Over 100 Virgin Islands anglers aboard 20 boats braved rough seas on back-to-back weekends to try their luck at catching the biggest and the most wahoo. In the end, Double Header 37’ took the Top Boat Prize at the Toyota of St. Thomas Wahoo Wind-Up, held November 16 and hosted by the Virgin Islands Gamefishing Club, and La Mensajera won the Golden Hook Fishing Club’s Wahoo Tournament fished November 22-23, out of St. Croix.
“It was pretty rough and we were limited in where we could go,” says St. Thomas’ Tyler Maltby, captain of the Double Header 37’ who also caught the largest wahoo of the tournament, a 52.5-pounder.
Maltby navigated to the South Drop, which was protected from the rolling northeast swell and productive for wahoo the week prior.
“We went to the far east off St. John,” Maltby says. “It was so rough we couldn’t do anything but troll down sea all day long; a simple plan of attack, but comfortable.”
The Double Header 37’ caught five fish throughout the day, one after another, as Maltby drove west nearly to Vieques. Ironically, each of the five members aboard – Maltby and wife Jane, Christopher Berry and wife Angela Berry, and Colin Butler – each reeled in a wahoo, which made braving the rough weather worth the effort. Butler’s catch, a 38.8-pounder, earned fourth largest wahoo of the tournament.
The big fish hit just before noon.
“We had just hooked a barracuda and I stepped away from the helm to reel it in,” Maltby explains. “As soon as I did, I put the lure back out and bam, the big wahoo hit. We all knew it was big. Everyone kept yelling ‘Do it, Do it’ so that’s how, even though I was the captain, I was the one to reel it in.”
In total, 52 anglers on 10 boats caught 23 wahoo.
The sea swells were still running like a roller coaster when the St. Croix tournament got underway a week later.
Jose Sanchez, captain aboard the winning, La Mensajera, says, “One of our engines broke down on the morning of the first day, so we had to fish close to shore by the drop off. The wahoo had been running two to three weeks earlier, but it was slow.”
La Mensajera caught its first wahoo early morning on the first day, followed by another around noon.
The next day, the fish just weren’t biting. So, Sanchez switched strategy. It’s a tactic he’s used in the past with success and the challenge he likes best about fishing.
“I eliminated ballyhoo and started using a lure I designed. I call it the element. Everyone wants to know what it is, but that’s my secret,” Sanchez says.
Bingo! Sanchez’ son Angel hooked up a 32-pound wahoo, the third largest of the tournament and enough additional weight, combined with the 32.2-pounder and 27.7-pounder the day before, to earn La Mensajera Best Boat honors with a total of 93.9 pounds of wahoo.
Lady angler, Trish Rhodes, fishing aboard the Sunflower, caught the Largest Wahoo, a 45.9-pounder.
In total, 58 anglers on 10 boats caught 9 wahoo. Ironically, the St. Croix fleet reeled in 14 dolphin.
“Anglers actually caught more dolphin than wahoo this year,” says tournament organizer, Kathy Mackay. “This is the first time I ever remember this happening.”
The Wahoo Tournament marked the end of the Golden Hook Fishing Club’s 8th annual Series. The Series is composed of the Dolphin Tournament in the spring, billfish-only Golden Hook Challenge, Guy-Gal Reel Challenge, and Wahoo Tournament.
Mike Fennessey’s Sunflower had a banner year and it showed in the point score. The Sunflower, and anglers’ and crews’ efforts, topped both the billfish and sportfish divisions, with nearly twice the points of the Series runner-up, La Mensajera. Well done, Sunflower!