The crew aboard the 37ft Intrepid, Liberty, caught 11 dolphin fish and tagged and released an additional two in the St. Croix Golden Hook Fishing Club’s 14th Annual Dolphin Tournament, held April 13. Not only did this copious catch earn Liberty the Best Boat title with 254.4lb total, their anglers’ prizes for three of the largest fish including the heaviest dolphin, and a boost to first place in the Club’s annual series standings. Liberty also was one of the ten tournament boats that helped launch a new program aimed at dolphin conservation.
Liberty left the docks at sunrise and headed northeast until about 10 to 12 miles offshore where they hopped on a current line and started following it down sea. An hour later, it was ‘X marks the spot’ when crewmembers spotted a frigate bird flying low over the water. Liberty’s anglers hooked up and landed a double-header as soon as the boat made its first approach on the bird. Then, the team worked the same area through multiple schools ending with angler Danny Sweet’s 10th largest, a 23.4-pounder, Greg Lee’s 7th largest, a 25.3-pounder, and Tim Bartzen’s 1st place 49.3-pounder.
“The big bull came up on another double hook-up,” explains Bartzen. “Once the first fish was safely in the box, I focused on the bull. I’ve fought a few 44 to 46-pounders before, and let me tell you, they get tougher by the ounce when they get that big. It took about a half-hour of give and take to get him to the boat, and as soon as I did, he’d run and jump. Once finally alongside, he made a couple of desperate deep dives to try to get under the boat and into the props, but fortunately I was able to work him in to where Greg Lee made a clutch gaff-shot and hoisted him aboard for Danny Sweet and Harold Lee to subdue and get him in the box.”
Liberty wasn’t the only boat to score big on dolphin. The fleet reeled in a total of 34 dolphin collectively weighing 710.7lb. Two anglers aboard La Menajera caught four of the top ten largest dolphin to finish as Second Best Boat. Captain Alberto Sanchez caught the 4th and 6th largest fish weighing in at 27.0 and 25.8lb, respectively. Edgar Bengoa caught the 5th and 8th largest fish weighing in at 25.9 and 25lb, respectively. Trident placed third overall, with Robert Hunsberger, Jr., catching the third largest dolphin, a 27.7-pounder. Finally, it was junior angler Christian Rasmussen who caught Miss Becky’s lone money fish. Rasmussen’s 34.6-pounder weighed in as second largest of the tournament.
A new conservation initiative called the Dolphin Tagging Project was introduced to St. Croix at this tournament. Administered by the Charleston, South Carolina-based, Cooperative Science Services (CSS), the program’s goals are to gain life history information about dolphin to protect them from being overfished. The chief means of accomplishing this is to utilize as many experienced offshore fishermen as possible to capture, tag and release dolphin. The tags are pre-programmed to record data for 30 to 365 days and then pop to the surface, allowing scientists to access the valuable information; dolphin don’t need to be recaptured to obtain this data. Researchers hope to expand the project from U.S. waters to the Gulf of Mexico, North Atlantic and Caribbean Sea, with tagging efforts extended to as many Caribbean islands as possible. The CSS are offering annual awards to boats with the top number of tags in recognition of their contribution to science. The Golden Hook Fishing Club added to the incentive by awarding tournament points to anglers who tagged and released dolphin. For more information about this program, visit: www.dolphintagging.com
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.