The North Drop lived up to its reputation as a blue marlin hot spot, with many leaders in the first day of fishing in the 38th Annual USVI Open/Atlantic Blue Marlin Tournament (ABMT) choosing to spend most of their day trolling these waters rather than farther east off of the British Virgin Island of Anegada.
“We were on the North Drop, saw four and released three,” said Rich Kirst, the observer aboard Click Through, a Wanchese 68 from Pensacola, Florida, owned by Keith English, who released one of the blue marlin. Click Through comes to the Virgin Islands fresh from winning the Bermuda Triple Crown in July. In second place is Chach, the Louisiana-based Monterey 58, whose team also released three blue marlin but lost out on top boat on time. Rounding out the top three boats with two marlin releases is local charter boat, Black Pearl, a Bertram 38. New York-based angler William Gettens released both blue marlin and landed in the top angler spot for the day.
Meanwhile, Mike Walsh on the Viking 61, De-Bait-Able, took second place in the angler category with the release of two blues and Amirita angler, Juan Anton, finished in third place with a pair of releases to his credit as well.
The big story of the day was the 5 hour and 40 minute fight aboard local charter boat, Mixed Bag, a Luhrs Express 45. “The fish got foul hooked and this led to an epic battle,” says Capt. Rich Roberts. Angler Trey Doyle, from Cullman, Alabama, had never fished in V.I. waters before nor caught a blue marlin. “We went out for two practice days before the tournament and didn’t catch a thing, so I wasn’t really expecting anything,” says Doyle, who was invited down to fish by friend Andy Graham, who has chartered Mixed Bag for the last two years. One hour and five minutes into the fishing day, a blue marlin bit hard on the short line and Doyle grabbed the rod. He never saw the fish, although it nearly surfaced three times before he finally got the leader to the rod top and the observer called it an official release.
“The mates talked me through it, kept encouraging me and kept giving me water and Gatorade so my muscles wouldn’t cramp up,” Doyle says. “At one point, I just wanted to cut the line and be done, but I also wanted to hang in there.” When the blue marlin did surface just before the release, Capt. Roberts estimated it at around 700 pounds. The monster fight just proved to whet Doyle’s appetite for blue marlin fishing. “I’m already ready for tomorrow,” he said.
The bite definitely seems to be turning on, and even boats that didn’t release a fish had a good day. “We had eight bites and lost them all,” said Joe Dougherty, from Jupiter, Florida, aboard the Weaver 60, Sea Angel. “That’s more in one day than I’ve seen in other fishing destinations like the Bahamas and Florida.”
A total of 29 blue marlin were released by the 41 boat fleet.
The angling action continues Sunday, Monday and Wednesday – three days before and a day after the month’s full moon on Tuesday.
For the first time, viewers can get in on the fun from anywhere in the world by entering the boat pool on line for the chance to win prizes. Visit: abmt.vi to learn more. The public can catch the spirit of sport fishing by ‘doing the docks’ or watching the big rigs come in around 6:30 p.m. and counting the number of marlin release flags flying from the outriggers. The more flags, the more marlin the boat released. Blue signals the catch was a blue marlin, while white flags denote a white marlin. Commemorative tournament T-shirts will be on sale each night of the event and there will be a cash bar and other festivities on the docks.
On Monday, enjoy Cheese Burgers in Paradise. The Boy Scouts invite visitors and locals alike to their cookout at Camp Wahoo, located by the tournament tent at the American Yacht Harbor Marina. The Caribbean Night Show starts at 8 p.m.
The ABMT’s final fishing action on Wednesday ends with the sport fishing fleet’s swift Jim Smith ‘Race from the Edge’ at 4:30 p.m. The best place to watch this often photo finish is from the spit of land past the pool at the Sapphire Beach Resort. The awards ceremony takes place later in the evening along with the naming of the 2010 USVI Open/Atlantic Blue Marlin Top Angler, who pockets a $10,000 cash prize.
The ABMT is fished under International Game Fishing Association (IGFA) rules, and is overseen by a professional Board of Captains and well-qualified observers. The tournament benefits the Virgin Islands Council of the Boy Scouts of America.
For more information, call: 1-888-2-FISHVI (1-888-234-7484), or 340-775-9500, or Fax: 340-779-8605, or visit abmt.vi