St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands (July 26, 2015). The catch that drew the most excitement at the Virgin Islands Game Fishing Club’s Kid’s Fishing Tournament wasn’t a fish at all. It was a spiny lobster. Twelve-year-old Keshawn Hodge and 11-year-old Jules Horne hooked the first of what totaled five crustaceans caught along the docks at St. Thomas’ IGY American Yacht Harbor Marina on Sunday.
“Everyone saw it and everyone wanted to catch it,” said Hodge, who said he spotted the lobster as it crawled into deeper water from underneath the dock.
“I couldn’t see the bait, just the lobster, so when I went to snag it, Keshawn did too and we both caught it,” explained Horne.
The boys brought their catch to the V.I. Department of Planning & Natural Resources (DPNR) Fish & Wildlife-personnel manned scales, split its weight on their individual score sheets and released their joint catch back into the sea both alive and well.
Nearly 150 anglers ages 12 years and under took part in this annual event, hosted by the Virgin Islands Game Fishing Club and designed to introduce kids to a love of sport fishing. Everyone who tried their luck wasn’t disappointed.
“Look at what I caught,” said 5-year-old Jah’Vince Brooks, who proudly displayed his puffer fish, while standing next to his dad, Vincent Brooks.
Twelve-year-old De’Jah Vigilante shared her secret to catching a palm-sized rainbow snapper. “A small piece of bait. That works best,” Vigilante said.
“I pulled the line up to see if there was still bait and I saw the fish on my hook,” added an excited 8-year-old Gabrielle Maduro.
Adult anglers would have been proud of the good-sized barracuda 9-year-old Lornnika Henley brought to the scales. “It’s big,” Henley beamed.
Parents and guardians enjoyed themselves as much as the kids.
“The idea of competition is great, but I love this just for the fun of it,” said Tonia Stapleton, who sat next to her 5-year-old son A’Joni Stapleton, as he cast his line in the water in hopes of a bite. “We live around the water and it’s so nice for the kids to learn how to fish.”
Puffer fish, barracuda, several species of snapper and a couple of crabs counted among the day’s catch. Junior anglers practiced conservation by keeping their fish in a bucket of seawater until weighed and then released their catch back into the sea.
“This year there has been a greater variety of species caught,” explained Roy Pemberton, Jr., director of the DPNR’s Division of Fish & Wildlife. “We’ve never had a porcupine fish, yellowfin mojarra or spiny lobsters before. Some of that might be due to the sargassum weed. Small fish feed in the marine life in the weed as well as use it for protection and shelter.”
There was no problem generating excitement for the tournament, said Jackie Brown, unit director of the St. Thomas Boys & Girls Club, who brought 23 young anglers. “Many of the kids never get a chance to go fishing so they were up bright and early this morning. I told them to meet at 7 a.m. and everybody was there before me.”
The overwhelming success of the Kid’s Fishing Tournament played out over the young faces as they ate pizza and drank cold drinks. Even though not all participants reeled in a fish, or won a prize, everyone did catch a day full of fun.
“There was nothing but kids with smiling faces up and down the docks,” said tournament director, Paul Meyer. “That’s what fishing is all about and it’s important to us to pass these skills on to the next generation!”
All registered anglers received free entry, which included a T-shirt, back pack, handline, and pizza for lunch. Prizes included rods and reels, gift certificates, beach bags, jewelry, trophies and much more, awarded in two age groups: Up to 6 years and 7- to 12-years. Sponsored by Island Time Pub, DPNR Fish & Wildlife, Neptune Fishing Supplies, Mixed Bag Sportfishing, Captain Alvin Fishing Charters, Coral World Ocean Park, Budget Marine, Sue Boland, IGY American Yacht Harbor, East End Flower Shop, Diamonds International and Tropic Tours.
For more information, call (340) 775-9144 or Email: [email protected] . Check out photos from the event on Facebook
Ages 6 & Under
Biggest Fish – Top 4
1. Eli Hume, 404.0 grams
2. Fabian Kahn, 394.5 grams
3. Olive Hume, 254.0 grams
4. Aba Hodges, 213.5 grams
Most Fish – Top 4
1. Fabian Kahn
2. Marceliano Nunes
3. Charlie Gerritsen
4. Shane Berry
Marceliano Nunes, 8.5 grams
Ages 7 to 12
Biggest Fish – Top 4
1. Juan Moroan, 1696 grams
2. Kaylin Wallen, 732 grams
3. Kiandre Herbert, 647 grams
4. Haley Olive, 643 grams
Most Fish – Top 4
1. Lucas Hanlin
2. Deavante King
3. Diego Villages
4. Keshawn Hodge
Eve Williams, 6 grams