Six blue marlin releases – two Saturday and four Friday – kept Pescador in the lead at the 50th Anniversary July Open Billfish Tournament, hosted by the Virgin Islands Game Fishing Club.
Stephen Deckoff, the St. John-based owner/angler of the 60-foot Rybovich, caught today’s two blues, giving him four releases total for the tournament, according to the fishing club.
However, it was Florida’s Jeff Cohen, owner/angler aboard the 61-foot Spencer, Da Bait, who caught and released four blue marlin first to finish the day in the Top Angler slot as well as move Da Bait into second place.
“Jeff’s last fish of the day jumped about six feet into the air just after it was hooked,” said fellow Da Bait angler, Mike Fuller from St. Croix. “It was pretty cool to watch.”
Abigail III also released three blue marlin for the day and four for the tournament. This put St. Thomas sport fishing charter captain Red Bailey’s 44-foot custom sportfisherman third behind Da Bait. Florida’s Kathleen Aylward, who with husband Tim, won this tournament aboard Abigail III in 2007, released one of the day’s blue marlin. The other two were released by Aylward’s son, Bryan Wentz, and Wentz’s cousin, Eric Weaver. These were first-ever blue marlin for both Wentz and Weaver.
“It was incredible, a real adrenalin rush,” Weaver said of his fight.
Wentz said his family is part of Tim Aylward’s fishing team in the states, fishing mainly for grouper and snapper.
"We both wanted to catch a blue marlin, so we joined the team and came down to fish the tournament with him,” he said.
The 11-boat tournament fleet released a two-day total of 29 blue marlin and 2 white marlin.
IGFA trained observers, all members of the International Game Fish Tournament Observers, ride aboard each boat throughout the tournament to verify the releases.
Fishing continues Sunday with lines in the water at 8:30 a.m. and out at 4 p.m. The public can 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. An awards ceremony will take place Sunday evening.
Proceeds from the tournament benefit the Boys & Girls Club of the Virgin Islands.