St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. The 43rd USVI Open/Atlantic Blue Marlin Tournament (ABMT) and 3rd annual MarlinFest takes place this week, albeit in a shortened format due to Tropical Storm Erika.
“We sat down with the captain’s right after the 5 p.m. forecast on Tuesday. The decision was made to hold a two-day tournament, Saturday August 29 and Sunday August 30, instead of the traditional four days,” explains tournament director, Jimmy Loveland. “We’ll also run the MarlinFest ‘Wet N’ Wild’ two-day Center Console ‘All Billfish, Wahoo and Yellowfin Tuna’ tournament these same two days. This event is for those anglers who enjoy big game fishing on standup tackle.”
The ABMT always takes place over the August full moon when the blue marlin bite is historically red hot. Sports fishermen may see an additional bump in bites this year, Loveland says, due to the effect of a rise in barometric pressure after the storm passes on Thursday.
Weather or not, the new World Wide August Moon Marlin Raffle will still take place. Anyone around the globe can log on to www.abmt.vi/pages/marlinfest_raffle.htm to purchase raffle tickets. Prizes include a full-day fishing trip aboard the 62’ Bayliss, Uno Mas, in Los Suenos, Costa Rica. There are tons of other cool prizes. Raffle monies, like proceeds from other MarlinFest activities benefit the Marine Vocational Program (MVP), which gives young Virgin Islanders the skills they need for careers in the marine industry.
Events will kick-off for ABMT contestants at 7:30 p.m. on Friday with ‘Out Back Night’, a feast of brisket, ribs, chicken and all the trimmings, under the Marlin Tent at American Yacht Harbor marina.
On Saturday, ABMT fishing starts right after the Boy Scout Flag Raising Ceremony and Blessing of the Fleet at 6:30 a.m. at the AYH flagpole. Newly minted Eagle Scout, Marcus Norkaitis, will sing the national anthem, while Rev. Jeffrey Neevel, of the St. Thomas Reformed Church, will Bless the Fleet.
Anglers, captains and crews competing will set their sights on catching and releasing the most blue marlin. The public can catch the spirit of the sport by walking the docks and watching the big rigs come in around 6:30 p.m. and counting the number of marlin release flags flying from the outriggers. Anglers in this conservation-oriented tournament have not boated a blue marlin since 1986. The more flags, the more marlin the boat released under the practiced eye of the Observers. The winner is the one who releases the most blue marlin first.
On land, the public is invited to the Red Hook ‘Jump Up’ on Saturday. This takes place roadside in the AYH parking lot. Activities start with an Arts & Crafts and West Indian Food Fair from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tournament T-shirts with beautiful original art by marine artist Jason Mathias, will be for sale. Restaurants compete at the Chowder Challenge from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. The ‘Best of the Fest’ restaurant winner pockets $1,000 cash. Judges of the Chowder Challenge include the Food Network’s Extreme Chef star, Terry French. The evening caps off with a Caribbean-style ‘Jump Up’ show featuring costumed stilt-walking Mocko Jumbies and limbo dancers starting at 8:30 pm.
“We’re looking forward to the public coming out for the MarlinFest Jump-Up. After the bad weather goes by, it will be a great way to come out and enjoy. We hope to even see some sun,” says Loveland.
The ABMT’s final fishing action concludes on Sunday August 30th. The Awards Ceremony takes place later under the Marlin Tent at AYH along with the naming of the 2015 USVI Open/Atlantic Blue Marlin Top Angler, who pockets a $10,000 cash prize.
Started by Chuck Senf back in 1972, the ABMT has evolved into one of the most competitive saltwater sports fishing events in the world or the ‘Super Bowl of Sports Fishing’. The ABMT is fished under International Game Fishing Association (IGFA) rules, and is overseen by a professional ‘Board of Captains’ and well-qualified judges.
The ABMT continues its 43 year tradition of benefiting the Boy Scouts of the Virgin Islands. MarlinFest benefits the MVP, which is a locally-registered not-for-profit.