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Jimmy Loveland – Sports Fishings Mover and Shaker

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Jimmy Loveland has a passion for the profession and sport of fishing and it’s something he wants to share—literally—with the world.

A native of Miami, Florida, Jimmy grew up on the docks at the Miami City Yacht Basin’s Pier 5, where he sold live bait, washed boats and mated for his father. Neighbors included today’s fishing greats like Buddy Carey, Whitey Fulton and Pudgie Spalding, who worked as mates, as well as the late legendary captain Tommy Gifford.

“Thousands of people would come down each afternoon when 20 or more sport fishing boats would line up on either side of the docks to sell their catch,” he recalls.

After graduating from high school, Jimmy wanted to make money and the method he knew best was fishing. He moved over to the Castaway’s dock and, with captain’s license in hand, he started running the 45-foot Rave for dock owners Ray and Vera Shand.

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“People would come to charter and ask me where the captain was,” says Loveland, who was then a boyish-looking, tall, thin redhead.

Three years later, the traveling bug hit and Jimmy headed to Montauk on Long Island for a summer of sword fishing. “The commercial fishermen were still using harpoons,” he says. “We were recreational, so we’d spot the fish, get ahead of them and bait them with squid.”

This was the summer when Jimmy got married, honeymooned in Lake Placid, New York, and promptly asked his wife to move back to the warmer state of Florida. There Jimmy freelanced as a mate and captain. One day, he arrived back at the dock to find a gentleman waiting for him.

“Capt. Johnny Harms asked me if I’d like to run a sports fishing boat in the Virgin Islands,” he recalls. “I said, ‘Sure, where are they?’. That night, I told my wife, and we both got out the atlas we’d received as a wedding present to look up the location.”

Harms had been hired a few years earlier by Laurence Rockefeller to explore the potential for sports fishing as a way to entertain Rockefeller’s guests at Caneel Bay on St. John and Little Dix Bay in Virgin Gorda. On January 14, 1963, Jimmy landed on St. Thomas, took a taxi to the Caneel Bay dock and found Harm’s Savannah Bay waiting for him.

“Those days were paradise,” says Jimmy. “We’d fish every day, some 250 days a year, exploring, never knowing what we’d see.” Celebrities flocked to the Virgin Islands for fishing, including actor David Janssen and politicos Hubert Humphrey, Lady Bird Johnson and Mo Udall. Charters back then cost $125 per day. Today, full day marlin charters are upwards of $1500.

In the mid-60s, Harms purchased land in Red Hook for a marina, while Jimmy, Capt. Jerry Black and A.T. Horn took over Harms’ old marina in the Lagoon.

By then, says Jimmy, “At a young age I had had all the ice cream I could eat working for others and I knew from my father’s struggles that I didn’t want to be an owner-operator.”

What he did become was an entrepreneur, starting a travel company called Treasure Isle Cruises that offered guests on the newly-founded cruise lines excursions to neighboring St. John. Jimmy also ran the Hassel Island ferry for a while, as well as a succession of three restaurants, the last being Sib’s on the Mountain, which he sold in 1994.

In 1980 he took over the running of the USVI Open/Atlantic Blue Marlin Tournament (ABMT), known as the “Boy Scout Tournament” for its chief beneficiary. “Energy behind the tournament and entries at the time were both waning,” he says. “I knew I could bridge the local boats and the Florida boats and bring everyone together. I also wanted to change things, like start releasing blue marlin rather than boating them. I took a lot of grief over the special tournament rules for this, but gradually there were anglers willing to follow these rules.”

The ABMT was the first tournament in the world to release blue marlin. Since then, Jimmy has innovated other ‘firsts’. He’s spearheaded the development of the “Big Game Room” at the Miami Boat Show. He’s developed the Bermuda Triangle and Spanish Main Series of tournaments, and will next year launch the Pacific Rim and Southern Cross Series.

Jimmy envisions these series leading to another kind of series—reality TV. “There’s a strong desire to tell the whole story about the sport of big game fishing—especially to a public hooked on the new genre of reality programming—and we hope to do just that.”

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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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