Six blue marlin releases – two today plus four yesterday – kept Pescador in the lead at the 50th Anniversary July Open Billfish Tournament (JOBT), hosted by the Virgin Islands Game Fishing Club (VIGFC). Stephen Deckoff, the St. John, USVI-based owner/angler of the 60-foot Rybovich, caught today’s two blues giving him four releases total for the tournament.
However, it was Florida’s Jeff Cohen, owner/angler aboard the 61-foot Spencer, Da Bait, who caught and released four blue marlin first to finish the day in the Top Angler slot as well as move Da Bait into second place.
“Jeff’s last fish of the day jumped about six feet into the air just after it was hooked,” says fellow Da Bait angler, Mike Fuller from St. Croix. “It was pretty cool to watch.”
Abigail III also released three blue marlin for the day and four for the tournament. This landed St. Thomas sport fishing charter captain Red Bailey’s 44-foot custom sportfisherman third on time behind Da Bait. Florida’s Kathleen Aylward, who with husband Tim, won this tournament aboard the Abigail III in 2007, released one of the day’s blue marlin. The other two were released by Aylward’s son, Bryan Wentz, and Wentz’s cousin, Eric Weaver. This was the first-ever blue marlin for both Weaver; Wentz caught his first blue the day before.
“It was incredible, a real adrenalin rush,” says Weaver of his fight.
Wentz adds, “We are part of Dr. Tim’s fishing team in the states and fish mainly for grouper and snapper. We both wanted to catch a blue marlin, so we joined the team and came down to fish the tournament with him.”
Meanwhile, there was another awesome first today although by an angler not in the tournament. Eleven-year-old Katie Davis from Los Angeles, California, released her first Atlantic blue marlin from aboard the 60-foot Hatteras GT, Canyon Gear.
“I kept thinking ‘don’t come off’,” says Davis, who made the fishing trip to St. Thomas with her father, Mark Davis.
This catch is just one in an effort by Davis to be the youngest female angler to release all nine billfish species and achieve a world slam. In the last four years, starting at the age of seven, she’s released a spearfish and Pacific blue marlin in Hawaii, Atlantic sailfish in Isla Mujeres, Mexico, a white marlin off the North Carolina coast and Pacific sailfish in Panama. Next week, Davis and her dad will travel to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, to add an Atlantic sailfish to her list and then to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef in the next year for a black marlin. World slams are a tradition in the Davis family. Davis’ father has caught five, mother one and brother two.
The 11-boat tournament fleet released a two-day total of 29 blue marlin and 2 white marlin.
IGFA trained Observers, all members of the IGFTO (International Game Fish Tournament Observers), ride aboard each boat throughout the tournament to verify the releases.
Fishing continues Sunday with lines in the water at 8:30 a.m. and out at 4 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. An Awards Ceremony will take place Sunday evening.
Past winners of the prestigious Capt. Johnny Harms ‘Give Him Line’ Trophy read 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.
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.