The 49th Annual July Open Billfish Tournament (JOBT) – the longest annually held angling contest in the Virgin Islands hosted by the Virgin Islands Gamefishing Club (VIGFC) – will kick-off Saturday, June 30, with a fleet of nearly a dozen boats hailing from the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and the U.S. mainland.
“There are big marlin in Virgin Islands’ waters this time of year,” said tournament director, Jeffrey Kreiner. “I’d like to see someone catch a world record. There’s an abundance of fish in other places, but we’ve got the big ones. Fishermen here on big boats want to catch big fish. This is the time!”
Anglers in this three-day tournament, which concludes Monday July 2, will set their sights on catching and releasing the most blue marlin, white marlin and sailfish.
Last year, Harry Sargeant’s 65-foot American Custom Yacht, Black Gold, won Top Boat when the Florida-based team released a total of five blue marlin.
Mike McCarthy, who fished as an angler aboard Black Gold in 2011 and is back again this year to help defend the team’s title, said, “We released two blue marlin yesterday and saw three blues today.”
IGFA trained Observers, all members of the IGFTO (International Game Fish Tournament Observers), will ride aboard each boat throughout the tournament to verify the releases.
Lines go in the water at 8:30 a.m. and out at 5 p.m., except on the final day of the three-day tournament when lines out will be at 4 p.m. Hooter’s ladies will deliver complimentary Cruzan rum punch to participating tournament boats nightly.
The public is invited to greet the fleet as the boats come back to the dock around sunset. The number of flags flying on the outriggers indicates how many billfish the boat’s anglers caught and released for the day.
Past winners of the prestigious Capt. Johnny Harms ‘Give Him Line’ Trophy read like a Who’s Who of blue marlin sport fishing. Angler Elliot Fishman’s winning 845-pound catch in 1968 set an all-tackle world record. Only two anglers have reeled in this honor two times – the late Howard Crouse in 1965 and 1988, and Puerto Rico’s late, legendary angler Ralph Christiansen in 1973 and 1984.
Proceeds from the JOBT benefit the Boys & Girls Club of the Virgin Islands. The Boys & Girls Club of the Virgin Islands, a 501 C (3) organization, enables all young people, especially those most needy, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens. Donations are tax deductible.