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A hanging scale was the centre of the Virgin Islands’ sportfishing world Saturday as nine boats motored into the Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbour with their catches just before 5 p.m.

One by one, captains and their crew approached the crowded weigh station with wheelbarrows containing what they hoped to be the biggest wahoo of the event.

They were there for Wahoomania, an annual fishing tournament organised by the Virgin Gorda Fishermen Cooperative, which awards a top prize of $3,000 to the largest wahoo of the day.

This year, Sea Señora took the top spot with a 22.5-pound wahoo. Venator was awarded two $1,000 prizes — one for the heaviest other catch and another for the heaviest overall catch — which the crew donated back to the VGFC’s youth programmes.

Special K caught the heaviest mahi mahi, earning an award of $1,000.

“In general, the event was a success,” said Wahoomania organiser Tom Warner. “We look at it in a couple of different ways. It is primarily a fundraising event for our summertime programmes. This is something that the [VGFC] has been doing for 23 years. This year was a good year for fundraising, not such an amazing year for fish.”

For comparison, the heaviest wahoo in 2022 was reeled in by Joseph Lake Sr. aboard Salt Shaker, at 40.24 pounds. The year before that, a 71.5-pounder was landed aboard Megabite.

No tournament was held last year.

Former legislator Neville “Sheep” Smith donated $1,000 in prize money to the tournament’s youth competitors, which was split between the girl with the heaviest catch and two boys whose best catches were too close to call.

It was also a good year for participation, according to Mr. Warner, with nine boats competing compared to 2022’s five and 2021’s 16.

The VGFC doesn’t normally release the amount of money raised, Mr. Warner said, but he expected this year to bring in at least $8,000 for the co-op’s summer youth programmes.


Days before the tournament, Salt Shaker Captain Chad Lettsome told the Beacon that the forecasted conditions were the best he’d seen for the event.

As his boat headed out to sea before dawn on Saturday, a waning moon shone bright enough to illuminate the silhouettes of passing islands.

The sea wasn’t quite glassy, but the water had a buttery quality helpful for the high speeds needed for covering miles of open water.

“You ready?” Mr. Lake asked everyone aboard in turn, stopping at Mr. Lettsome to discuss trolling strategies.

At 5:18 a.m., daylight began to turn the sky from black to a sandy grey as Salt Shaker tried to beat the sun to the horizon.

“We’ve got seven minutes to start!” Mr. Lettsome shouted to Mr. Lake and crewmember William Bridgewater as they readied the tournament’s maximum of six poles in the water.

As the sun rose, it would have been hard to ask for better weather conditions, according to Mr. Lettsome’s shouts from Salt Shaker’s console.

By 8 a.m., two tunas were on ice and a small barracuda had been reeled in and quickly released, but the crew had caught no wahoo.

The boat continued to see similar luck throughout the day.

But calling out to passing boats on the radio, Mr. Lettsome heard from his competitors that they were experiencing the same tough conditions.

Whale of a Time

As fishers congregated around the weigh station in the early evening, most shared similar experiences of a slow day on the water. One reason for the lacklustre fishing, Mr. Warner said, could have been the presence of ocean predators in the area.

“From what I understand from the people that I spoke with, when they did get out to most of their [fishing spots], they saw a lot of dolphins,” Mr. Warner said. “They’re wonderful to see, but not if you’re fishing, because they spook the fish.”

Aboard Salt Shaker, dolphins weren’t the only aquatic mammal spotted throughout the day. At 10:06 a.m., a pod of humpback whales was spotted off the starboard side of the boat between Virgin Gorda and Anegada.

Initially, a mother and a calf were cautiously identified when a smaller burst from a blowhole immediately followed one a bit larger. Another whale was swimming alongside the two.

Thirty minutes later, a solitary whale breached twice in short succession just north of Anegada’s east end, followed by another at 10:38 a.m.

Whales also spook the fish, Mr. Warner said, but he added that he loves the huge animals so much that he couldn’t give them a hard time.

Sometimes, the catch comes down to luck: Days before the tournament, boats were catching 70- and 80-pound wahoos, according to Mr. Warner and a few other voices overheard at the weigh-in.

Summer Programmes

The VGFC, the tournament’s beneficiary, offers a host of aquatic activities for residents and tourists from ages 6 to 17, Mr. Warner said.

Classes from first aid and CPR to piloting a boat and scuba diving are all on the roster for the coming summer, he said.

“A lot of the young captains that we see running ferries and water taxis in the [VI] now are graduates of this programme,” Mr. Warner said. “We were involved in it one way or another during their youth. And then they’ve gone on to pursue a career in the marine industry, which is one of the core industries here in the [VI].”

Marlin Mania

At the weigh-in celebration, Mr. Warner also announced that the VGFC will be hosting a marlin fishing tournament in the summer.

“We’re trying to put our package together and get that all organised so that we can make an official announcement,” Mr. Warner said.

He expects that the tournament will take place sometime between July and August.

“So many of the world’s largest blue marlin have been caught within a few miles of Anegada,” Mr. Warner said. “We’re really trying to show to the world that this fishing area is now open, especially if you do your fishing from the [VI].”


Wahoomania Returns for 2024

5 April 2024


Rushton Skinner | BVI Beacon

Rushton Skinner

(284) 494 3767 / 494 3434


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