The anglers, captain and crew aboard Peje were already partying with back-slapping, high-fives, and big smiles as the San Juan, Puerto Rico-based Cabo 40, owned by Carlos Garcia, backed into the dock at American Yacht Harbor on the fourth and final day of fishing in the 35th annual USVI Open/Atlantic Blue Marlin Tournament (ABMT). With 11 blue marlin releases, Peje won Top Boat, while Peje angler, Luis Nevarez, released six blue marlin to take the Top Angler prize and pocket $10,000 in cash.
“The first day we went nine for two (blue marlin hook-ups to blue marlin releases) and that put us on the scoreboard in 9th,” Garcia explains. “The second day, we went eight for three and moved into third. On the third day, we went seven for three and held onto our third place boat ranking, while the last day we went three for three and shot into the lead.”
“In all, we saw 27 fish in four days of fishing and released 11,” says Garcia. “That’s pretty amazing. I mean, we’ve fished this tournament for seven or eight years now and the bite is always good, but this year is was incredible.”
Why the fantastic bite this year? “I think the conservation effort, releasing blue marlin, is paying off. We’re glad to be a part of that,” Garcia says.
Jimmy Loveland, tournament director, agrees with Garcia and adds, “We attribute this ‘release success’ to the trust established in our observer program (most observers, who verify that each release was made according to the rules, are professional sports fishermen) and the desire of the anglers to let the fish go.”
This year will mark the 20th year since a blue marlin as been boated or killed in the ABMT. Anglers earn points for releasing a fish, and it is the number of fish released (and who releases that number first) that wins the tournament.
One particularly feisty fish gave Top Angler, Nevarez, a run for his money. “It was a 600-plus-pounder and I fought it for two hours and 15 minutes before getting it to the back of the boat and releasing it,” he says.
In other awards, Uno Mas and Lady Lou ended second and third Top Boat, respectively, with 10 and nine blue marlin releases total.
Luis Bacardi, aboard Rum Bum, finished as second best angler with six blue marlin releases to his credit, while Christopher Gomes, fishing from Quiet Storm, released five blue marlin to take third best angler.
Tricia Freeman, fishing aboard St. Thomas-based sports fishing charter boat, Marlin Prince, with Capt. Eddie Morrison, won the Top Female Angler prize with four blue marlin releases.
St. Thomas-based charter boat, Black Pearl, captained by Jim Estraca, won the Top Local Boat award with seven blue marlin releases.
The Revenge, captained by Mike Lemon and owned by past ABMT Top Angler, Sam Jennings, aced the Jim Smith ‘Race From The Edge’, a race that takes place just at lines out on this last day of the tournament.
This year set an all-time tournament record with 207 blue marlin released by anglers aboard the 37-boat fleet. The USVI Open/ABMT is part of the Bermuda Triangle Series and Spanish Main Series.
TALBOTT/TEAM ONLINE WINS 5TH BERMUDA TRIANGLE SERIES
Six teams participated in this 4th annual Bermuda Triangle Series (BTS), which ultimately saw Greg Talbott’s Team Online win with the cumulatively release of seven blue marlin and one white marlin.
“We’ve steadily grown each year,” says Jimmy Loveland, tournament director and series innovator. “That’s impressive given the fact that each of the legs is some 800 miles apart.”
It was Team Never Enough that won the BTS opener, the Bahamas Open, in Boat Harbour, Abaco, June 12 to 16. Brooks Smith, of newcomer Team Uno Mas, released a blue and white marlin, but Walter Shikany of Team Never Enough opted for 50-pound line test instead of Smith’s heavier 130-pound and earned greater points and the leg win.
Come the Bermuda Open, fished July 7 to 9 out of Hamilton, it was Davis Clapp’s Team A-Fin-Ity that won with the release of five blues and two whites. Clapp and his team fished aboard Capt. Peter Rans’ Overproof.
Making up for a lost opportunity at the Bahamas Open, Smith’s Team Uno Mas racked up the releases and won the BTS’s third leg, the Virgin Islands Open, fished August 25 to 29, with the release of 10 blue marlin and one sail fish. Meanwhile, Rum Bum’s Luis Bacardi scored top angler this leg by releasing six blue marlin.
Finally, it was Greg Talbott’s Team Online that won the 4th Annual BTS, with a cumulative 11 blue and one white marlin releases. About his team’s win, Talbott says, “Fishing in a series provides more opportunities to win and adds to the excitement.”
INAUGURAL SPANISH MAIN SERIES A SUCCESS
Five teams—including Luis Bacardi’s Rum Bum, which fished both the BTS and Spanish Main Series (SMS)—cast off in pursuit of fish and a treasured gold coin prize.
The series kicked off with the Venezuela Open, fished March 22-25 out of La Guaira, where Davis Clapp’s Team Af-fin-Ity won with three blue marlin and two sailfish. Next up, the Punta Cana Open, June 28-30, saw Team Peje lead with the release of eight white marlin and one sailfish. Team Mojito won the San Juan Open, fished August 16-22, with two blue marlin releases. Then, team Peje was back in the winner’s circle at the Virgin Islands Open, August 26-29, with the cumulative release of 17 blue marlin, five white marlin and six sailfish that catapulted the Puerto Rican-based boat into the series lead.
The SMS series finished in late September with the Boqueron Open, Sept 28-30. Peje won this, the fifth and last leg of this year’s inaugural Spanish Main Series, and was also the 2007 Overall Top Team. In angler awards, Luis Bacardi, aboard Rum Bum, won Top Angler of the Boqueron Open.
DATES FOR 2008
2008 5TH ANNUAL BERMUDA TRIANGLE SERIES
BAHAMAS OPEN – Inside "ABC" Boat Harbour, Abaco – June 10 – 14
BERMUDA OPEN – Hamilton Bermuda – July 6, 7, 8
USVI OPEN – St. Thomas, Virgin Islands – Aug. 13, 14, 15, 17
AND THE 2008 SPANISH MAIN – CARIBBEAN SERIES
2008 2ND ANNUAL SPANISH MAIN SERIES
VENEZUELA OPEN – Inside Intl. La Guaira "Shootout" April 10, 11, 13
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC OPEN – May TBA
SAN JUAN OPEN – Inside San Juan Intl – TBA
USVI OPEN – Inside ABMT "Boy Scout" – Aug. 13, 14, 15, 17
BOQUERON OPEN – Sept. TBA