St. Thomas is known for its hot blue marlin bite in the summer. Yet anglers who want to get a jump on catching and releasing these blue behemoths should head 40 miles south to St. Croix earlier in the year. A whopping twenty-four blue marlin were raised by anglers aboard seven boats competing in the 19th Annual Golden Hook Challenge, fished February 11th – 12th. In the end, it was Mare Azul that earned best boat by being the first to catch and release two blue marlin.
“We went north the first day and didn’t see any blue marlin,” says Carlos Acosta, who brought his Jersey Cape 36 Mare Azul all the way from Puerto Rico’s south coast town of La Parguera to fish in this tournament. “We did catch a 40lb bull dolphin and another 25-pounder, so at least we had a good barbecue that night.”
Meanwhile, the St. Croix-based team aboard Two Fer Sure, a 29ft Topaz captained by Tom Sedgwick, had better luck. “We headed to the S FAD (Fish Aggregating Device) off the West End of St. Croix and saw three blue marlin,” says Sedgwick. “Two were a double header and the third was a blue marlin we hooked up and fought for over a half hour. Unfortunately, we didn’t catch any of them.”
The news of where the blue marlin were biting led Mare Azul, captained by St. Croix’s Mike Fennessy, to try their luck going west on day two.
“We went eight miles offshore and got our first strike at 10:30,” Acosta explains. “It was a doubleheader. Paul Stuart caught one and we lost the other. We decided to stay and work the same area since it seemed to be lucky. At 11:45 we had another strike and lost it, and then around 1pm, Peggy Noel caught our second marlin.”
Two Fer Sure anglers, Jim Collington and Edward Beach, each caught a blue marlin. However, the last catch was after the Mare Azul team released their two.
Readied equipment, good crew work and team effort led to Mare Azul’s success, says Acosta. “Everyone did their part.”
All four released blue marlin were caught on artificial lures.
Boats Mako, Leisure Lady, Living the Dream, Fraidy Cat and Three of a Kind also fished the tournament.
The Golden Hook Challenge has been held in various months over the last two decades.
Pat Barsotti, vice president of the Golden Hook Fishing Club, says, “We asked the fishermen when they thought we should hold this tournament this year and the consensus was February.”
One of those voting for this month was Two Fer Sure’sSedgewick. “I’ve caught more blue marlin in February than in the rest of the year.”
Mike Fuller, who has followed the marlin bite off St. Croix for several years, explains: “We typically get lots of 100-plus-pound marlin travelling up from South America and through this area from late December/early January to April before they swim on up to the North Drop in June through October. There are usually a few big ones thrown in for good measure. We had a very nice fish; she was every bit of 500lb, on the boat I was fishing on during this tournament. As I was getting ready to wire the fish, she swam under the boat and the leader was cut by the props, so we lost her.”
For more information on the GHFC’s tournaments visit: www.fishstx.com
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.