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Reel Affair Takes Lead in Blue Marlin Tournament

Celebrating taking the lead, Reef Affair's team, from left, Wilson Culberg, Capt. Jose Garcia, Carlos Ramirez, Obilino Espinal, Michael Laporte, Jose Culberg, and in front, Gabriel Hernandez. (Photo by Dean Barnes)The fish continued biting Saturday, the third day of competition in the 42nd USVI Open/Atlantic Blue Marlin Tournament, as the team aboard Carlos Ramirez’ Reel Affair took over first place.

The anglers and crew aboard Ramirez’s 56-foot Viking, based in San Juan, Puerto Rico, released three blue marlin by noon, taking the lead for the first time since the tournament started Thursday. Then Reel Affair secured its place at the top of the pack with its fourth release of the day, making it the only boat so far with 10 blue marlin releases.

They wrested the lead from the crew aboard the Jichi, a 68-foot Paul Mann based in Miami. Jichi’s anglers caught and released seven marlin on the tournament’s opening day, but were shut out on day two. They came back Saturday with two releases for a total of nine and a firm grip on second place.

Ramirez said his Reel Affair team knew early on that Saturday would be a good day for them.

“We fished off Anegada again and I knew we were in the right area when we released our first blue marlin by 9:30 a.m.,” Ramirez said. “All we can do now is what we’ve been doing all along – be well prepared and hope our luck shows up again.”

Some of Ramirez and his team’s good fortune may have come from Capt. Juan Garcia. Garcia is normally at the helm of Peje, Carlos Garcia’s 47-foot Cabo, a boat that won the ABMT in 2007 and 2012. Peje’s Garcia was unable to attend this year’s tournament, so Ramirez asked to borrow his friend’s captain.

“We feel blessed to have such a great team,” says Ramirez.

The team aboard Wave Paver, Port Canaveral, Florida’s, Jr. Davis’ 61-foot Garlington’s released another two blue marlin for six total and a third place. And the team aboard Hook ‘n Bull, a 63-foot Lightning out of Port Aransas, Texas, had a great day with three blue marlin releases.

“The first was a double header. We caught them both. Real fast. Real nice,” said angler Devin Silas, of Stuart, Florida, who released one of the fish.

This is the first season Hook ‘n Bull is fishing in the Virgin Islands.

Eight restaurants compete in MarlinFest’s first Chowder Challenge at IGY’s American Yacht Harbor Marina.“We came down at the end of May after fishing in the Dominican Republic,” said owner/angler, Patrick ‘Jr’ Turnbull. “I guess you could say we’ve had some good practice in the local waters in the run up to this tournament.”

A total of 29 blue marlin were released day three, making the tournament total 74 so far.

The ABMT anglers took a lay-day on Sunday. The angling action concludes Monday capped off with an evening awards ceremony.

MarlinFest: First Annual Chowder Challenge

Eight St. Thomas restaurants competed in the first Chowder Challenge, part of MarlinFest, a weeklong of spectator-friendly activities planned around the Atlantic Blue Marlin Tournament. A team of five judges named Fish Tails’ Bar & Grill’s Mahi Corn Chowder the winner of the $500 first prize.

“It’s one of our signature dishes,” said Fish Tails’ Paula Druse.

Hook, Line & Sinker Seafood Restaurant in Frenchtown placed second with Chef Samuel Harry Ralph’s Seafood Chowder, winning $300, while Senor Frog placed third and was awarded $200 on the strength of Chef Sergio Rodriguez’s Clam Chowder.

“All of the chowders were really amazing,” head judge, Marleen Dykhuis said. “There was a really small point spread between all of the entries.”

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