Blue marlin and dolphin were the catch to reel in during fishing tournaments held during April in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
With the catch-and-release of three blue marlin, Miss Becky, a 29-foot Dyer captained by Erik Rasmussen, won the 14th annual Golden Hook Challenge, hosted by St. Croix’s Golden Hook Fishing Club, March 31 to April 1.
Miss Becky’s win wasn’t certain until the end. Leisure Lady, captained by Bob Mackay, also released three blue marlin. Both Miss Becky and Leisure Lady caught two blues the first day and Leisure Lady took the lead on time. Then, Miss Becky kicked off day two’s fishing with a marlin release, making them the first to release three blues. Leisure Lady evened the score by releasing a third blue later in the day, but Miss Becky kept her lead on time.
“It was very rough the whole weekend,” Rasmussen says. “We saw our first blue marlin about 10 a.m. on Saturday to the north near St. John, but couldn’t hook it. Just as well, because we probably would have stayed in that area. But when we lost the fish, we decided to head west of St. Croix and ended up releasing two.”
Rasmussen fished with Niels Rasmussen, Peter Rasmussen, Eric Hering and Jack Hume. They won a check for $1500, plus gold pendant and bracelet for their efforts.
Kathy Mackay, tournament organizer and wife of Capt. Bob, says, “It looks like April is the month to have this tournament because we had way more fish than we’d ever had before. Most of the boats reported additional fish being hooked and getting away so there were plenty of billfish out there.”
One interesting story, Mackay continued, “is about David Clark on the Mako, who caught a marlin all by himself. At this last minute, his mate had a personal emergency and was unable to fish. David decided to go it alone. He managed to bring in the fish while steering the boat at the same time. He said he’s always wanted to try to catch a marlin by himself, but he admitted after doing so that he didn’t want to try it again. Considering the fact that his boat is 22-foot long and it was a very rough day, it was quite an accomplishment.”
Eleven boats caught and released a total of 13 billfish. Sunflower, captained by Mike Fennessy, rounded out the top three best boats with two blue marlin releases.
Two weeks later, on April 15, the Virgin Islands Gamefishing Club hosted its 12th annual Offshore Marine Dolphin Derby Fishing Tournament.
Says club president, Dee Belche, “St. Croix angler Carl Holley, aboard Triple Secret, took first place with a 47.3 pound dolphin. This is the second year in a row that a St. Croix angler has won the event.”
Second place in the Largest Dolphin category went to St. Thomas angler Fred Stafford on Blue Fin II with a catch of 42.4 pounds. “We actually caught and released a white marlin as our first catch for the day,” says Stafford.
This billfish detained Capt. Don Mertens, aboard the Bluefin II, only long enough for his son, Ryan, to fight and release the fish. Then, he was off chasing the school of dolphin on which the marlin was feasting. “At first, I thought it was about a 30-pounder,” says Stafford of his winning dolphin. “But, it turned out to be larger.”
The third place prize for Largest Dolphin went to St. Croix angler, Richard Belliveau, on Golden Eagle. Belliveau’s dolphin weighed in at 42-pounds.
The Best Boat award went to Triple Secret with a total catch of 720.2-pounds.
Summer starts into the thick of marlin season. The next Virgin Islands fishing tournament is the July Open, set for 27 to 29. For more information, call 340-775-9144.
RESULTS: OFFSHORE MARLIN DOLPHIN DERBY FISHING TOURNAMENT, 10 TOP ANGLERS
1. Carl Holley, Triple Secret, St. Croix, 47.3-pounds
2. Fred Stafford, Bluefin II, St. Thomas, 42.4-pounds
3. Richard Belliveau, Golden Eagle, St. Croix, 42.0-pounds
4. Carlos Rodriguez, Calypso, St. Thomas, 38.3-pounds
5. Jose R. Sanchez, La Mensagera, St. Croix, 37.4-pounds
6. Brian Cox, Reel Therapy, St. Thomas, 36.7-pounds
7. Peter Rasmussen, Miss Becky, St. Croix, 36.4-pounds
8. Bill Ruhl, King’s Ransom, St. Thomas, 32.8-pounds
9. Chris Sahr, Gone Ketchin, St. John, 32.7-pounds
10. Deborah Belliveau, Golden Eagle, St. Croix, 32.4-pounds