Experience paid off for St. Thomas angler, Gilbert Laban. When the official weigh-in was complete at the 28th Bastille Day Kingfish Tournament, held July 17 at Hull Bay Hideaway, it was Laban who reeled in the Largest Kingfish, a 37.55-pounder, aboard the 34-foot Calypso, Emanuel. Laban was one of 224 anglers, including 32 junior anglers, on 62 boats who fished in this Northside Sportfishing Club-hosted tournament named one of the Top Ten Best Ways to Celebrate Bastille Day in the World by online travel advisor, Hotwire.com.
“We left out of Frenchtown and stayed south heading towards French Cap,” says Laban, who has fished this tournament many times aboard the Emanuel, with Capt. Alvin Turbe at the helm, including bagging the Largest Kingfish prize in 2013 with a 34.26-pounder. “The first fish we caught was small. Then around 7 a.m. I hooked it. We knew it was a nice fish, so I just took my time reeling it in. I’d have to say our secret to success was having fun. It was a great day.”
Laban’s Largest Kingfish earned him $2000 in cash, plus many other prizes.
He also earned Best Male Angler with the catch of two fish that collectively weighed 53.05-pounds.
The Second Largest Kingfish prize went to Kathy Stiehler, aboard Double Header, who caught a 30.60-pounder.
“I said I wanted to catch at least one fish today so I wouldn’t be the only one on the boat without one,” says Stiehler, who hooked up just before 8 a.m. and says she knew it was a big fish by the way the line pulled tight.
Tamika Turbe, fishing aboard Emanuel, reeled in a 20.85-pounder to win the Third Largest Kingfish. Turbe also scored Best Female Angler by reeling in a total of 7 fish, which added up to 73.65-pounds. Julian Magras caught the Fourth Largest Kingfish, a 16.45-pounder, from the Reel-M-In.
The catch of 6 kingfish earned Capt. Alvin Turbe, aboard Emanuel, the Best Captain award.
Meanwhile, with 13 eligible species of fish caught total, Capt. Rick Gonzalez driving Sea Weasel won Best Boat.
The Best Junior Male prize went to Hobie James, who caught a total of 14.6-pounds of fish, aboard Hushpuppy.
Angelique LaPlace won Best Junior Female with her catch of 23.65-pounds of fish aboard Virgin Coast.
Although the tournament is focused around kingfish, other species earned anglers cash and prizes. Kelli Ledee caught the Largest Barracuda, at 16.65-pounds, off the In & Out. Double Header angler, Kathy Stiehler, reeled in the Largest Bonito, at 4.80-pounds. Lastly, Scott Patterson on Sea Weasel boated the Largest Mackerel weighing in at 8.60-pounds.
In addition to cash, prizes and trophies, winners also received a variety of luxury gifts generously donated by tournament sponsors and the island’s business community.
Over $13,000 was awarded in cash and prizes 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 Herman Richardson 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 Fellas band entertained.
The 28th 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, managed in the USVI by Red Hook Agencies, Inc., providing homeowners and business insurance in the USVI for over 20 years; TOPA Insurance Services Inc., Budget Marine, the Caribbean’s leading chandlery; and Caribbean Gifts & Things.
First organized by the Northside Sportfishing Club in 1987, the tournament has become one of the highlights of St. Thomas’ French Heritage Week.
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 quarter-century-plus, the nonprofit Northside Sportfishing Club by way of its annual Bastille Day Kingfish Tournament has donated over $160,000 to community organizations.
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