The seas were stomach-churning rough, but Capt. Mike Fuller piloted the 31-foot Cabo, Oh Suzanna, into the open waters east of St. Croix in search of dolphin, also called dorado or mahi-mahi. The area he headed for is a breeding ground for blue marlin, and dolphin are one of marlin’s favorite foods. Fuller’s tactics paid off, for Oh Suzanna landed in the Best Boat slot, and Greg Pope as Top Angler, at the 2007 Golden Hook Dolphin Tournament, held March 1.
“We ran as far as we could east, about 16 miles offshore, then started trolling,” Fuller says. “We caught one and then four more under some birds.” After that, Fuller turned and headed the boat up sea and found another trough to follow in yet a different location.
“We saw a bird and got what we thought was a triple header, but two of our anglers had hooked the same fish, so that catch was disqualified,” he explains.
“I’ve got a tower boat and that’s what you need if you’re going to spot dolphin in the water.”
Back at the weigh station on the Christiansted Boardwalk, Oh Suzanna measured in with 151.8 pounds of fish. They were far from the only boat to catch dolphin. In fact, catch weights were extremely close in both the Best Boat and Top Angler categories.
For example, Capt. Troy Lancaster aboard Hook Em maneuvered his vessel and crew to reel in a total weight of 149.4 pounds for Second Place Best Boat, while Capt. Chris Stanton on QTR and his crew caught 145.7 pounds for Third Place Best Boat. Only 2.4 pounds separated first and second place boat and 6.1 pounds from first to third.
Likewise, Oh Suzanna angler Greg Pope reeled in a 39.4-pound dolphin to take Top Angler, with La Mensagera’s Pat Johnson second with a 37.4-pounder and Wendy M’s John Turner third with a 32.7-pound dolphin. Only two pounds separated first and second largest fish and 6.7 pounds first and third largest.
A record 18 boats and 124 anglers competed in this 8th annual Dolphin tournament hosted by the Golden Hook Fishing Club. Even though dolphin garnered the prize of the day, Fuller had his eye on marlin. “We didn’t see any marlin that day, but we’re always rigged and ready if we do,” he says.
Since the first of the year, Fuller reports that the Oh Suzanna crew have caught and released only three blue marlin in 14 days of fishing over the January, February and March moons. “Long line data show this time of year to be productive for a lot of small marlin, but we’re not seeing them. I’ve called over to St. Thomas and the boats working the South Drop are reporting the same thing. That’s interesting, because the current we fish in to the south of St. Croix splits and runs north of St. Croix and south of St. Thomas as well. So, if the guys up there aren’t seeing anything either, it tells us we’re not necessarily doing something wrong.”
The question is, Fuller says, “is this due to El Nino, the shifting ocean currents or the state of the fishery? Its hard to know.”
Meanwhile, Fuller, along with several boats from St. Thomas and Florida as well, will look forward to the April and May moons to see how productive the South Drop may be for blue marlin in the early spring.
1. Oh Suzanna, Capt. Mike Fuller, 151.8 pounds
2. Hook Em, Capt. Troy Lancaster, 149.4 pounds
3. QTR, Capt. Chris Stanton, 145.7 pounds
1. Oh Suzanna, Angler Greg Pope, 39.4-pounds
2. La Mensagera, Angler Pat Johnson, 37.4-pounds
3. Wendy M, Angler John Turner, 32.7-pounds