The dolphin (mahi-mahi) were biting in Virgin Islands’ waters this spring when St. Croix’s Golden Hook Fishing Club (GHFC) ran its 13th annual Dolphin Tournament on March 31st and the Virgin Islands’ Game Fishing Club hosted its Dolphin Derby Fishing Tournament, sponsored by Budget Car & Truck Rental, on April 22nd.
There were numerous fish on the horizon as the 11 boat St. Croix fleet cast off to fish, with the bite turning hot as the day progressed with nine boats ultimately bringing back a total of 21 dolphin to weigh in at Green Cay Marina. Largest by far was the 52.8lb dolphin landed by angler Bill Flynn aboard the boat, Maragata. This whopper was just 1.2lb shy of the GHFC dolphin record of 54lb.
Weigh-in was definitely the most exciting part of the day for the teams aboard C-Hunter, a 55ft Hatteras captained by Festus Pemberton, and Living the Dream, a 65ft Hatteras with Austin Schneider at the helm.
“We ran southeast and found a school of dolphin every time we saw birds,” says C-Hunter’s Pemberton. “We ended up with four nice sized mahi for the day.”
“Meanwhile”, says Living the Dream’s Schneider, “we headed Northeast of Buck Island and followed the birds. We lost the first fish, about a 30lb bull, but we caught five for the day. We were the second last boat coming in. When we heard that Festus has four and we had five, we started to get excited.”
Ultimately, C-Hunter won the Best Boat prize by just one ounce!
“It’s really exciting when it’s that close,” conceded Schneider, whose Living the Dream earned the second Best Boat award.
The team on Two Fer Sure followed in third place.
Over on St. Thomas, the 11-boat tournament fleet reeled in a total of 317.2lb of dolphin.
The Best Boat award went to Bob Petersen’s 27ft Monza, Fish Tales, with 21 dolphin weighing collectively 120.3lb.
“We fished a weed line that ran for about four miles straight north of Christiansted,” says Fish Tales’ Petersen. “We worked that line from about 9am to around 1:30pm. That’s where we caught all of our fish.”
Fish Tales’ 15-year-old angler Candace Petersen won the Best Female award by reeling in 62.7lb of fish.
In angler awards, the catch of a 15.9lb dolphin earned angler Joseph Lee the top prize. Fishing aboard the 32ft Phoenix, Southern Belle, Lee caught his winning fish just after 8am, while trolling the South Drop. “I knew it was a decent size fish,” says Lee. “We saw it jump a couple of times right behind the boat.”
It was 12-year-old angler Joshua Laplace fishing aboard the 24ft Rampage, Anger Management, who reeled in the second largest dolphin, at 13.5lb, while his father, Danny Laplace, caught the third largest dolphin, a 12.1-pounder.
Cash prizes were awarded to anglers catching the ten largest dolphin. Bob Petersen, on Fish Tales, caught the fourth largest dolphin, a 10.8-pounder, and sixth largest, a 10.6-pounder; Danny Laplace reeled in the fifth largest dolphin off Anger Management, a 10.7-pounder; Michael Weeks, on Southern Belle, caught the seventh largest, a 10.6-pounder; Joshua Laplace on Anger Management reeled in the eighth largest dolphin weighing 9.9lb, while Al Southworth, on Islander, caught the ninth biggest dolphin, at 9.6lb. There was a tie for tenth place between Islander’s Sam Druckman and Fish Tales’ Howard French, who both caught 9lb dolphin. Yet Druckman’s fish measured longer at 80.4 centimeters compared to French’s fish at 78.5 centimeters.
The VIGFC’s next event is the 49th Annual July Open Billfish Tournament, June 30th to July 2nd. For information, visit www.vigfc.com
The GHFC’s next tournament is the Guy/Gal Reel Challenge, September 29th to 30th. For information, visit: www.fishstx.com
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.