The fish catching action happened quickly on the first day of the 44th USVI Open/Atlantic Blue Marlin Tournament (ABMT). Rod Windley, the Pensacola, Florida-based owner/angler of the 68-foot Hatteras Gulf Rascal hooked up the first blue marlin of the day (and of the tournament) less than 30 minutes after lines in. Barely three hours later, the catch and release of a second blue marlin aboard the Gulf Rascal by angler Andy Venable from Knoxville, Tenn., put the team in the lead for first place.
“The fish went crazy, right up the right side of the boat and really went for the mackerel on the pitch bait. It was an unbelievable show,” said Windley, who released the estimated 350-pounder alive and well after a 40-minute fight.
While the Gulf Rascal anglers struck luck in the morning, it was the afternoon that proved hot fishing for Chad Damron, of Crystal River, Fla., and fellow angler, Steve McFarland, of Cocoa Beach, Fla., aboard Damron’s 75-foot Weaver Sodium. Damron hooked up his blue marlin just before 3 p.m., while McFarland released his blue just as lines out was called at 5:30 p.m. This put Sodium tied on the number of blue marlin releases with Gulf Rascal — but in second, based on time.
“The fish that bit today were super hungry,” said Damron. “My fish was a textbook catch. It skyrocketed out of the water, and all I could focus on was keeping it up on the surface. I tipped the fish about ten minutes after that.”
McFarland’s marlin played hide-and-seek, disappearing and re-appearing on the other side of the boat between the pitch and hook up. It was definitely the exciting type of sports fishing the August moon produces in Virgin Islands waters.
The four-day ABMT continues on Aug. 16 and Aug. 17 and will conclude on Aug. 19, following a lay-day on the full moon.
The public is invited to catch the spirit of the sport by walking the docks at IGY’s American Yacht Harbor (AYH) marina and watching the big rigs come in around 6:30 p.m. and counting the number of marlin release flags flying from the outriggers. Sports fishermen in this conservation-oriented tournament have not boated a blue marlin since 1985. The more flags, the more marlin the boat released under the practiced eye of the observers. The winner is the one who releases the most blue marlin first.
The 2nd Wet N’ Wild’ two-day Center Console ‘All Billfish, Wahoo and Yellowfin Tuna’ tournament takes place Aug. 17 and Aug. 18. This event is for those anglers who enjoy big game fishing on stand up tackle aboard center console boats.
On Saturday, Aug. 20, MarlinFest will move into high-gear with a whole day of activities for the public. The Red Hook ‘Jump Up’, which takes place roadside in the AYH parking lot, will start with an Arts & Crafts and West Indian Food Fair from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Restaurants will compete at the Chowder Challenge from 3-8 p.m. The evening will cap off with a Caribbean-style ‘Jump Up’ show featuring costumed stilt-walking mocko jumbies and limbo dancers starting at 8:30 pm.
The MVP’s goal is to serve as a vocational institution that provide U.S. Virgin Islands youth with a career path into the marine/hospitality/tourism industries. Current MVP programs include learn-to-swim, sailing, scuba diving, and small boat handling and operation skills.
For more information about the ABMT, Wet N’ Wild, MarlinFest and MVP, call: 775-9500, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.abmt.vi