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50th July Open Billfish Tournament Kicks off Friday

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Photo: Florida’s Harry Sargeant, last year’s top angler and owner of last year’s top boat, Black Gold, signs up to fish in the 50th Anniversary July Open Billfish Tournament.
Photo: Florida’s Harry Sargeant, last year’s top angler and owner of last year’s top boat, Black Gold, signs up to fish in the 50th Anniversary July Open Billfish Tournament.
Credit: © Scott Kerrigan/AquaPaparazzi.com

St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. The 50th Anniversary July Open Billfish Tournament (JOBT) – the longest annually held angling contest in the Virgin Islands hosted by the Virgin Islands Game Fishing Club (VIGFC) – will kick-off Friday July 19 with a fleet of nearly a dozen boats hailing from the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and U.S. mainland.

Anglers in this three-day tournament, which concludes Sunday July 21, will set their sights on catching and releasing the most blue marlin, white marlin and sailfish.

Last year, Harry Sargeant’s 65-foot American Custom Yacht, Black Gold, won Top Boat when the Florida-based team released a total of five blue marlin. Sargeant released four of the marlin to win Top Angler or the ‘Give Him Line’ award, plus $10,000 cash and a beautiful hand-carved marlin head by wildlife artist, David Wirth. Black Gold also won Top Boat in 2011.

This year, says Sargeant, “We’re hoping to make it three in a row. But you never know, there are a lot of really good fishermen out there.”

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Sargeant and his team have been fishing in Virgin Islands waters since Sunday. They released a respectable eight blue marlin in four days, and the upcoming full moon should make the marlin bite even hotter.

Virgin Islands’ veteran sports fishing charter captain, Capt. Red Bailey, who helms the Abigail III, a 44-foot Custom Sportsfishermen, has won this tournament three times. Bailey is likely the captain who has fished in this tournament the most in its five decade history.

“Every tournament is exciting to me,” says Bailey. “One thing I really enjoy about this tournament is getting a chance to see old friends.”

Lines go in the water at 8:30 a.m. and out at 5 p.m., except on the final day of the three-day tournament when lines out will be at 4 p.m. Hooter’s ladies will deliver complimentary Cruzan rum punch to participating tournament boats nightly.

IGFA trained Observers, all members of the IGFTO (International Game Fish Tournament Observers), will ride aboard each boat throughout the tournament to verify the releases.

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.

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.

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

So Caribbean you can almost taste the rum...

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