Less than an hour was left before the Noon weigh-in at the 31st Bastille Day Kingfish Tournament, held July 14 out of Hull Bay Hideaway, in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. Matthew Bryan, fishing with family and friends aboard the 36-foot Feel Good I, a vessel his father hand-built in the 1960s and which Bryan restored a few years ago, had nothing to bring to the scales. Earlier, just after the 5:30 a.m. line’s in start to the tournament, Bryan headed west where the seas proved rough. Throughout the morning, he and his fellow fishermen only caught a few barracuda. Each of these fish were too small to count and thus released. It wasn’t until Bryan navigated the Feel Good to the north towards Hull Bay that his lined tugged with a force that told him he had hooked a big fish. Minutes later, he had caught a 43.45-pound kingfish. Now, not only did he have something to bring to the scales, but a whopper was the Largest Kingfish winner as well.
“I’ve fished this tournament for many years, and have been on boats where other people won, but I’ve never won anything myself,” says Bryan, who added that the secret to his success was to “just keep trying.”
Bryan was one of 168 anglers, including 30 junior anglers, on 55 boats who fished in this Northside Sportfishing Club-hosted tournament, which National Geographic magazine earlier this week named as one of the world’s ‘9 Bastille Day bashes that celebrates French Culture!’
Bryan’s Largest Kingfish earned him $3000 in cash, plus many other prizes.
The Second Largest Kingfish prize went to Kevin Blaney, aboard Stako, who caught a 31.10-pounder.
Ruth Gomez, fishing aboard About Time, reeled in a 23.70-pounder to win Third Largest Kingfish, while it was Christopher Bachan who caught the Fourth Largest Kingfish, a 22.60-pounder, aboard Chum Bucket.
The catch of 6 kingfish (62.85-pounds) earned Julian ‘Larry’ Aubain, aboard About Time, the Best Captain award.
Meanwhile, catching 9 fish (46.75-pounds) total of the tournament’s eligible species, won Mark Stiehler driving Double Header the Best Boat award.
Enzo Newhard, on Hush Puppy, caught 7 fish weighing 64.20-pounds to earn Best Male Angler, while the Best Female prize went to Ruth Gomez, who caught a total of 7 or 65.80-pounds of fish, aboard About Time.
The Best Junior Male Angler award went to Kyle Odlum, who caught 2 fish collectively weighing 35.75-pounds from Let-Her-Go.
Alyssa Pearsall earned Best Junior Female with her catch of 2 fish weighing a total of 13.15-pounds aboard Salt & Pepper.
Although the tournament is focused around kingfish, other species earned anglers cash and prizes. Tamika Turbe fishing aboard Emmanuel caught the Largest Barracuda, at 26.25-pounds. Ben Micholowski, fishing from Side Thing, won Largest Bonito, with his 4.90-pounder. Finally, Ruth Gomez caught the Largest Mackerel, a 6.15-pounder, aboard About Time.
In total, over $13,000 was awarded in cash, prizes and trophies this year.
Adult and junior anglers who didn’t earn a prize still had a chance to win in the ‘Lucky-Unlucky’ and the ‘Catch in the Hat’ drawings.
Judges Daryl Bryan and Kevin Laplace, Sr., officially weighed in the catches.
After weigh-in, the fun continued onshore at Hull Bay Hideaway. Cool Session Brass entertained throughout the afternoon. Later, crowds gathered inside Hull Bay Hideaway for the Awards Ceremony at 8 p.m., where the Dem Fellaz & Friends band entertained.
“I like to say that the Virgin Islands has the most diverse 100,000 people in the world and French Heritage is a rich part of that,” says Governor Albert Bryan, who attended the weigh-in and festivities. “It’s important to promote all of our festivals in the Virgin Islands. These events are something that locals look forward to and we need to look more broadly at promoting these as part of our tourism product and what makes our destination special.”
The 31st Bastille Day Kingfish Tournament is sponsored by Coors Light and Captain Morgan, distributed by Bellows International; Offshore Marine, the YAMAHA distributor in the Virgin Islands; NEMWIL; Red Hook Agencies, Inc.; TOPA Insurance Services Inc.; Budget Marine, the Caribbean’s Leading Chandlery; Caribbean Gifts & Things; Scoops & Brew Gelato and Coffee Bar; Frank’s Electric; Amalie Car Rental; and Hull Bay Hideaway.
First organized by the Northside Sportfishing Club in 1987, the tournament has become one of the highlights of French Heritage celebrations on St. Thomas. The event benefits the Joseph Sibilly School, St. Thomas Rescue, Civil Air Patrol and Nana Baby Children’s Home, as well as provides college scholarships. Over the past nearly three decades, the nonprofit Northside Sportfishing Club by way of its annual Bastille Day Kingfish Tournament has donated over $206,000 to community organizations. For information, Email [email protected] or call (340) 998-0854. Follow us on Facebook!