p.m. followed by an Awards Ceremony at the VIGFC clubhouse in Red Hook. In addition to Top Boat, up for grabs is the prestigious ‘Give Him Line’ award for Top Angler. The names of past winners engraved on this perpetual trophy reads like a ‘Who’s Who’ of blue marlin sport fishing. Angler Elliot Fishman’s winning 845-pound catch in 1968 set an all-tackle world record. Only two anglers have reeled in this honor two times – the late Howard Crouse in 1965 and 1988, and Puerto Rico’s late legendary angler Ralph Christiansen in 1973 and 1984.
IGFA trained Observers, all members of the IGFTO (International Game Fish Tournament Observers), ride aboard each boat throughout the tournament to verify the billfish releases.
This year’s JOBT honors Sue Boland and the many years of service and support she has provided to the VIGFC, the tournament and the tournament’s chief beneficiary, The Boys & Girls Club of the Virgin Islands.
Proceeds from the JOBT benefit the Boys & Girls Club of the Virgin Islands. The Boys & Girls Club of the Virgin Islands, a 501 C (3) organization, enables all young people, especially those most needy, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens. Donations are tax deductible.
For more information, visit: www.vigfc.com or call (340) 775-9144. Or, visit us on Facebook!