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Thursday, June 20, 2024
HomeNewsLocal newsGolden Hook Tournament Standout — Jose Sanchez

Golden Hook Tournament Standout — Jose Sanchez

Jose Sanchez shows off some of the trophies he won as a member of the Golden Hook Fishing Club over the years. (Source photo by Susan Ellis)

In honor of the 30th anniversary of the Golden Hook Fishing Club, the Source spoke to Jose Sanchez, one of its longtime members, who shared some unique experiences — fish stories.

Jose Alberto Sanchez was born in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, in 1954 and moved with his family to the Water Gut neighborhood of St. Croix in 1960. At the young age of six, his love of fishing and the sea was born at the beach near his home.

“I used to fish there every day,” he said.

Sanchez’s father was a cook and his mother and grandfather were fishers. He learned the basics from them. But there was more — the love of the ocean was in his veins.

Reluctantly, he went to school but Sanchez dropped out of school in the eighth grade.

“I went to school, but school never gave to me. I ran away and went fishing.”

While school was not his favorite place, he was focused on getting a job. He worked at the Hess Refinery for nine years to save up for a small boat. He didn’t “like it too much,” but it was a means to an end.

By 1980, he owned a boat and was a full-time fisherman who “lived off the ocean.” He wasn’t a fisherman who liked to go to the beach and throw a line. He fished to make a living.

He also married the girl of his dreams and they had three sons.

“She gave me three boys and that is what gave me the strength to do what I do,” Sanchez said. “I worked hard to be a good fisherman — I had the age and the strength. I worked for those three little kids.”

The sons are grown now, live in Texas and work at a refinery. Following in his footsteps, they inherited their father’s love of fishing and go out as often as they can.

Sanchez learned a lot about human nature over the years. He first learned how to be smarter than his competitors and only fishes for the best — snapper, tuna and dolphin. He doesn’t fish for reef fish.

Sanchez’s special brand of marketing has made him a fixture in Sunny Isle for the last 20 years or so. He began cooking fish and johnny cakes on-site to share with customers. They, in turn, brought him fresh vegetables and fruit in gratitude.

“Oh my mother told me to buy her some fish,” the customer would remember, “so I gave them more  fish.”

He said he had hundreds of customers, including many government workers, over the years.

Jose Sanchez, with a 700-pound marlin he caught from a 17-foot boat at the age of around 32. (Source photo by Susan Ellis)

He worked so he could fish for pleasure and made a name for himself in the local fishing world — the Golden Hook Tournament. At the age of about 32, the angler caught a 700-pound marlin from a 17-foot Mariner off the south shore of St. Croix. With the small boat and a big fish, he launched his reputation as an icon. The story spread faster as people learned he used a handline to bring in the monster.

“And I put that fish into the boat by myself,” he said. When he came back to shore, five people couldn’t get the fish out of the boat.

“That was one of my greatest moments.”

When he entered Golden Hook tournaments, he partnered with his sons and Edgar Bengoa. Another record, set by Sanchez and his team, was catching 39 dolphins (839 pounds). On that occasion, they were asked if they caught anything, and before saying anything, they started unloading “fish after fish.”

“This was one of my special moments,” he said. “We won almost all of the prizes. That’s what brought on Papa Sanchez — that’s what they call me — into the record book.”

His next biggest trophy was bringing in a 14-foot tiger shark on a handline about 20 years ago. A winch on his truck was used to move the monster. When the shark reached the top of the winch, the head was still in his boat.

“That was my most exciting fish,” Sanchez said. “I hooked another one — I think it was bigger than this one.” But he didn’t land it — the other shark towed the boat “about 10 miles” away from the shore, and he ended up cutting it loose.

Despite the rumor that there are no marlin around St. Croix, the fisherman disagrees. The angler needs to use the right bait and be smarter than the fish, he said.

“It’s not to be a fisherman or woman. It’s to be smart,” he added. He calls his secret bait “the element.”

“The element begs to be put in the water to win a tournament,” Sanchez joked. “I have won many tournaments with the element.”

“Papa” Sanchez earned more respect from anglers by catching the biggest tuna and the biggest wahoo in two Golden Hook tournaments. He was commemorated for three big wins that included the big dolphin catch. Many of the tournaments included boats from St. Thomas, which added to his fame.

“Anyone can learn to fish. But to be a good fisherman, you’ve got to know how to handle the tools.”

Giving away a few more tips, Sanchez said dolphins like flying fish as bait. Tuna take robins and love little tunas. He even practiced how to make his bait more enticing and flow straight and not spin. Wahoo eat anything, according to Sanchez and fight so hard it can take an hour or more to land.

Sanchez said the team has won approximately 12-15 tournaments, which was confirmed by fellow Golden Hook members sitting with him. They agreed he has 20 or 30 trophies.

Talking to Sanchez, his passion for the sport — and his livelihood shines through. He said he likes to fish with other people who also have passion.

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