The competition began at 6:30 a.m. with concerns about weather and water conditions, but organizers said they didn’t run into any problems. About 50 people, including divers and captains, participated in the tournament. The weigh-in followed at 1 p.m. with an awards ceremony at 5 p.m.
Each team was required to have two divers to ensure that they were with someone at all times, and some teams opted to have a captain follow.
The water was indeed as murky as predicted, with a visibility of 30 feet, but divers awed organizers by catching such fish such as mahi mahi, which spends most of its time offshore, and other fish that were nearly two feet long.
“The permits were huge, and there were at least five barracudas. Our expectations were exceeded,” said volunteer Cherie Brown. “It’s cool and something low key for locals.”
Lionfish were also a popular catch at the tournament. Organizers encouraged divers to spear as many as possible, since lionfish have become a serious threat to reefs as they have no natural predators in the Caribbean and consume everything.
The lionfish will likely go to the University of the Virgin Islands for research, organizer Michelle Wiebracht said. She also noted that they will report areas of Hull Bay where lionfish were caught for future research.
Prizes included spearfishing equipment such as a new Mako Oceanic Enclosed Track Railgun, gifts such as a free See and Ski boat trip and even a cash prize for the team that caught the most lionfish.
Another organizer, Bradly Bryan, said the targeted fish were indigenous to Hull Bay, although some are more difficult to see or harder to spear. There was a limit of one fish per species per person, excluding the invasive lionfish, and some fish received more points per catch depending on difficulty.
There was no age limit and divers were allowed to dive anywhere they wanted to expect National Park zones and British Virgin Islands waters. Divers could get in and out of the water by shore, kayak or boat.
Registration was $40 per diver, $30 for captain with one team and $40 for captains with two or more teams.
Event organizer Michelle Wiebracht said the event took about two months to plan and came together quickly. Organizers were impressed with the turnout and hope the tournament will continue for years to come.
Organizer Thomas Wiebracht said there is a large diving community in the territory and he and his friends came up with the idea to bring free divers together.
“All in all it was a good turnout. Lots of smiles, everyone seemed to have fun,” said Bryan. “This is definitely a kick start to something bigger.”
Several companies, including Sun Solutions and Mako Spearguns, sponsored and assisted organizers by providing shirts, gifts and funds.
Those interested can keep in touch for next year's tournament on Facebook, at https://www.facebook.com/STTSpearfishing .
– Biggest Fish: Aaron Wentworth 25.1 pound permit
– Second Biggest Fist: Matt Driscoll 18.2 pound permit
--Most Points: Team Silver Fox with Rich Dasher, Matthew Raffa and Captain Colin Butler – 22 points
– Best Captain: Colin Butler
– Best Mixed Bag: Tony Pearsall and Matthew Driscoll
– Category One Biggest Fish: Rich Dasher 4.1 pound mahi mahi
– Category Two Biggest Fish: Lance Bryan 13.4 pound hog fish
– Category Three Biggest Fish: Aaron Wentworth 25.1 pound permit
– Category Four Biggest Fish: Tony Pearsall 15.5 pound barracuda
– Most Fish: Team Wet Kyat – Six fish
– Most Lionfish: Matthias Bitterwolf – Eight lionfish.