The catch of a 39.5-pound dolphin fish (mahi-mahi) earned St. John’s Francis Smookler the Top Angler prize at the Virgin Islands Game Fishing Club’s Annual Dolphin Derby held on April 25.
Fishing aboard the St. John-based 42-foot Liberty Just Fish, with Captain Joshua Bourg at the helm, Smookler caught his winning fish south of St. John.
“We had an idea it was a bigger one than the other fish we’d caught, so we thought we had a chance [at the top prize],” said Smookler, an avid fisherman, yet first-time tournament winner.
Smookler’s first place fish was about 16 pounds shy of the 55-plus-pound criteria to win the tournament’s ultimate prize – $25,000.
Prizes were awarded to anglers catching the three largest dolphins.
St. John’s Jennifer Tyler, also angling off Just Fish, caught a 20.5-pounder and 10-pounder for second and third place. Tyler’s 20.5-pound catch also earned her the Top Female Angler prize.
Finally, the Best Boat Award went to Just Fish, with the top collective catch weight of 70.0 pounds of dolphin fish.
“We figured most of the boats would head north, so we headed south,” said Bourg, who on a charter two weeks ago caught a 69-pound dolphin fish to the north. “Let’s just say we went so far south following the weed lines that we could see the cars driving on St. Croix. We caught the 10-pounder about an hour after lines in. Then, it was about noon that we saw a frigate bird overhead. That’s when Jennifer caught the 20.5-pounder and right behind it, Francis reeled in the big one. There were two more out there, and we tried for another 45 minutes to catch them, but they wouldn’t eat. All in all, it was a beautiful day.”
The three teenage boys fishing with their fathers aboard Mixed Bag collectively received the Junior Angler Award, although none of the fish they caught met the 10-pound minimum weight to score points.
Eleven boats and 44 anglers competed in the Virgin Islands Game Fishing Club’s annual Dolphin Derby.
In addition to cash and prizes, winning anglers were awarded beautiful wooden trophies crafted by My Brother’s Workshop, sponsored by IGY’s American Yacht Harbor.
The Virgin Islands Game Fishing Club appreciates the sponsorship support of Presidente, distributed by the West Indies Company; the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism; Cardow Jewelers; Ocean Surfari; Lattes in Paradise; Island Eye Care; Island Time Pub; Neptune Fishing Supplies; and IGY’s American Yacht Harbor.
Looking ahead, the Virgin Islands Game Fishing Club will host its annual July Open Tournament on July 17 and 18, and its Wahoo Windup Tournament on Oct. 17.