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Winners! (From left): Dean ‘Rasta’ Dunham, Ryan Mertens, Sam Jennings, Capt. Mike Lemon. Photo: Jimmy Loveland
Winners! (From left): Dean ‘Rasta’ Dunham, Ryan Mertens, Sam Jennings, Capt. Mike Lemon. Photo: Jimmy Loveland

Mike Lemon, The Caribbean’s Champion Marlin Captain

Luck and talent has landed Mike Lemon coveted captain positions aboard some of the best sports fishing boats. As a result, it’s made for a career that’s defined by catches. In fact, you could say Lemon is one of the ‘catchingest’ captains in the Caribbean when it comes to blue marlin. “I’ve taken advantage of job opportunities and have been fortunate to be involved with good people for a long time,” says Lemon.

Raised on St. Thomas, Lemon admits to skipping school in order to fish. “I worked on charter boats out of Yacht Haven and from Frenchman’s Reef. I wasn’t into marlin fishing then, but we’d hear the stories from the Florida boats in Red Hook. It wasn’t until later, when I worked with Red [Capt. Red Bailey aboard Abigail III] that I started getting blue marlin experience.”

In 1983, Lemon got his first shot at the captain’s chair. Childhood friend Danny Boland was mate aboard Win Rockefeller’s Hatteras 50, The Shadow, when Rockefeller was in the market for a new captain. Boland recommended Lemon.

“It was a tremendous opportunity to work with someone with such a great reputation on the water,” says Lemon, of Rockefeller, who owned Allied Marine, the Hatteras dealership in Ft. Lauderdale; founded The Billfish Foundation in 1986 (which promotes conservation), and served as Lt. Governor of Arkansas.

Highlights of Lemon’s career with Rockefeller are many. He was at the helm when Rockefeller’s 12-year-old son released his first blue marlin. He took Rockefeller out for a half day of practice the day before the San Juan International when Rockefeller boated a 608lb blue marlin, a fish that would have won him the tournament if caught the next day. And, in 1992, he was an integral part of Rockefeller’s Team Alchemist that won the USVI Open/Atlantic Blue Marlin Tournament (ABMT).

“Win told me to invite some of Allied Marine’s better customers down to the Virgin Islands to fish,” Lemon says. “That’s how I met Sam Jennings. He came down to fish the July Moon.”

Captain Lemon (center on bridge) backing Revenge into its slip at American Yacht Harbor. Photo: Dean Barnes
Captain Lemon (center on bridge) backing Revenge into its slip at American Yacht Harbor. Photo: Dean Barnes

The two hit it off. When Rockefeller stopped fishing, Jennings hired Lemon to take the helm of his new 58ft Revenge yacht, hull number one and namesake Revenge. Their first summer fishing in the Virgin Islands was 1994.

“Sam and I sat down, looked at the calendar, and planned the fishing days,” Lemon explains. “That’s when I realized I had an opportunity to catch more fish that I ever had before.”

The Florida-based Revenge spent four to six months of the year, usually from May or June through October or November, fishing in Virgin Islands waters. Jennings, and often his son Jon, would fly down and fish over the full moon or typically 50 to 80 days in a season.

“We had some stretches that really stand out,” Lemon explains. “For example, right after Hurricane Marilyn in 1995, we released 26 blue marlin in four days and saw twice as many fish. It was unbelievable. In 1999, we had a spectacular run of 101 blue marlin in 30 days and in a four-day window released 27 in total with ten fish alone in one of those days. Then in 2008, Sam released his 1000th blue marlin from aboard Revenge.”

Revenge, with Lemon at the helm and Jennings in the fighting chair, has won the ABMT five times, a record that still stands.

After 19 seasons, and the release of over 1800 blue marlin, Jennings retired from fishing last year and put Revenge up for sale.

Meanwhile, Lemon is enjoying some free time to visit friends, play tennis and spend time at home with his wife.

“I have no immediate plans other than to stick with Sam until the boat is sold,” says Lemon. “I can’t see myself committing to a full-time position, because you have to put your heart and soul into your career, but freelancing – yes, and blue marlin fishing – yes. Someday I’d like to fish Cape Verde. It’s the great sense of adventure that I love.”

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