Eight boats ended a slow day of fishing Wednesday tied in points with five blue marlin releases apiece in the U.S. Virgin Islands Open Atlantic Blue Marlin Tournament, according to tournament organizers, and the team clinging to first place on points did so without landing and releasing a single fish.
The 28 boats competing in the tournament spread across the fishing grounds from the North Drop east to Anegada and collectively caught and released 22 blue marlin Wednesday, bringing the total for the first three days of the tournament to 84 released marlin.
The team aboard Wave Paver, a Florida-based 61-foot Garlington, went fishless, but because it had been the first to release five blue marlin, it held the lead.
The seven other boats with five releases apiece are as follows, in descending order based on time on the scoreboard: Casca Dura, Free Spool, Gulf Rascal, Jichi, Chach, Black Check and Debaitable.
“This is when all the fish you’ve missed really hurt,” says Albert Castro, one of the anglers aboard the Florida-homeported 68-foot Paul Mann, Jichi. “We released three and missed two on the first day, didn’t catch anything yesterday, and today we released one and saw two that didn’t bite. The beauty of fishing a tournament that’s four days long is that you can have one bad day and still be in it at the end.”
Participants called the eight-way tie for first something special.
“I’ve never seen this before. It’s amazing. It’s going to make for a really exciting last day on Thursday,” says Louisiana’s Damon Chouest, who is fishing aboard his Monterey 58, Chach. “It’s even more exciting when you consider that on the last day there is a lot up for grabs – top boat, top angler and top junior angler.”
Chouest’s 16-year-old nephew, Alex Chouest, is in the lead for top junior angler with two blue marlin releases.
If there was a prize for the best fish tale, Florida’s Tom Greene, who is fishing aboard the 61-foot Garlington, Reel Lax, would probably win. The saga started late in the afternoon on the tournament’s second day. That was when Greene’s rod started screaming and peeling off line.
“I jumped in the chair and put the drag on, but the line keep peeling off,” Greene tells. “We couldn’t see what it was. We only saw that there was something big and black under the water. Finally, I was down a half spool of line and it went calm. I kept pumping and got about 200 feet of line back on the reel when it went down again. I fought it hard and kept trying to pump it up when the mate grabbed the leader and yelled that he couldn’t believe what he saw. It was an eight- to 10-foot manta ray. I’ve never in my life seen or heard of something like this. It was definitely a unique situation.”
In angler standings, Mike McCarthy aboard Black Gold leads with four blue marlin releases. Ten other anglers have released three marlin, including Mike Brauser aboard Betsy in second and Scott Glasscock aboard Wave Paver in third.
Sports fishermen will enjoy a lay day Wednesday, and then the tournament concludes on Thursday. The ABMT’s awards ceremony takes place Thursday, with the naming of the 2013 USVI Open/Atlantic Blue Marlin Top Angler, who pockets a $10,000 cash prize.
The public can walk the docks and watch the boats come in around 6:30 p.m. and count the number of marlin release flags flying from the outriggers. Anglers in this conservation-oriented tournament have not killed a blue marlin since 1986. The more flags, the more marlin the boat released, and the winner is the one who releases the most blue marlin first.
Commemorative tournament T-shirts, hats and more with original art will be on sale each night.
More information and tournament results are online at www.abmt.vi.